Wednesday, March 14, 2007

James J. Coughlin

James J. Coughlin, M.D., died on March 7, 2007, at the Idaho State Veterans Home in Boise after a long struggle with Alzheimer's disease.

Jim was born in Boise, Idaho, at old Saint Alphonsus Hospital on Fifth and State streets on Dec. 28, 1916. He was the fourth of six children born to William and Florence Murphy Coughlin and was raised in the north end of Boise on 18th and Alturas streets. He was proud of the many jobs he had as he grew up in serving as a cash boy at C.C. Anderson's Department Store, selling capital newspapers on downtown corners, pumping gas at the Veltex Station, and delivering handbills throughout the north end of Boise. Jim was very proud of his Irish heritage and Idaho roots, and of his father's business, the Standard Furniture Company on Bannock Street in downtown Boise.

He attended St. Joseph's Grade School and High School, and when the High School combined with St. Teresa' s Academy, Jim served as first Student Body President, graduating in 1934. He served many Masses as an Altar Boy at St. John' s Cathedral, often riding his bicycle to the church.

During the Depression, he attended Gonzaga University and then returned to the College of Idaho as it was less expensive, and he could then help his widowed mother and three sisters.

After three years of college, he was accepted to St. Louis University School of Medicine and graduated in 1941. It was during this time that he met the love of his life, Martha Harrison, of Tacoma, Wash., who was studying for a Master's degree in Social Work at St. Louis U. Thus began a love affair of 65 years.

At this time, the threat of war was brewing in Europe and Asia. Following his internship at St. Vincent's' s hospital in Portland, Ore., Jim shipped out as a medical officer with the 155th field station hospital to the South Pacific. Over the next four years, he served as a general surgeon doing orthopedics at various MASH units in New Guinea; Brisbane, Australia; Mindanao, Philippines, and the island of Morotai in the Netherlands East Indies. He was awarded the bronze star during his service, and at the conclusion of the war, he returned to the Pacific Northwest.

He married Martha on Feb. 16, 1946, in Tacoma, and they then returned to St. Louis where he had accepted a residency in Orthopedic Surgery. Following his completion of training in 1948, Martha and Jim returned to Boise to settle and raise a family. He was the second board-certified Orthopedist in the state of Idaho.

During Jim's long Medical Career, he served as Chief of Surgery at both Saint Alphonsus and St. Luke's hospitals, and was medical staff president at Saint Als in 1957. He also served as President of the North Pacific Orthopedic Society, and was a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery, and the Idaho Orthopedic Association.

During the national polio epidemic of the 1950s, Jim and several other Boise physicians conceived the idea of a convalescent home for victims of polio. With the help of Brownfield's and the Benevolent Protective Order of Elk's, they started a small hospital that later became the Elk' s Rehabilitation Hospital. He helped organize the Ada County Medical Society in January 1960, serving as the first president. Long before there were dedicated Emergency Room physicians, for three decades, Jim took Emergency Room call.

In 1959, he joined J. Gordon Dines M.D. and founded the Boise Orthopedic Clinic. Jim retired from active Orthopedic practice in 1977, but until 1981, did consultations for industrial injuries evaluating complex orthopedic and neuralgic problems. In 1986, Jim was honored as physician of the year by the Ada county medical society.

Jim and Martha loved nature, animals, and the out-of-doors, spending their free time in Lowman, on the south fork of the Payette River and later in Ketchum, Idaho. They also enjoyed travel, and had the opportunity to visit Australia, Africa, Ireland, and England, as well as many parts of the U.S. and Canada during their marriage.

Jim was a lifelong member of St. John's Cathedral and also a member of Our Lady of the Snow's Catholic Church in Sun Valley.

He was preceded in death by his parents, one brother, three sisters, and one nephew. He is survived by his loving wife Martha, of 61 years and one sister, Eileen Coughlin Smith. He is also survived by three sons: James H. (Jane) and Michael J. (Kirsten) of Boise, and Timothy J. (Janet) of Madison, Wis. He leaves behind four grandchildren: Erin M. (Los Angeles, Calif.), Elizabeth H. (Corvallis, Ore.), and Patrick R. and Kathleen A., both of Madison. He also leaves behind two nieces and three nephews.

The family would like to thank Dr. Robert F. Smith, Pat Terry, R.N., and all the staff at the Idaho State Veterans Home for their loving, compassionate, and excellent care during Jim' s long illness.

A vigil service was held March 8 at Summers Funeral Home, 1205 W. Bannock in Boise with Father Thomas Faucher presiding. Mass of Christian Burial was held March 8 at St. John's Cathedral, 775 N. 8th St., with Father Donald J. Riffle officiating.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations may be made to the Saint Alphonsus Foundation for the Coughlin Education Center, a part of the new Saint Alphonsus nine-story Regional Medical Center. Contributions may be sent to 1055 N. Curtis Road, Boise, ID 83706.

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