Johnny Marr (1962 - 2011)

Johnny Marr was a superstar. Everyone will tell you. He excelled professionally, as a family man, and as a member of the community. Like all superstars he made the world a better place. Meeting Johnny in the hospital passage, on the school fields or at an unexpected venue, left you feeling happier, put a spring in your step, as if a beam of light had shone upon you unexpectedly on a cold winter day. His passing has left a massive gap in the surgical community in South Africa, and the Cape Town southern suburbs particularly.

Johnny was born in Cape Town, the first-born son of a proud medical family. His grandfather Jock was an eminent surgeon and his father Maxi a much-loved general practitioner. Two of Johnny’s siblings have medical degrees, Allie from UCT and Ian from Stellenbosch. His schooling was at Rondebosch Boys High, after which he enrolled at UCT Medical School, where he graduated in 1987.

After short stints in the military service and overseas, he entered specialist general surgery training at Groote Schuur and UCT. He passed the FCS examination in1997, and after further tutelage with Flip Bornman and Jake Krige, he entered private practice at the Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont.

It was obvious to all who worked with him that Johnny Marr was born to be a surgeon. He was dedicated to his field, learned and meticulous, caring to his patients, and always professional in his dealings with colleagues. He was able and willing to make decisions, and to take on the consequences. He was confident and optimistic, and inspired great loyalty and faith from those who trusted him with their care. But most of all he had ‘great hands’, that elusive and indefinable talent that few surgeons have, and all aspire to. He could operate beautifully, making complex procedures look easy and effortless, and assisting him in theatre was a little like watching Roger Federer craft a dropshot on Wimbledon centre court, or Ernie Els swing a one wood on the first tee at Augusta.

His illness was a shock to all of us –a beautiful man, in the prime of life, viciously ambushed by pancreatic cancer, an incurable surgical disease. His resilience and courage during this time were astounding, and he found himself consoling his distraught visitors more often than not. Suzi and Johnny drew great courage and strength from their faith in the Lord, and their love and commitment to each other was evident to the last day.

Johnny Marr has left us. We have to be grateful for the gift of his presence in our life, and wonder at the transience of our time on this earth. He lived his life to the full, and he made the world a better place, alas for much too brief a time. Our thoughts are with Suzi, their 3 wonderful children Ollie, Jean and Mattie and all the Marr family.

Eugenio Panieri

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