Dr. Robert J. Toohill, M.D.
June 7, 1935 - December 29, 2013
View the Full Online Memorial
|Bob passed away peacefully, at the age of 78, in his Elm Grove home surrounded by family on Sunday, December 29, 2013, after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He is survived by the love of his life and wife of 53 years, Kathryn “Kay” (nee Dennett); and his children Carol of Menomonee Falls, Kathleen (David Perlman) Toohill of Warrenville IL, Robert Jr (Jennifer) of Golden CO, Andrew (Suzanne) of Littleton CO, and Patrick (Jill) of Wauwatosa. He was the proud grandfather of Grace and Edward Perlman; Maggie and Samantha Toohill; Ryan, Tommy and Nicole Toohill; and Daniel and Theresa Toohill. Further survived by his loving siblings Lawrence (Bernadine) Toohill, Martin (Sally) Toohill, Mary Ann (the late Frank) Hirsch, Ellen (Paul) Schweri, Julia (Sid) Johnston, Winnie (Tom) Adler, Donald (Cleo)Toohill, Michael (Kathryn)Toohill and Richard (Nancy)Toohill. He was preceded in death by brother David, and sister Katherine Dennis (late Tom). He was also loved by over 40 nieces, nephews and cousins in his large, extended family. He will also be missed by many dear friends and colleagues.
Bob was born in 1935 to a large Irish farming family in central Illinois, the second child of Lawrence Toohill and Mary (nee O’Rourke). But his destiny was not on the farm and after attending St. Ambrose College in Davenport IL, he went on to medical school at what was then Marquette University School of Medicine. While studying in Milwaukee he met Kay who was a nursing student. He completed medical school in 1960 and was married to Kay in January of that same year.
They moved to Chicago IL where he completed an internship and a year of general surgery at Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital and a three-year otolaryngology residency at the University of Illinois. During their time in Chicago, he and Kay became parents of Carol, Kathleen and Robert, Jr.
On completion of his residency, Bob fulfilled his military duty as a Lieutenant Commander at the Chelsea Naval Hospital outside of Boston, Massachusetts. It was there that he began to establish himself as a world-class surgeon by participating in the first-ever artificial voice box transplant on a GI who had been wounded by gunfire in Vietnam. During their time in Massachusetts, Kay and Bob welcomed another son, Andrew, to the family.
In 1967, following his service to the country, he returned to Milwaukee, where he began private practice and settled his family in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, where a fifth child, Patrick, was born. In addition to building a strong private practice, Bob also pursued his love of medical research and joined the staff of what is now the Medical College of Wisconsin as a part-time Clinical Instructor, and quickly rose through the academic ranks until moving to full-time status in 1978.
In 1986, he became the second-ever Chief of the Otolaryngology Division at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and through his perseverance, expertise and force of personality he grew the faculty, staff, and residency program. When he stepped down as Chief 11 years later there were 13 full time faculty members and the department had become a leading center for ear, nose and throat medicine in the midwest.
His true professional passion was research and teaching. Over 25 years he studied the diagnosis and treatment of gastroesophageal reflux and was one of the first to discover that reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus can lead to vocal and sinus problems. His other research expertise was in nasal and sinus diseases, laryngeal and swallowing disorders, and head and neck cancer. He was a sought after speaker and presenter internationally, and traveled with Kay extensively throughout the world. His travels also allowed him to form research partnerships and collaborations with physicians in other countries. He has published scores of articles and a book… his accomplishments are too numerous to mention and the impact of his career is countless and continuous.
After “retiring” from a full-time position in 2000, Bob continued in a part-time capacity as a mentor to young residents and faculty members. He spearheaded conferences and seminars and remained active in research.
It was his medical career that brought him another passion that would become a life-long interest. When he was not working or spending time with his family, he could often be found on the golf course. He was an avid student of the game, and spent lots of time practicing his swing at the golf dome at Currie Park during the off-season. He golfed regularly in a golf league…”the boys”…. In addition to golf, Bob was a huge sports fan. He held season tickets for the Milwaukee Bucks and Milwaukee Brewers. He enjoyed watching and supporting the Wisconsin Badgers and Marquette Golden Eagles. And although he had “adopted” many Wisconsin loyalties, he always remained true to the Chicago Bears.
In 1977, an idea to purchase some land as an investment became a wonderful family adventure. Following a tip from some good friends, Bob and Kay purchased a cottage home on Eagle Springs Lake in Eagle, Wisconsin. The “Island” as it is commonly called is the family’s retreat and has been the site of many events, including the “BTO”. The Bob Toohill Open was a fun golf tourney followed by a cookout that ran for many years. The island is also a place of natural beauty and peacefulness that the family has cherished for years. In accordance with his wishes, Bob will be laid to rest there.
All five of the Toohill children attended Christ King grade school and Bob and Kay where active members of the parish for many years. Bob was a major and longtime financial donor to the Medical College of Wisconsin, the House of Peace, Family Unity International, and the UNCF.
Bob’s very strong Irish heritage was an ever-present part of his persona and singing was one of his many expressions of that heritage. While he was frequently off key, his enthusiasm more than made up for any lack of musical prowess. Almost every gathering of family and friends included some kind of sing-a-long. And while Irish songs where always in the mix, he had many other favorites. He even sang to his colleagues and residents at work. Many of his favorites will be a part of his memorial service.
Bob was a member of the Neville-Dunn Irish American Legion Post and was selected Irishman of the Year.
Visitation will be held at the Funeral Home on Thursday, January 2, 2014 from 4PM to 7PM. Additional visitation will be held at the Funeral Home on Friday, January 3, from 10AM until the Memorial Service at 11AM.
In lieu of flowers, memorials to Medical College of Wisconsin, the House of Peace or Family Unity International are appreciated.