Hakuna Matata! That was a favorite phrase and way of life for John G.H. Khosh, M.D., who passed away peacefully in St. Petersburg, Florida. on Feb. 10, 2020, at the age of 91. John was the beloved husband of Mary Nell and loving father of Sheila (Columbus, Ohio), Deanna (Dallas, Texus), Lisa (Cleveland, Ohio), and Lora (Denver, Colorado), and the proud grandfather of 10 grandchildren who called him “Pop” specifically Daniel, Benjamin, Natalie, Caroline, Claudia, Will, Nathan, Jonathan, Charlotte and Henry. He is also survived by his sisters Mahine, Pari, Shahine, Simin and Taji. Among many surviving nieces and nephews, John shared a special bond with his oldest nephew, Moshen, whom he considered a younger brother.
John took an extraordinary path through life, and along the way maintained an inspirational attitude about pursuing dreams and facing hardship. Born April 21, 1929 as Gholam Hossein Khoshnevisan in Mashhad, Iran, John was the youngest boy among 10 children. As a child, he was an avid soccer player and earned the title of captain in college. He also loved the violin, which he taught himself to play. John persevered in medical school to graduate valedictorian despite having textbooks only written in French and Latin. After graduation, without knowing how to speak English or having family in the states, he bravely traveled to America to attend the University of Pennsylvania to complete post-graduate work. During residency at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, Ohio, he met his future wife, Mary Sivert, who worked as a pharmacy intern. Instantly smitten, he wrote a prescription for “a cup of coffee,” and they married shortly thereafter. Their 60th anniversary will be Sept. 1, 2021 and they renewed wedding vows in the chapel at Westminster Shores 10 years ago on Valentine’s Day.
Once married, they moved to Canada where two daughters were born (Sheila, Deanna) and then onto Berea, Ohio where two more daughters were born (Lisa, Lora).
For over 30 years combined, John practiced obstetrics and gynecology at Fairview General Hospital then Southwest General Hospital where he became Chief of ObGyn. Throughout Southwest Cleveland, John was frequently stopped by patients who thanked him profusely and wanted to shake his hand; one patient even named her baby after him! He was much beloved for showing compassion to patients in financial distress, who he allowed to barter! John never complained about his work schedule. He just grabbed pre-tied ties from the bedroom closet to leave in the middle of the night and took power naps during the day. One night during a storm and power outage, he even performed a delivery by flashlight.
John was a pioneer in preventive women’s health. As a charter member of the Holistic Health movement, he routinely tested blood cholesterol, enrolled patients in smoking cessation programs (taking and placing cigarettes into a giant fish tank), and taught early warning signs for cancer long before these practices became mainstream. Also earlier than most, John recognized the importance of a daily fitness regimen. Throughout his life, he made sure to “exercise every day” and invented a dance to help his friends and family do so. He would remind everyone, “The body can heal itself, but it must move to remain healthy!” and hum, “You’ve got to move it move it” from the movie “Madagascar.”
Upon retirement in 1993, John joined the Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College (ASPEC) in St. Petersburg, Florida where he started the popular “Medical Issues Group.” He also founded the “Science Circle” at Chautauqua Institution, New York, which continues inviting renowned guest speakers to share important scientific breakthroughs. Science was John’s true passion, and he was often teased about the esoteric journals he left lying around the house, such as “Microbiology Today” and “Biochemistry Now.” Nevertheless, John’s passion for science is now an enduring legacy for many grandchildren who work in various scientific fields.
John’s pastimes with his grandchildren were playing strategy games. Chess was his overall favorite, and he even played “chess with friends” online. Learning backgammon in Iran as a child, he often “schlemmed” everyone. He also loved the Persian card game “11.” At ping pong, his strategy was to repeatedly place the ball in opposite, alternating corners. For decades, John played tennis, racquetball, golf, pickleball. He also enjoyed annual ski trips to Boyne Mountain with family and friends.
John was filled with wonder for nature. He traveled the world, visiting all seven continents and never missed a chance to get up close to animals. Deliberately bitten by exotic ants in Costa Rica, he shouted, “Wow! That hurt a LOT more than I thought,” grateful for the experience. On other trips, he enjoyed swimming alongside manatees and playing with penguins, but his curiosity was met with warnings about getting too close. Sometimes, he ignored those warnings altogether, as when he capsized a canoe in Michigan immediately after being told not to stand up. Last summer, at the age of 91 when he was warned not to dive headfirst into the deep end of a swimming pool, he asked, “Why not?” Since he regaled many with fancy dives as a young adult, why not at age 91? Off he went. His dive was perfect.
John regarded nothing as too complex to understand; he knew it just required perseverance and creativity. His forthcoming book, “From Womb to Tomb to Catacomb,” is about the bioelectromagnetic forces impacting overall health. Following decades of independent research, John explains how our bodies are affected by our environment at the molecular level, and how medicine fails to recognize this significant force in health. He explains how communication layers within the human body resemble an onion, and he assigns biological symbols to external stimuli in loops and waves. He often began discussions about the book saying, “All emotions are chemically translated and physically expressed” and loved reminding people that every “human animal” is made up of 30 trillion cells. “Isn’t that fascinating?!” he would ask with genuine delight. John was the ultimate science teacher, passionate, patient, and painstaking in his explanations. Time stood still while he explained scientific complexities until the listener understood.
John’s love for fun was just as pronounced as his dedication to science. He was extremely social, and loved being with friends and attending parties. He was also a jokester and the consummate entertainer. There was always a twinkle in his eye when he engaged an audience, and you never knew what to expect. He loved to make people laugh! He invented an exercise program called “Jiggly Wiggly” for seniors and led groups through his hilarious routine. He created a tripod to represent “The Human Unit” using the head of a doll to explain external influences on health which elicited giggles. If you left important items on the counter, like a wallet or watch, John would hide them to teach you a lesson. If you walked underneath his porch, he would throw a glass of water and run away. He jokingly introduced his daughters as his “mother” to friends in his community. And he often said to others when departing, “Keep smiling” or “Don’t let the rains come down.”
John was comical while practicing resourcefulness too. Many engineering problems were solved with duct tape, bungee cords and zipties. Even when contraptions failed, he was undeterred and enjoyed fantastical mishaps like suitcases flying off the top of the car, or bicycles falling apart in motion. Occasionally, his quick fixes worked extremely well which made all his failures worthwhile in addition to the laughter they provided.
As we share loving memories about John, we should recognize that he was a feminist from the heart. After raising four daughters and having female patients, he believed strongly that women would make better world leaders and cited this poem frequently:
As a rule, man is a fool/When it is hot, he wants it cool/When it is cool, he wants it hot/Always wanting what is not!
In lieu of flowers, please donate to the “Chautauqua Science Group” (501c3 part of CLSC). Checks may be sent to Don Greenhouse, Treasurer, PO Box 31, Chautauqua, NY 14722.