June 20, 1931 ~ February 13, 2020
On Thursday, February 13, 2020, Dr. John Arthur Spalding, loving husband and father of seven children, died at age 88.
John was born June 20, 1931 in Toledo, Ohio to John Dominic Spalding and Juliette Anna Spalding (nee Perrusset). At that time, John Dominic was being transferred from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles to grow the National Supply Company plant on the west coast. They were travelling by train with their daughter, Yvonne. Juliette, who was pregnant at the time with John, went into labor on the train. They got off in Toledo and John was born shortly afterwards. They spent about 1 month with family friends, the Picards, before continuing on to Los Angeles.
John was raised in Los Angeles on 76th Street. He attended St John’s Military Academy through 8th grade and then Loyola High School. After graduation, he went to Loyola University but never graduated as he was accepted to Marquette University Medical School early in his senior year.
Upon completing his studies at Marquette, John returned to Los Angeles for a brief time. He worked in general practice with a Dr. Cosgrove in Inglewood. He cared for patients of all ages here, both adults and children. He would occasionally excuse himself while seeing young children and step out to call his sister, Yvonne, to check on developmental milestones for very young children; Yvonne had a one year old daughter, Michelle. John did not stay in general practice very long. He was accepted to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where he would complete his residency in Internal Medicine.
While at The Mayo Clinic, he met a nurse, Marita Fischer. He and Rita were married October 15, 1960. Rita was pregnant with their first child during John’s final months in residency and could no longer work in the hospital. She was offered a position as a private duty nurse for an individual patient. Her patient turned out to be Ernest Hemingway. John and Rita returned to Los Angeles in August, 1961. That year, John established his medical practice in Palos Verdes and would continue to work there until his retirement in 1997. He was also very involved with Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance. He served as Chief of Staff in 1968. John was always looking for the most up to date care for patients and he took great satisfaction in playing a role in bringing the first CT scanner to Little Company of Mary in the early 1970s. He was very dedicated to his patients, heading to the hospital most mornings to care for his patients who had been admitted. Afterwards, he drove back up to Palos Verdes to open his office by 9 AM. After a full day in his office, John would usually head back to the hospital again to provide care to his patients before he headed home for the evening. John was the physician who made evening and weekend house calls to patients. Even after retirement, he continued to make house calls and patients continued to seek his counsel. Many past patients would remark that they missed having him as their physician. He provided a very caring and personal touch.
He was respected by his colleagues in medicine, as well. When a patient had a condition that required very special care, John would call one of his friends at the Mayo Clinic; that patient would wind up being seen there. And then, at John’s retirement celebration, one of his friends and colleagues got up to speak. His friend spoke about his own achievements, that his career had included being co-director of the cardiac cath lab at the Mayo Clinic; he had been on faculty at the Universities of Illinois and of Oregon and that he now headed the Cardiology Department at USC. People were perplexed; this was an evening celebrating Dr. Spalding’s retirement from medicine. His colleague then closed very quickly and with a great compliment to his respected friend, Dr. Spalding: “I have helped to advance the programs of institutions across the US and I have worked with many distinguished physicians. I could ask any physician to be my personal doctor. That is why I chose John Spalding.” And then he sat down. John truly found his calling in medicine.
He was very devoted to family, over the years attending numerous sporting and school events of his children and then his grandchildren. Whether a high school football game, a parade for drill team, numerous baseball and basketball games or dance performances, he always modified his schedule to attend as many of these as possible. Family vacations could be an adventure. The family spent several Summers driving the desert southwest or touring National Parks with 5 to 7 children packed into a Pontiac station wagon with no air conditioning and towing a Jayco trailer. John also took on the steep learning curve of piloting a 40 foot houseboat around Lake Powell and made it look easy, even when someone would occasionally fall overboard or accidentally back the ski boat over a submerged rock. He put together family vacations that created many warm memories and a lot of laughs.
To wind down from his full work days, John would spend time in his garden. He was an avid gardener. He raised fuschias, roses, begonias and orchids and was involved in several local gardening associations. He built special shade structures to house his fuschias and orchids and grew several of his fuschias from clippings he obtained. Family and friends could neglect a plant but he could almost always nurture it and bring it back to life. One of his daughter-in-laws received an orchid that he took home after the flowers all fell off; 12 years later this orchid is still in two large pots that will each produce 2 or 3 large stems of flowers every Spring. He found immense joy tending to his garden and could be found there in much of his free time.
He was a devout Catholic. He was a committed parishioner of St. Lawrence Martyr for more than 50 years.
He is survived by Rita, his wife of almost 60 years, along with two daughters: Lisa and Teresa; and five sons: Bob, Dave, John, Mike and Mark; he is also survived by his sister, Mary Lou Cashin; he is survived by fourteen grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.
His funeral will be held at St. Lawrence Martyr Church, 1940 South Prospect Avenue, Redondo Beach at noon on Saturday, February 22, 2020.
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