Robert L. Replogle, MD, 84, of Chicago, Ill. died Monday, May 9, at the University of Chicago Medical Center surrounded by his loving family.
Born in 1931 in Ottumwa, Iowa, to Ralph and Edith (Swartz) Replogle, He moved to Clear Lake at the age of seven and grew up there, graduating with his high school class of 45 students. He matriculated to Cornell College in Mount Vernon in 1949, where he studied biology, played football, and was part of the nationally ranked wrestling squad. His studies were interrupted by the Korean conflict, and he served in the Navy 1951-1954. During his service he worked the Naval Research Institute in Bethesda and became interested in medical sciences. After being honorably discharged, he nearly completed his studies at Cornell College, where he later received an honorary degree from Cornell College having already been accepted to Harvard Medical School.
During his first year in medical school Replogle was introduced to his future wife, Carol. They married after his second year in school, and both focused on their education during the ensuing time. Replogle’s internship was spent on the surgical services at the University of Minnesota. He returned to Harvard to serve internships, and then did his residency at Massachusetts General Hospital. He emerged as a general and cardiothoracic pediatric surgeon, and took an initial faculty position with Boston Children’s Hospital.
In 1967 Replogle became a pediatric surgeon at the University of Chicago, where he headed the congenital heart surgery program. He did additional training in adult cardiac surgery, and spent his clinical career thereafter performing adult and pediatric open-heart operations. In addition to his renowned clinical expertise and surgical skill, Replogle was an educator and clinical investigator of the first order. He mentored numerous surgeons into outstanding academic careers and published over 100 scientific papers and book chapters.
Although he contributed immeasurably to clinical medicine and education, his greatest professional accomplishments were related to his leadership abilities. An early example relates to his brother, Ralph, who suffered from cerebral palsy and often required special care that was difficult to obtain through state institutions. It happened that this condition affected members of several other families in Clear Lake. Replogle joined these other townspeople to found in the early 1960s what eventually became Opportunity Village, which provides a home for adults with disabilities. It currently supports over 600 people from more than 30 communities.
As a surgeon, Replogle found himself involved in the beginnings of a number of professional organizations, most notably the Society of Thoracic Surgeons. He rose through that organization to become president in 1996, and enacted a number of important changes that have had a lasting impact. Always someone who thought out of the box and made interesting connections among various disciplines, Replogle championed new ideas and many new technologies. He “establish in internet presence” for his specialty, was an early computer enthusiast, and launched efforts for advocacy in government on behalf of cardiothoracic surgeons. He had his own website long before most of his colleagues knew what the Internet was.
His personal life was even more interesting than his professional life. Always on the lookout for new adventures and hobbies, he focused his attention in turn on fast cars, scuba diving, underwater photography, and digital photography. He was an avid traveler who had numerous close friends throughout the world. He became a wine connoisseur later in life, and loved to entertain friends and colleagues over his favorite wine selections. Most notably, he was devoted to his family, and loved nothing more than having them at home or along on an exciting travel adventure.
To those who knew him, Replogle was a force of nature. His energy, enthusiasm, sharp wit, and fierce intelligence always made for fun company and interesting and lively conversations. He never forgot his Iowa roots, and at the time of his death still had many steadfast friends in Clear Lake.
Replogle is survived by his wife, Dr. Carol Replogle, Chicago; three children, Dr. Jennifer (Mark) Bremer, Chicago, Il., Dr. Edith (Scott) Sheffer, Palo Alto, Calif., and son Dr. Robert E. ( Michelle) Replogle, Grand Junction, Colo.; nine grandchildren, Max, Molly, and Joe Bremer, Eric and Alice Sheffer, and Robert Jackson, Caroline, Samuel, and Eliza Replogle.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Ralph R. Sr. and Edith Replogle; and his brother, Ralph R. Replogle, Jr.
Funeral services were held at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, May 14, 2016, at the First Congregational Church, Clear Lake, with the Rev. Harlan Seri officiating. Burial was at Clear Lake Cemetery, Clear Lake, with military honors provided by the Clear Lake V.F.W. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations be made to Opportunity Village or Cornell College, Mt. Vernon, Iowa, in memory of Robert L. Replogle.
A celebration of Repogle’s life will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday, June 19, at Hyde Park Union Church, 5600 S. Woodlawn Ave.