A pioneer of orthopedic surgery in Lodi, Dr. Jack Leary was known to those in the medical field as a mentor who not only changed the lives of his patients but also his colleagues. Dr. Gary Wisner, a friend and colleague, credits him with bringing Lodi into the 21st century.
"To see so many cases of severe trauma that Dr. Leary did perfectly without much of the instrumentation that make these cases much easier for us today is a true pleasure that several orthopedic surgeons enjoy seeing in their offices today," he wrote in Leary's eulogy.
For his contributions to health care, Leary was chosen posthumously as an inductee to the Lodi Community Hall of Fame.
Leary received his medical training at the University of Tulane in New Orleans. He then worked in children’s surgery in Pennsylvania and then was in charge of the orthopedic department at the Sacramento County Facility.
Leary brought his knowledge and instruments to Lodi and performed the area's first total hip and knee replacements. He also performed complex spinal surgery for patients with scoliosis, who are still doing well 50 to 60 years later, said Wisner.
Leary also performed many of the duties of a primary care physician. He often traveled out of the Lodi area when he made house calls in Stockton and Amador to treat broken bones and other emergencies. Leary's wife, Elsie, described him as intelligent and professionally adept, and a very caring person.
"He had a real feeling for people to help them with their problems," she said. "He didn't complain when he had accidents or emergencies. He was glad to go do it."
During his time as an orthopedic surgeon, Leary held several leadership roles. He served two terms as chief of staff at Lodi Memorial Hospital. He was an executive officer of the board and a founder of the Lodi Outpatient Surgery Center. He also was chairman of an early-day health foundation.
Wisner often looked to Leary as a mentor, and called him the physician father he never had.
"His advice was always so honest, his willingness to share his knowledge with me was so generous and his thoughtful advice ultimately benefited so many patients," Wisner said.
In other areas of community service, Leary served as chairman of the LOEL Center board. He also served as chairman of the Seventh-day Elementary School board. He was an elder and taught Bible class for 30 years at the church. Later in life, he wrote his Dr. Jack column for the Lodi News-Sentinel for seven years.
Leary was born in Lodi in 1921. He graduated from Lodi High School in 1939 and then attended Pacific Union College and Loma Linda University. He served in World War II and was chosen by the Army Specialized Training Corps due to his scholastic standing. Near the end of his medical schooling, he met Elsie. The two were married for 65 years and had four children.
Wisner most admired Leary's ability to treat everyone equally regardless of their background, as well as his kindness and honesty.
"Dr. Leary had a warm and loving heart and was willing to go the extra mile," he said.
Other inductees this year include Jack V. Fiori, who founded the Save the Grape Bowl committee and was the driving force behind the renovation, for his contributions to community service; Angelo and Barbara Brovelli, who both provided many years of service to the Lodi Boys and Girls Club, for their contributions to community service; Daryl Geweke, who established many automotive franchises and supported many local non-profits, for his contributions to business; and David Lucas, the owner of Lucas Winery who was instrumental in the formation of the original Lodi Vintners group, for his contributions to agriculture.
The Hall of Fame is sponsored by the Lodi Boys and Girls Club. Inductees will be honored at a dinner and program scheduled for Oct. 20 at 5:30 p.m. at the Boys and Girls Club headquarters, 275 Poplar St., near the corner of Stockton Street. Tickets are $45 each. To make a reservation or for other inquiries, call Eddie Cotton at 209-334-2697.