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A Eulogy for Dr. John M. Templeton, Jr. MD (1940–2015)

Stephen G. Post
June 11, 2015

I have to drive down to Philadelphia on June 12 (2015) to attend a Memorial Service for Sir John’s Son, John M. Templeton, Jr., MD, and provide a eulogy at the Proclamation Presbyterian Church in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Here is what I will say about a great man:

Let us bow our heads in thanks: “Dear Lord, we gather here in the Proclamation Presbyterian church that Jack helped build to give thanks for his life of love, meaning that the happiness, security, and well-being of others was always as real to him as his own, and more so. We thank you for shaping his life in grace. We come here today from near and from far to thank you, Lord, for we see in Jack an instrument of a love that exceeds our mere human capacities, and we are exceedingly grateful. In Christ’s name, Amen.”

Sometimes people may ask if Jack lived up to his dad’s expectations. We all here attest that Jack exceeded those expectations as he healed and helped so many in almost every way that one human being can give to another.

Augustine once wrote that we only can really know a man or a woman by who and by what they love:

Jack loved his dad so much that he gave up a deeply meaningful surgical practice healing imperiled children in order to manage the John Templeton Foundation on a full time basis in 1995, having established it at his dad’s request in 1987. Only Jack’s wife Pina can convey to us how challenging that decision was. It is hard to imagine love without loyalty, and Jack was loyal. At the Foundation everyone knew well Jack’s loyal refrain: “What would Sir John say?” Jack’s priceless stories about dad include one he told at his beloved Union League about how Sir John traveled the world as a young man and found himself in a very perilous moment in Palestine. Way back in Winchester, Tennessee, his mother, thousands of miles away, woke up with a fearful premonition that her son had died, and in grief threw out a box of letters from him. Pina and Heather will remember the ever diligent historian Jack saying not, “Wow! That was an amazing premonition,” but instead, “If we only had those letters today! Can you imagine all we could learn about dad!”

Jack loved his patients. Out at Reading Hospital a couple of years ago giving Grand Rounds, I discovered at the mere mention of Jack’s name just how many parents, adult children, and one amazing pair of lifelong conjoined twins had all over the years received personalized Christmas cards from Jack asking them how they were doing, recalling them in great detail both personally and medically, and inviting them to call him as needed. And everyone knows that Jack rejected the arrogant hypercognitive values that diminish the significance of individuals who are born with cognitive challenges, or accumulate them through head trauma. How radiant Jack was when he found out that Jean Vanier had finally received the Templeton Prize that Jack so carefully stewarded for many decades. Jack so appreciated Jean’s L’Arche homes for the cognitively imperiled, and his transformative message that we can be reminded of the most essential aspects of being human when we open our communities and hearts to them. Jack so admired his great mentor Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, another tireless advocate for those who do not quite fit the mold of cognitive dexterity and are dismissed by the rationally arrogant, but are nevertheless perfectly included in God’s nurturing love. For all his intellectual diligence, like his dad, Jack exemplified the power of love, never the love of power.

In recent years, Jack began to see that his dad’s challenge was not that he give up on being a healer of children, but that he transpose his healing to an even higher key. Jack was joyfully supporting movies about a little boy in Florida with his red wagon who inspired a nation of youth to help those imperiled by natural disasters; or a magnificent program here in Philadelphia in which young people everywhere could enter an essay contest to reflect on the enduring values of the Declaration of Independence and of the Constitution. He tried to support a transformation of culture so that mothers and fathers could enjoy more lasting marriages and raise their children in stable loving spiritual families so as to flourish; he cared greatly about the spiritual growth of children and about their having the qualities of character that would lead to successful lives; he worried every day about teen binge drinking and marijuana use as research showed the strong association with permanent brain damage, and he always had the latest articles in his brief case. Jack increasingly saw that through the Foundation, he could directly help young people and transform a destructive culture, albeit with some outcome measures of course! One of the things we last discussed was the possibility of having a large copy of Norman Rockwell’s great picture. “The Golden Rule,” placed in every high school lobby in America to be the subject of classes and essay contests, perhaps along with Rockwell’s “The Four Freedoms.” Yes indeed, Jack gave up a lot to help his dad, but his dad knew well that while you might take Jack out of CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia), you could never take CHOP out of Jack, and that was pure gain for the world.

Jack so loved Pina. Jack was not just her husband – he was her best friend and her closest partner in all things. I have for some years felt that Jack was one of the luckiest guys on the face of the earth. They were healers together always at CHOP and beyond. In recent years, as Jack grew weaker, Pina devoted herself to him 24/7 with her full energy, driving him to the office and back each day and being always by his side. Thank heavens for that. What would have happened to him without Pina’s constant emotional and practical support? Jack was a young surgeon when he went mining for a heart of gold, and he struck it rich. If synergy means the 1 plus 1 = 3, we saw in Jack and Pina together a perfect 3. Pina, we thank you.

Jack loved Heather, so much so that she could become the woman, wife, mother, Christian, and Templeton Foundation leader that she is today. What better witness to the love of wise parents? Jack loved the equally gifted Jennifer, who wrote recently that she will always remember her dad first and foremost as a doctor. The sky is the limit for these two. He loved their husbands Jeff and Scott, and those six awesome grandchildren. What a blessing they are, and how much joy they brought to Jack in his final days.

Jack loved Ann, his sister. I can recall standing with the two of them years ago on the veranda of the Templeton Library on a mountain top near the University of the South as they shared their enthusiasm for a new plan to bring the Bible into the hands of children worldwide. How much he loved Ann’s family, including the wise and mirthful Gail Zimmerman, and their children. He spoke glowingly of his niece Rene, who was doing her residency and carrying on her mom’s medical legacy in Cleveland at the time.

Jack loved his brother Christopher (“Kit”). It meant so much to me to see them together in Nassau so I could up which one had more pens and pencils in their top shirt pockets! It was always a close competition, along the lines of 9 Kit, 10 Jack, or maybe 6 Jack, 8 Kit. They picked that up from Sir John. On May 8 I had the chance to go down to visit Jack and Pina in their home, and Kit was there. Always the marvelous chaplain and a man of faith, Jack and Kit had more than plenty of pens and pencils in common. Kit prayed at Jack’s side deeply that early evening, and Jack raised his hands up folded to his chest and whispered “Amen.” Later Pina mentioned that Jack had been actively reaching upwards and outwards while lying in his bed earlier in the day, as if he saw a light and was being called. No doubt he was.

Our beloved “Dr. T” was a healer, a husband, a dad, a son, a builder of churches, a protector of children and the gift of the mind, a visionary advocate for freedom, a great Lincolnesque Republican, and one of those who tried to live his entire life in love under God. The Lord graced Jack with agape, which as his dad always said is not just mere human emotion, but something spiritual and even the mysterious Ultimate Reality underling all things seen and unseen. Jack Templeton paid careful attention to every stitch, and the surgical line of his life looks so straight that as Dr. Blalock said famously to Vivian Thomas, “That looks like something the Lord hath made.”

Every one of you here who knew Jack over the years could write a little essay on how Jack loved you, and that’s why we are here. Would you please write that little essay (no great than 1000 words, double-spaced) and send it in to his deeply trusted and much beloved assistants Roseann Wolf and Doris Hackl. What an important edited book that will make for the Templeton Press!

A final memory – I spent a week with Jack up at the Chautauqua Institution in August of 2005 where the weekly topic was Pure Unlimited Love, an expression his dad used to talk about agape in a way that people from all faiths could equally appreciate. In one conversation I cited the 17th century metaphysical poet John Donne. “Batter my heart, three-person’d God.” Donne is stating that he really wants to be invaded by and captured by the living energy of God. He is complaining a bit that the Divine Mind is being too gentle and subtle for his fallen or sinful nature, which can only be taken by some greater force of spiritual experience. “Take me to you,” the poem ends, “imprison me, for I, except you enthrall me, never shall be free, nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.” Jack responded, “God holds back on the battering because he respects our freedom, and loving parents never batter their children, but God does coax people.” Jack always cared so much about freedom for you, for me, and for the whole world. In our increasingly brutal times across the globe, yes, “Let Freedom Ring!”

Now Jack is free at last. Even in the days before he passed on he had already moved on to someplace even better than our favorite 30th Street Station and had one foot on that last train for Glory at the special reserved car for those who loved God and their neighbor as themselves, and are so rightfully there.

Sir John’s favorite prayer begins “O heavenly Father, in whom we live and move and have our being.” Dr. T still lives and moves and has his being, count on it. He is still our Jack, helping to coax us from that unseen but palpable dimension, smiling more brightly than ever now with the Lord who inspired him in thought, word and deed.

Be open still to Jack’s little surprises in a moment of uncanny synchronicity, in a creative dream, or in a great idea that seems to come from nowhere. You just never know what will come your way from that a truly great soul on that great train bound for Glory.