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Client Memorials for Dr. John

These beautiful memories are posted in the order that they were received...

A favorite quote of John’s, shared with us by his dear friend, Jan Walsh: 
“He who trims himself to suit everyone else will soon whittle himself away. Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly." 

John was a wonderful human being. He was kind, gentle, humble, and unassuming. It was the way he viewed the world that made him so gloriously unique. Where others saw a weed, John saw the potential of a flower, where others saw only illness and cure, John saw the essence of a relationship and it’s need to be nurtured and respected. Where others saw the need to hurry, John saw only what might be missed if he did. And I never saw him hurry. He was always working on being a better person; a better doctor, a better friend and colleague, a better conservator of nature, and so much more. Yet, I think most of us could only hope to be anything like him. This is true because, above all else, he had the gift of knowing what was truly important in life and lived it that way everyday, despite every obstacle and criticism he faced. For those that knew him well, they know their lives will never be the same without him; for those that didn’t, I can only feel sorrow. I appreciated his friendship and mentoring every day that I knew him, and I will dearly miss him every day from now on.
- Jan Walsh, Friend and Colleague 

I am still in shock over Dr. John’s passing. He was such a wonderful, kind, gentle soul. He was not only a great veterinarian, but he was one of the most dedicated people I’ve ever met. When my dog, Cody, was diagnosed in June with a benign bladder tumor and cystitis, John performed the surgery and was tireless in doing research in ways to treat Cody’s ongoing symptoms. A few times he called me in the evening, just to bounce some ideas off of me and get more information about Cody’s routine, diet, and stress levels. The fact that he seemed to worry about Cody as much as I did made me feel so much better about Cody’s treatment. His empathy and understanding of animals and their owners shone through in his commitment to his work. Coming to the clinic will never be the same; I will miss John very much.
- Monica Smith
St. Charles, IL 

Dr. John was very shy the first time we met him and it was hard to get him to make eye contact. Now that we have known him for over 10 yrs it is quite a different story. Lately he had been so talkative that it was hard to get away at the end of our visits.It took him awhile to open up to people,but once he did you could really enjoy his crazy sense of humor. From the day we met him we knew he was the vet for us and we never saw any other vets. I don’t think our dogs would have allowed that. The rapport he had with the animals was really great to watch.We told all of our relatives,friends and neighbors about him and everyone who went to him felt the same way we did. Lately both of our dogs have gotten old and very sick and John and I were in frequent communication while he tried to figure out what was wrong with them. I was really excited to be able to tell John about the improvement that our dogs had made while he was on vacation. Unfortunately I never got the chance to tell him that he was right about his diagnosis. There is now a big gap in our lives and it won’t be easy to fill. May he rest in peace.

Stevan Kreger 

I share your sadness at the sudden death of Dr John.

Dr John recently treated my pup, Quinn, and performed surgery on his foot. I was most impressed by Dr John’s gentle approach toward my dog, especially his recognition of a frightened animal. He took the time to calm Quinn’s nervousness, and didn’t rush me or my dog to complete his own agenda.

I thoroughly enjoyed my brief relationship with Dr John, and am sorry that it ended so soon.
- Claudia Curtis 

John got a kick out of the tricks that my dogs do. Haji’s fainting trick was one. Another was one time when he was out at my place, we were walking around the property and stopped by the fenced yard where Hagen and Harusha were playing. Both dogs ran over to him (I’m sure they were thinking “He must have cookies!!”) and tried to outdo each other with sitting, laying down, whatever they could think of – practically falling over each other. It was such a silly sight! John really took delight in the dogs’ antics. I can still see him smile and laugh. I never had the chance to show him Eko’s new tricks….
- Diane Chandler 

Dr. John was just a wonderful vet. Such a gentle man. Very thoughtful in regard to assessing what to do with issues that came up. All our dogs liked him and he certainly seemed to like them as well. When I saw his picture in the paper, I was initially so pleased. Of course I thought he was just getting recognition. What a shock to read the article. All my best wishes for his family, friends and co-workers. My whole family will miss him.
- The Connolly Family 

Dr. John will be missed greatly. Memories of his kind heart and gentle soul will never be forgotten. Some viewed him as shy or quiet, but I felt as though he was really taking the time to to listen to me while he waited for just the right words to say. Peace and Prayers be with you.
- The Hultine Family 

It is with great sadness that I write this story. Dr. John was such a wonderful, amazing person; And,I am still having a hard time accepting that I will never see him again. He has been our caring vet for 10 years. I have had a lot of contact with Dr. John recently due to the illness of my cat Henry, who Dr. John cared for as if he were his own cat. Henry’s illness started as a stressful ordeal with the emergency vet saying that he was very sick and may not make it. Then first thing the next morning Dr. John called me to say that he was sorry to see Henry there and would make sure Henry was assigned to him for care. At that point, I knew Henry would be okay because he was in the hands of Dr. John. Dr. John was still working with us to come up with the best long term treatment when he went on vacation. I was going to talk to him this week to say that so far Henry was doing wonderfully and feeling so much better. Every time I look at Henry, I will remember

Dr. John and his endless kindness, caring, and compassion. Though I was only a client, I will miss Dr. John tremendously and my heart goes out to his friends and family.
- Jessica Jasko, Wheaton 

I was pleased to see Dr. John’s picture in the Daily Herald until I read the story. Instead of recognizing him for his outstanding service we were being advised he had passed away. I am still shocked. Dr. John became a friend as he treated my four Shih Tzus and his compassion and knowledge will be missed by me as well as my remaining dog. I recall a story where I heard the booming laugh: my Gertrude had some sort of itch on her privates and I told Dr. John that Gertie’s panuna was sore. He said “her what”? I said, you know her girl stuff — panuna. He replied while picking up his pen — how do you spell that — and proceeded to write it into the record. I saw him several days later in Corfu restaurant and he asked me “what was that word again”? Such a kind, gentle man and a great friend. Dr. John is now caring once again for all of my babies that have passed on and I am sure they are happy to see him. God’s speed John! We will miss you.
- Vicki Lynch and Gertrude,  St. Charles, IL 

Those of us who relied on Dr. John for their pet’s care loved him for the gentle, unassuming and sincere soul that he was. I met Dr. John in 2002 when I moved to St. Charles with a chronically sick kitty. After the first visit, I felt blessed to find such a caring and thoughtful vet and, over the next 4 years, felt even more so as I trudged back and forth to the clinic more times than I care to remember to work with him on her care. Many times I showed up wondering if this would be the visit he just threw up his hands in frustration. Instead, he was always a smiling face and a tireless problem-solver, conveying gentle empathy and caring words. Over the years, Dr. John had felt more like a friend than just our vet. We loved the boisterous laugh which was in such contrast to the soft, gentle voice. We shared his excitement when he finally bought his house in Elburn, and loved hearing him talk about his quiet cabin in Minnesota, where he wished he could spend more time. We’re sincerely grieved by John’s loss and our prayers go out to his mom, his family, and his colleagues. Please consider keeping a picture of our smiling Dr. John up at the Clinic in loving memory of him… 
- Kim Axiotis 

I am a much better person for having known him. He was such a caring person and gentle spirit. My dogs are friends of mine (all be it troubled friends), and he had saved their lives on more than one occasion. How do you thank some one for saving your friend’s life? I will always be indebted to him for that, but it is his wry humor that I will miss most of all. One time we had to see Dr. John for an exam. At that time, my thumb was splinted, as my friend Ruby had accidentally broken it in her zest for a bone I had attempted to dislodge from her mouth. Dr. John sat on the floor in the examining room and all of her 60 lbs. immediately curled up in his lap. He pulled up on her lips to see her gums. He made fake growling noises and said “Grrrrr, look at me. I’m such a ferocious dog.” Her tail was wagging so hard I thought she might bruise his thigh. Then he exposed her back molars and said to me. “Aren’t dogs amazing? See these back molars; they were designed for breaking bones.” And then he rolled his eyes at me. I said “No really? Did not know that.” We both had a good laugh. He was our vet, but I always thought of him as a friend as well.

I can’t express how much we will miss him. 
- Pattie and Curt Kenyon (Otto and Ruby too)

Oh, Dr. John, why did you leave so soon? We were not ready for you to go and we are deeply grieving your passing and our loss. Do you have any idea how much you are adored and appreciated? 

Dr. John, you are truly one of a kind. Over the years you saw my dogs and cats, mainly cats, the strays, the adopted, the ones given up by others as lost causes. With you I knew they were in the best hands possible. Sometimes they came for something as simple as a blemish on the chin, and other times the situation was much more serious. Regardless, you were always caring and concerned and thorough. 

Dr. John, you are a diamond in the rough. With that brilliant mind of yours you thoughtfully analyzed each situation and carefully helped me to weigh all options. You let me have as much time and information as I needed to make my decisions. You are the only doctor I’ve ever known who made me feel like a partner in matters concerning my pets’ medical care. I understand that you were Valedictorian of your class in vet school, a remarkable accomplishment, for sure. But that, in my opinion is not what makes you so special. 

What makes you so special, Dr. John is something you don’t learn in school. I’m not even sure it can be taught. It’s that way you have of tuning in. Those moments of silence during an office visit when you seemed to be listening to something I couldn’t hear. 

What makes you so special, Dr. John, is your beautiful spirit. A number of years ago you performed life saving surgery on my cat, Sapphire. The surgery was successful but the prognosis was uncertain. “I can’t believe that cat is still alive!” is what you declare every time I’ve seen you since then. Coming from another the remark might have sounded strange, but from you it was sweet and funny. And here we are ten years later, and yes, Dr. John, thanks to you my cat Sapphire is still alive and well. 

A gifted doctor. An outstanding human being. You’ve touched so many lives, human and otherwise. You are being missed so very much by so many. 

Remembering You Fondly,
Gabrielle Serrano

We referred to him as “Doc” up here in northern Minnesota. We met John about 12 years ago, when our paths in life crossed during a campfire gathering, and we never stopped enjoying each others company ever since. 

He immediately showed an interest in learning to hunt and fish, and we enjoyed every moment of acquainting him to the outdoor sports. We would telephone each other throughout the year, and inevitably our discussions would turn to his land, fishing or the upcoming deer season. 

This year Doc and I would not be able to hunt together, so we agreed on nine days at the end of July that we would enjoy each others company setting up his deer stand, picking blueberries and raspberries, fishing and enjoying some campfires and dinners together.  

In the past on every November 10th, my wife and I would treat Doc to a birthday meal at one of his favorite burger joints; however, this year we had to do that on the 25th of July. We toasted our friendships and to a great hunting season for him on his land this coming November. 

We were blessed to have spent the final nine days of his life with him, and on his last day of his vacation we were able to go fishing together and ponder his future dreams and desires. 

Doc is no longer with us today; however, I will always think of him during every beautiful sunset and sunrise. I will toast him from every campfire I sit by. I will remember his ability to identify any and all birds that would fly overhead, and I will listen for his voice in the songs of the birds we hear throughout the remainder of our life. I will also listen for his loud laughter in the thunder of every lightning storm. 

Our thoughts, prayers and good will go out to Doc’s family and friends during this trying moment in our lives.
- Tyler and Colleen

I would like to extend my heart felt condolences on the passing of Dr. John. I had only recently met Dr. John in June when I brought in my new puppy Barkley. In the couple times that I was around him I really was impressed by his calm, laid back demeanor and the way he treated my new puppy with such gentleness and kindness. I’m very sad that Barkley will no longer be able to have him as her vet, but I am thankful for the times he was able to care for my dog and I was able to get to know him. I know he will truly be missed by all those whose lives he touched and my prayers will continue to be with his family and friends. 
- Kevin and Barkley

I have worked with John for as long as he has been at the clinic. I consider him a friend and such an interesting person. John was honest and forthright. Whether John agreed with you, or disagreed, you always knew where he stood. I always appreciated that about him. John never tried to conform. He stood up for the things he believed in. 

John was compassionate and truly concerned about the animals he cared for. He was practical and worked with clients to do the best for his patients. I was always nervous when John left for Minnesota, because it was a challenge to take care of his patients as well as he did. 

I also enjoyed learning from John about nature. He knew a huge amount about birds and wildlife. He was interested in wildflowers and plants. I remember him t elling me once that he would like to try his hand at bee keeping. I know John loved his land up in Minnesota and had big plans for it someday. 

John lost his father last year shortly after I lost my dad as well. I cherished being able to talk with John about that. John worried about his mother and often traveled to see her and take care of her property. He told me he enjoyed taking walks with her around the yard looking at her different plants. John enjoyed simple pleasures and relationships with the people he cared most about. 

I miss John. I will continue to miss talking with him and learning from him. Losing someone is always hard but when it is so sudden and unexpected, there just is not time to say good bye. John touched many people’s lives in ways he never was aware of. I am very glad to have had the honor of knowing John Gmitro.
-  Dr. Gail Novak

I called tonight to make an appt. with Dr. John for my 1yr old Yellow Lab (Max) who is having some troubles. As soon as I heard the tone in Sally’s voice I knew something terrible had happened to Dr. John . After Sally had told me there was a great silence on both lines of the telephone. Words cannot express the shock and how heavy my heart was feeling to hear this very sad news. I cannot tell you how much Dr. John means to me and my family. Dr. John helped me get through a very bad virus that my Black Lab (Abbey) was struck down with by getting bit by a Tick. Abbey had gotten a virus like an Aids virus from the Tick bite she almost passed away on us 4 times. Dr. John was there each time and nursed her back to the best health that she could be in. I saw Dr. John almost every week for a year getting blood tests and monitoring Abbey’s blood count every week. Dr. John researched this Virus and was in constant contact with me to find a treatment for Abbey. Dr. John would stand and look down on Abbey, would shake his head with dis-belief, then I would see a Big smile on his face he would say to me that Abbey was a remarkable dog other dogs would have been gone by now but not her she knew she had a good family and was not ready to leave them yet. Abbey was stubborn and very smart she knew she had a great Dr. too! who would take great care of her with compassion and gentleness. Abbey was 8yrs old when the Tick had struck her with this virus she lived to age 11 because of the care, gentleness, and unspoken support that Dr. John gave to Abbey and her family. I could see in Dr. John’s eyes when we finally put Abbey down that he truly cared and was very saddened . We became friends through the 3yr care with Abbey and I will truly miss seeing Dr. John when I bring in my new puppy (MAX) in the office. I know Dr. John is taking good care of all of the animals that are now with him. Until we meet again

…with love Sue Bianco and family.

When I had heard that Dr. John passed away, I was as stunned as everyone else. I felt it like a punch in the stomach. Dr. John had been helping our family with our 12 year old Black Lab, Schuba. She was in her final days and with his great style, he gently eased us into a very sad time. Schuba died on the the 4th of July.

In my wildest dreams I would never have thought Dr. John would pass away twenty three days later…..As I cried my seven year old daughter said, “But mom, now Dr. John will be in Heaven to take care of Schuba.” Thank you Dr. John – the pleasure of knowing you was ours.

The Price Family

We were so stunned to hear of Dr. John’s passing. Our family had the honor of having him as our vet for several years. We had 2 Dogs we loved and he took care of them all the way until the end, our Bull Mastiff “Tyka” lived a wonderful 10 years in his care and our American Bull “Angel” just passed after 13 1/2 years this past March 26th. I loved Dr. Johns caring way, he would talk out loud to us as he diagnosed our pets health and was always so calm, he had a very no nonsense approach and was considerate of health care costs. He made us feel so secure with our pets health. 

We got a new puppy today and she is so sick. We took her to the emergency clinic and explained that Dr. John was our vet and they told us. Our entire family is in shock. He was a wonderful man and extrodinary vet. We feel so blessed to have known him. He will be missed. 
- The Collingbourne’s 

Dr. John was such a compassionate and caring man. I had not seen Dr. John until I had to bring my beloved cat, Rascal, in to have her euthanized. I loved her so much; my children had given her to me for my birthday 7 years earlier. She developed kidney disease and became very ill in a very short time. He was so kind and completely understood the grief I was experiencing. I could never have gotten through that experience if it had not been for Dr. John’s sensitivity and compassion. He will truly be missed. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. May they find some solace in knowing what a special man he was to both his “patients” and their “parents.” God Bless.
- Connie D.

It is with great sorrow that I write these fond memories of Dr. John: 

After adopting a “used” chocolate lab, several other vets mis-diagnosed our dog with allergies. When we first met Dr. John for a second opinion, he walked in the room and immediately diagnosed the dog with a “horrible case of mange”. His interest, compassion and excellence was never to be forgotten. He was to be the only vet to ever treat my dog again. 

Just recently, our dog was very ill. I called the office in tears at 7am on a Monday morning insistent on speaking with Dr. John. When I was advised he was in surgery, my tearful plea to speak only with him resulted in an immediate call from him. His kindness and concern came thru on the phone. He readily agreed to treat the dog and would make himself available. Throughout the day, Dr. John called me several times with updates. He took his personal time in the evening to follow-up with me. 

His diagnosis were always wondered out loud. He was real, honest, gentle and wise. I felt lucky to know him. 

Dr. John was the very best I have ever met. He was truly the dog whisperer. I will miss him as will my dog. I don’t believe we will ever meet another with such an amazing gift for animals. 

Our deepest sympathies to his family. I hope they realize what an amazing gift he was.  
- Julie Novak & Wrigley (who Dr. Johnn saved for us!)

When I got the email my heart sank. It’s tragic that such a kind and gentle soul has been taken away from all of us that got to know him. Dr. John took such wonderful care of my Chocolate Lab, Wrigley. He never rushed through our visits in the office, taking the time to check her over and try to find the best solution for her current problems. Since we were in the office a lot he always suggested other types remedies for my dog, such as allergy medicine from Wallgreens. When she blew out her knee he sat in the room with me as I cried and you could just sense the compassion he had towards animals. He tried all that he could before passing us along to Dr. Miles for one of her many knee surgeries.My dog is the healthiest she has ever been in her 5 and half years of life due to Dr. John. I will (Wrigley will too) miss Dr. John and my heart goes out to his loved ones. The clinic will not be the same with out him. 
-  Tiffany and Wrigley Brown

” Two hard jobs that make life easier: to apologize and to forgive.” 

Dr. John showed compassion for animals and their owners. He was a good, kind and gentle person. I am truly saddened to hear such the news of his passing. All the heart-pouring stories of how he effected so many, truly shows what a good soul he was. Hopefully his family can find comfort in the many, many acts of kindness people have told about him. That is a true tribute to his life – his legacy. He will undoubtedly be missed by so many — he was taken much too early. His family is in our thoughts and prayers. Gone too soon … 
-  The Connelly Family  (& Max, Shadow and Scout)

I don’t have any “special” Dr. John stories to tell, but I can tell you how “special” he was to us. Our pets are our family, so you could say that Dr. John was our family doctor and had been throughout the entire life cycle of several of our pets. 

After hearing about the tragic death of Dr. John, my husband and I were both shocked and heartbroken. Not only we, but our animals, had lost a true friend. We will miss his quiet, calm and even keeled personality – yet Dr. John was someone who was always straightforward and honest as well. 

Dr. John was easy to talk to. Despite his professional training, he listened as we explained why we take our dogs to a chiropractor and how this treatment has helped our animals in the past. He listened as we explained why we have our dogs on a raw diet and why we give our 23 year old cat her choice of a renal diet and cooked chicken breast. (In addition to which, his treatments have unquestionably added to the comfort and length of her final years.) 

Dr. John was a very humble person. He never pretended to know everything, which allowed for an open discussion of the pros and cons of a number of different situations. However, he definitely knew veterinary medicine, so when he thought something needed to be done in a particular manner, there was no question in our mind what our decision would be. 

Most importantly, we always felt that Dr. John was a compassionate and very caring doctor. He understood how much we loved our animals and he cared for them as though they were his own. We were fortunate – I would even say blessed – not only to have had Dr. John as our vet, but also to have known him as a wonderful, special human being. He truly enriched our lives, and I am certain that we are not alone in those feelings. 

He will be grieved and missed for a long time to come. 

May God provide comfort and strength to those of us who miss him.

Lois and A.J. Voth, Maki (gentle strength), Suki (tail wagger), Tazi (spitfire), Zuri (sweetness), Daka (precious one), Kijana (little scamp), Penzi (darling), and Kitu (blessing)

“Doc” was a very special person in every way. His laughter was contagious while his passion for life and others was surreal. I had hunted on Doc’s land in Minnesota before he bought it and was originally saddened when I lost access to the beautiful stand of red pines and the valley cascading to the Nett River at the back of the property. But then I met Doc through joint friends and we found that we had a lot to offer eachother. Although Doc and I both cherished the solice of being in the woods with no other humans around, I had the knowledge and tools to help him build things and he had the land on which I loved to hunt. 

We turned a pump house that remained on the property from its old farming days into a livable cabin. I still recall the grand smile on Doc’s face when we installed the wood burning stove and he enjoyed his first night of heat in the cabin. We built bridges, trails, an outhouse (one of those simple pleasures in life) and tree stands. Those of us who got to know Doc up here in Minnesota where we cut down trees without thinking twice, got great joy out of Doc’s love for the trees on his land. We chuckled while teasing him about every tree on his land being sacred. 

What I got from knowing Doc was the importance of a good laugh, a new appreciatiation for the wonder of nature, a friendship based simply on enjoying the uniqueness of the other person, and an opportunity to better myself as a human being. We miss you Doc and deer season will never be the same without you. 
-  Steve Wabrowetz, Duluth, Minnesota

Our first encounter with Dr. John was when we had discovered a lump on one of our cats that needed checking. The news turned out to be bad for Kelly – she had mammary cancer. Dr. John was very kind and supportive; he was very honest about the chances, but when we decided we wanted to go for further treatment, he helped us every step of the way. 

Dr. John was also the first (and principal) vet to care for our current cat, Krissy. We started referring to him as the “cat whisperer” because Krissy is afraid of pretty much everyone but the two of us…but Dr. John could calm her down right away. He managed to be both gentle and firm at the same time. Krissy would just settle down on the examining table while Dr. John talked to us! It was amazing. 

We feel the loss of a good friend as well as an excellent veterinarian.
-  Vickie and David Klick

Though I have been associated with the St. Charles Veterinary Clinic since 1991, I had the pleasure of working with John since the fall of 2005. We worked together during our many evening shifts and then I became one of his surgery techs and really got to know him. Our conversations ranged from pets to politics, music to hunting, and everything in between. Though we often disagreed, a healthy respect for each other’s opinion made for enjoyable, spirited discussions. I wouldn’t trade any of these memories. 

It was during these times that we discovered that we shared some similar tastes in music. From Indigo Girls to The Band, Fleetwood Mac to Jimmy Hendrix, John Denver to Three Dog Night: we listened to it all. I can still picture him, finished with his surgery but still wearing his scrub gown, mask and cap, dancing around to “You Make Loving Fun” and telling me of his undying love for Stevie Nicks. 

He was a brilliant doctor. He had an instinct that you can’t learn in school, and he followed his gut. He was compassionate and practical, a great listener, and not only knew, but respected his client’s wishes. No one said “no” to John when he made a recommendation, because they knew they could trust him. And why wouldn’t they? He saved their pets when they had given up hope, comforted them at the end, and cared for them and their pets throughout their lives. 

The world has lost an amazing veterinarian, his mother has lost a loving son, and his co-workers have lost a dear friend. The things I will miss about John are countless. The memories I have are priceless. There are so many things that make me think of him every day: the shots firing at the gun club that echo loud enough to hear at my house, every bird and butterfly, and especially the songs. This one in particular will now and forever make me think of John and smile, though I miss him terribly and wish he would come back to us. 

If I leave here tomorrow

Would you still remember me?

For I must be travelling on, now,

‘Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see.

But, if I stayed here with you, girl,

Things just couldn’t be the same.

‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now,

And this bird you cannot change.

Lord knows, I can’t change. 

(Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Freebird”)

- Heather Buhlig-Arnold, St. Charles Veterinary Clinic