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John Duncan Abernethy

John Duncan Abernethy

Sunday, November 1st, 2020
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John Duncan Abernethy

December 13, 1930 – November 1, 2020

John Duncan Abernethy, 89, died November 1st at his home in Waltham, MA. His rapidly declining mobility and communication over the last few months coincided with the restrictions imposed on our lives by the pandemic, but his life remained full - of love for his wife, Celia Kent, his children, his cats, and the pleasure of a good joke.

John was always proud to say he was born in New Zealand. He was the son of Duncan Roy and Jessie Philothea Abernethy. He graduated from King’s College in Auckland and attended medical school in Dunedin. After receiving his medical degree and an additional research degree in Pharmacology, he moved to England where he married his first wife, Winifred Chapman. His subsequent career path was influenced by his passion for science and math which took him to SUNY Buffalo on a postdoctoral fellowship in Physiology and later to the Australian National University in Canberra. In 1973, he was appointed Study Director for the Australian Hypertension Study, a topic of interest for much of his career. He moved to the United States with his second wife, Meryl Nass.

John met Celia in 1986. He gave her a ready-made family with two young sons and a cat named Moussy, along with three older children. They were married in 1990 and added two daughters to the extended Abernethy clan.

Friendship, laughter, and music were abiding themes in John’s life, along with a deep commitment to peace and social justice. He often talked about how impressed he was as a young boy with the role the U.S. played in WWII and how he hoped to come here some day. He would always add that he was also grateful to the Americans for jazz and boogie-woogie. What a wonderful country we seemed to be! He was inspired by the civil rights movement and in 1986 joined his older daughter on the Great Peace March.

John appreciated everyone’s unique qualities and ignored the social categorizations that his upbringing attempted to impose. He was also famous for his pleasure with puns and a well-delivered punchline. His last employment was as a physician at the VA Medical Center in Brockton. We’ve been told by his colleagues at the VA that it was clear when Dr. Abernethy was in because of the loud bursts of laughter emanating from his exam room.

In addition to his wife, John is survived by his five children: sons Mark and his partner Liz Pinnock of Bundeena, Australia; Abraham and his wife Joselyn of Cape Elizabeth, Maine; Jacob of Atlanta, GA; and daughters Leah and her partner Andrew of Curlwaa, Australia; Marin of Brooklyn, NY; and Mackenzie of Ardmore, PA; four grandchildren: Millie, Orly, Sydney and Adrian; two younger sisters: Christine Van Beers and her husband Ad, and Robin Windsor and her husband Richard; as well as many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his daughter Joanna and sisters Monica and Katherine.

John's family held an online memorial service on Saturday November 7th. The link to the Memorial webpage with photos and other material shared at the service, as well as the Memorial Guestbook is here: https://johnabernethy.squarespace.com/

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in his memory to the Cooperative Elder Services or the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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Private Condolence

Donna Miller

Posted at 05:09pm
Celia and family,
We are sorry to hear of John’s passing. He lived such a full life and we hope your memories of him keep his spirit alive in your hearts.
Peace to All,
Donna and Bob Miller (Windsor neighbors)

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