Dr. Yrech Pardo died peacefully on Dec. 12, after a short illness. He was 95.
The eldest of nine siblings, Pardo was born in 1923 in Marmelade, Haiti. In 1943, Pardo entered medical school at the University of Haiti in Port Au Prince, where he lived with nine of his cousins. They remained like siblings to him throughout his life.
At the recommendation of a medical school professor, Pardo and several classmates came to Chicago in 1949 for medical residencies at Provident Hospital, the first African-American owned and operated hospital. Unaware of racial barriers that he would face, he then applied and was accepted to a pathology residency at Cook County Hospital, where he was one of only four blacks, out of nearly 600 residents.
In 1953, Pardo was assigned to work in the hospital’s chemistry lab. There, he met a young chemist named Karin Zacharias. Zacharias, a Holocaust survivor, had spent the war years as a refugee in Shanghai, China, and had immigrated to the United States in 1947. They soon become a couple, and they were fond of attending dances at the University of Chicago’s International House in Hyde Park – one of the few places they felt welcome as an interracial couple.
In 1955, Pardo was drafted into the U. S. Navy, reporting to duty as a pathologist at the naval hospital in Oakland, CA. In 1958, Zacharias joined him in northern California, where they were married – nine years before interracial marriage was fully legal throughout the country. In 1959, after Pardo completed his service in the Navy, the couple returned to Chicago, settling first in Avalon Park and then in Hyde Park.
Back in Chicago, Pardo began a private medical practice, where he would work until retiring in 1987. Pardo spent long days making house calls throughout the South Side – driving his Plymouth Duster between offices and patients in Chatham, Calumet Heights, South Shore and Bronzeville. There wasn’t a medical problem Pardo didn’t tend to. He took pride in never turning down a patient, regardless of ability to pay. Pardo was also an active member of the Association of Haitian Physicians Abroad and an advisor to Provident Hospital.
Pardo lived for his family. In addition to a large extended family in Haiti, the United States, Canada and France whom Pardo helped and supported throughout his life, he and Karin raised their daughters, Jacqueline and Linda, in Hyde Park, where they remained until Karin’s death in 2008 and Pardo’s earlier this month.
Pardo was immensely proud of his daughters’ education. Jacqueline and Linda both attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, before going to Yale University for college. Jacqueline (Mark Hornung), of Hyde Park, is a psychiatrist at the University of Chicago and Linda (Joel Dando), of Burlington, VT, is an environmental engineer for the United States Forest Service.
But Pardo’s greatest pride and joy were his two grandsons: Daniel and Max Hornung, 28 and 24. From 2012 until 2017, Daniel, now a student at Yale Law School, worked at the White House, including as a special assistant to President Obama. Until his death, Pardo frequently would marvel about living in a country where the grandson of a Haitian immigrant could work for the President of the United States. Max, a graduate of Tufts University, is a college counselor in Boston.
A memorial service will be held at Montgomery Place in Hyde Park on Saturday, February 9 at 2 pm.
(Information courtesy of the family)