Rolf McMillan Gunnar, M.D., renowned cardiologist, teacher, scientific author, medical leader, veteran and philanthropist died on Saturday, March 18, 2017. He was 91 years old (d.o.b. January 22, 1926). Born into a medical family, Dr. Gunnar attended Northwestern University as a member of the V-12 Navy College Training Program designed to produce young officers during WWII, earning a B.S., M.B., M.S. in Pathology and in 1949 his M.D. degree. His medical residency at Cook County Hospital paused while he served as a U.S. Army Captain and Battalion Surgeon in the Second Infantry Division, earning battle stars at Bloody Ridge, Heartbreak Ridge and Iron Triangle in Korea. Upon learning that a seriously wounded American soldier was lying exposed to enemy fire, he moved through intense artillery fire to render medical aid, evacuated the man to the battalion aid station and was awarded the Bronze Star with V Device for Valor. Returning to the Cook County Hospital, he completed his residency, went into private practice in Berwyn, IL, with his father until 1959, and then went on to a fellowship in cardiology studying under Dr. Walter Goodale at the Harvard Medical School.
In a distinguished academic career, training many well-known cardiologists and internists, Dr. Gunnar served as Director of Adult Cardiology and the Division of Medicine at Cook County Hospital; the first Edmund F. Foley Professor of Medicine and Director of the Section of Cardiology at the University of Illinois; Professor of Medicine, Chief of the Section of Cardiology and later Chairman of Medicine at Loyola University Medical Center.
Nationally, he served as Chairman of the Board of Regents of the American College of Physicians, President of the Association of University Cardiologists and Vice-President of the American College of Cardiology. He was a member of Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society, a distinguished Master of both the American College of Physicians and the American College of Cardiology and a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (Edinburgh) and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons (Glasgow). In 1986, he received the Stritch Medal from Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine, and in 2015 received the Physician of the Century Award for the Northern Illinois Region of the American College of Physicians.
Dr. Gunnar’s research interests included acute myocardial infarction as well as circulatory shock at a time when the discipline of cardiology was relatively new. He and his co-authors published more than 400 scientific papers and abstracts and he co-authored a published book on shock in myocardial infarction.
He first developed his clinical skills at a time before the technology we take for granted today, and his legions of students were often amazed by his ability to predict what advanced cardiac testing would show. Reputedly he never lost the “Stump the Star” clinical challenge of analyzing a new case at the weekly Loyola residents and fellows conference.
After a lifetime of service and commitment to healthcare for all, he “retired” and became Chair of the Board of Directors for BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding & Educational Center, a charity he co-founded with his second wife, Marge, and dedicated to serving children with disabilities, veterans and their families. His legacy of skill, service, compassion, education and care lives on in honor of his memory of those he touched in his first and second career.
Dr. Gunnar is survived by his second wife Margaret Tautkus Gunnar; children, Jocelyn Gunnar Stevenson, Rolf McMillan Gunnar, Jr., William Peter Gunnar, M.D.; and grandchildren, Frederick Gunnar Stevenson, Ela Jane Carpenter, Thomas Geoffrey Stevenson, Elizabeth Overton Gunnar, M.D. Jocelyn Overton Gunnar, Warren Petrocella Gunnar, Audrey Petrocella Gunnar and great-granddaughter, Ismay Jane Carpenter. He was pre-deceased by his wife of more than fifty-five years, Merian Jane Gunnar, who passed in 2004, and his son Geoffrey Charles Gunnar, who passed in 1974.
Visitation Friday, March 24, 2017, from 2:00 p.m.to 9:00 p.m.at Adolf Funeral Home, 7000 S. Madison Street, Willowbrook, IL, 60527.
The funeral service will be Saturday, March 25, 2017, 10:00 a.m. at Grace Episcopal Church, 120 E. First Street, Hinsdale, IL 60521, with internment to follow at Bronswood Cemetery in Oak Brook.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers donations be directed to BraveHearts, 7319 Maxon Road, Harvard, IL 60033 http://www.braveheartsriding.org.