Friday, February 15, 2013

Passing of Dr. Victor Keranen

Vic was our Historical Director, a top-notch Sailor and a singularly great mentor.  Even after being diagnosed with cancer and undergoing chemo, he remained one of the steadiest, ablest hands in any crew he joined - pulling to beat junior Sailors less than a third his age.

His obituary (following) merely scratches the surface of his remarkable life and indomitable spirit.

Fair winds, shipmate.


Dr. Victor Joseph Keranen, 80, passed away in Fayetteville on Feb. 14, 2013 after a five year battle with cancer.

Victor was born on June 14, 1932 in Metuchen, NJ, where he grew up with his only sibling, Emil Keranen, during the years between the Great Depression and WWII.  At an early age, Vic worked a variety of jobs that included delivering newspapers for his brother, and joining a circus at the age of 12, and working in a button factory. At age 16, Vic left high school to join the Merchant Marines where he was employed as a deck hand on an oil tanker.  Less than a year later, as the war was winding down and merchant marine and dock worker jobs became scarcer, he returned home to work in a garage.  But the lure of the sea called him back and he quickly joined the Navy Reserve, and eventually the Navy, where he signed on for four years and extended to a fifth year.  In the Navy he achieved the rank of Petty Officer Second Class (EN2), and worked as a mechanic in the engine room, and later as a salvage diver after attending diving school.  While in the Navy he suffered two injuries that would later help influence his decision to go into medicine.

In 1954, after leaving the Navy, Vic married Marie Elaine Jakubiak from West Hartford, CT.  They moved to Tarpon Springs, FL where they started a family.  During this time Vic worked as a sponge diver, completed his high school GED, and was accepted into the University of Miami. After a bad motorcycle accident that required surgery to remove his spleen, Vic began reflecting on his next career move while recovering in the hospital.  He came to the conclusion that as long as he was spending so much time in and around hospitals, he may as well make a living at it.  This was the genesis of his medical career, and three years after entering the University of Miami, he was accepted into Duke Medical School.

Vic graduated from Duke Medical School in 1964, completed his internship and residency in Raleigh, NC, and then chose to specialize in neurosurgery.  He moved his family to Vermont in 1966 where he attended the University of Vermont Medical School.

In 1970, Vic married Wendy Triller of Hanover, NH, and moved to Fayetteville, NC, where he established his neurosurgical practice in 1971. In his 28 year career as a neurosurgeon, he recruited many other neurosurgeons to Fayetteville and the Cape Fear Medical Center, and was instrumental in bringing the first brain scanner to Fayetteville.  As a surgeon he was passionate about saving lives, and accepted patients from as far away as SC.  In Vic’s words, ‘where there’s life, there’s hope’.

Among his many avocations, Vic was an avid reader, especially of historical books, and always enjoyed working with his hands in multiple artistic pursuits.  He built ship models, created stained glass art, jewelry, bronze castings, and welded large scale projects for his home and boats.  As part of his chemotherapy rehab, Vic began painting and had several pieces of his artwork accepted in a travelling art show sponsored by the Lily Company. Above all else, though, Vic was passionate about boating and the sea, owning two sailboats and a trawler that became his second home. Vic’s sailing experience was extensive, with multiple trips across the Atlantic, throughout the Mediterranean, and around Europe.  Family, friends, and professional peers crewed with Vic on his many adventures, and survived to tell the tales.

Vic was very active in the Coast Guard Auxillary for 24 years, teaching navigation classes and serving as a flotilla commander.  He was also a member of the Naval Heritage Society and continued to pursue new hobbies and friendships throughout his retirement.  From circus, to sailor, to surgeon, Vic Keranen lived a rich and varied life that brought him great joy, and an unfailing passion to conquer his illness in anticipation of experiencing life’s next great adventure.


LK said...

That's my Dad. He was a truly remarkable man. He crammed more living into his life than anyone else could have in 5 lifetimes. He saw farther, thought farther, and went farther than anyone else. He left with a lot still left undone. He tried desperately in his last days to keep reading up on USS Hornet and the War of 1812. He was devoted to a project to write about African Americans and their role in the early US Navy. He will be sorely missed and I hope he can see the unveiling of Triumphant from where he is.

Emily Walsh said...

Hi I'm Emily! Please email me when you get a chance, I have a question about your blog!