Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ivan John Gustafson

Ivan John Gustafson, M.D., "Dr. Gus," died peacefully at home on Thanksgiving Day surrounded by his family. He was born on July 28, 1920, outside tiny Duval, Wash. The Great Depression and his father's untimely death forced him to find work where he could at age 14. He attended Washington State University where he met his life partner, Lucille Oatman, whom he married while in the service. He taught school for a brief period of time before joining the Navy. Gus served as a gunnery officer in the Pacific Theater during World War II. At the end of the war, he went to the University of Oregon Medical School on the GI Bill. After his general surgery residency, he joined the Poly Clinic in Seattle, eventually becoming its president. In addition to his medical practice, Gus served first on the Redmond Planning Commission and later on the Redmond City Council as a strong proponent of low-density planned-unit development.

In 1970, tiring of the stress of city life, they moved to the Wood River Valley. Gus helped found the Ketchum Medical Clinic. He later joined the Blaine County Planning Commission, eventually serving two terms as Blaine County commissioner. During that time, he helped start the Blaine County Recreation District. In the late 1970s, Gus obtained federal funds to cover most of the cost to construct a four-lane highway between Bellevue and Ketchum. This proposal was soundly rejected by voters. It was such an unpopular idea that he might have been tarred and feathered, but he was, after all, the only surgeon around.

After retiring from medical practice at age 66, they moved to Hagerman, Idaho, where he started a new career as a farmer. Thankfully, since almost everything grows in Hagerman, he was moderately successful. Gus enjoyed fishing and hunting, but was a notoriously poor shot, so the ducks, pheasants and deer mostly escaped unscathed. When Gus's health started to fail, his grandson, Ryan, came to live on the farm to care for Gus and Lucy, allowing Gus to remain on the farm until his death.

Gus is survived by Lucy, his wife of 68 years; his four children, Lee (Ruth), Jayme (Denny), Ray (Rita) and Kirk (Kit); nine grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and countless friends. His grandson Bradley Johnson preceded him in death.

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