John W Ertl, MD, born Janos Vilmos von Ertl in 1921 in Budapest Hungary and died Easter Sunday 2016. A Renaissance man and renaissance surgeon who believed in the power of regeneration of the body, mind and the human spirit. He loved life, his work, his family, his countries, recreating his life and adapting to each new challenge.
His journey began in Budapest, Hungary, resulting in a degree in medicine. He received his surgical training at the Pázmány Péter University (now Semmelweis University), in Budapest Hungary. His education was enhanced by the training he and his brother Vilmos, received from their father, Janos Vilmos von Ertl, Sr., the surgical chief and surgeon general of Hungary. Through this training the idea of biologic surgery was created, the idea that the body heals through its regenerative ability. World War II brought about hardships and family separation only to be reunited with his parents in Herborn, Germany as war refugees.
The next stage of his life was reinvented by establishing a surgical practice in Herborn, Germany, with his father and brother, caring for 10’s of thousands of war veterans and civilian casualties. His surgical and life philosophies were further enhanced through the additional training with his father. This work continued until an invitation from Dr. Phemister, MD, at the University of Chicago, brought the family to the United States. This immigration brought its own set of obstacles and acceptance.
A new chapter began requiring another reinvention. Although an accomplished surgeon, he was required to repeat his surgical training, which he completed at Presbyterian (Rush Presbyterian) and St. Anne’s Hospitals in Chicago. On completion of this added training, Janos and Brother Vilmos Ertl established a surgical practice in Hinsdale, Illinois. It is here that their surgical and life philosophies were further developed, enhanced and solidified over 40 years, including the reintroduction of the Ertl osteo-myoplastic reconstruction procedure for amputees. He performed the Ertl procedure on many patients from all walks of life, culminating in an invitation by the US Government in 2003, to consult on the anticipated limb amputation casualties in the second Iraq/Afghanistan conflict. In 2005, he received the golden diploma for 60 years of medical practice.
In his presence one could feel the respect and empathy gained through life experiences which surrounded him. Dr Janos von Ertl, MD remained an active member and board member in multiple societies including, The American College of Surgeons, The German Medical Society, The Barr Foundation and the Hungarian Medical Association of America (HMAA) in which he was a founding member and served as the honorary Vice President. He especially loved the yearly HMAA meetings in Sarasota, sitting in on lectures, participating in board meetings and partaking in the customary Hungarian festivities. His stalwart place at the tiki bar will be remembered for his smile, laughter, jokes, singing and raising his goblet in acceptance and commemoration to all, past and present.
And to us, his family, he was: first, a surgeon–reconstructive, plastic, and general. Second, the family man – son, brother, husband, father, uncle, and grandfather – the rock. Third, the artist – from sketches to Super 8 movies to yearly family photo albums. Fourth, the sailor – from Lake Balaton to Johnson Slough to Lake Michigan to Bowles Reservoir. Fifth, the tennis player – from Hungary to Germany to the United States. Sixth, the skier – from Carpatia to Bavaria to Stowe to Sun Valley to Vail – where only he could do freestyle in Sun Up Bowl (ha – swimming in the snow – crazy). And always always always the student of medicine. Our father, the heart, the joke teller, the keeper of our history, the survivor. And now – our Hungarian Desperado has caught his train knowing the way to San Jose and passing the dead skunk in the middle of the road. In his honor, we toast with a vodka martini and tie a yellow ribbon round our old oak trees and always always always remember.
Janos understood the need for regeneration throughout his own life as he reinvented himself for survival multiple times. He lived what he believed: “Wer in sein zeit vieles macht, wird nie sterben,” and that he did.