“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 J. Gmitro was born November 10, 1965 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.. He was the oldest of twin sons born to Nancy and John. Who we knew as Dr. John was known by his family as “Jeff” due to the fact that his father and both of his grandfather’s were “John”. One year after John and Todd’s birth, another brother, Mark, was born. At the age of three, his family moved to Arlington Heights, Illinois. Mrs. Gmitro has remarked that the little English tudor house was crazy – almost like having triplets!
John used to tell his colleagues that he received extra help in elementary school because he was so quiet and shy the teacher’s assumed he didn’t understand some subjects. He remembered enjoying extra recesses and they got to listen to record albums! He tried a number of undergraduate universities before settling in to Augustana College with Todd. It was on a spring break trip to Key West with the Geology club that Todd met his future wife, Sara. She had a friend that was interested in John, but he was unavailable – the two girls just picked one after spying them in line at a McDonalds – since they were identical.
John became a veterinarian at University of Illinois in 1994. The doctoral hooding ceremony is a wonderful opportunity for families and friends to share in the special moment when doctoral students receive their hoods. These “hoods” signify the higher level of academic degrees. Typically, doctoral candidates and their academic advisors participate together in the event, which symbolizes the final recognition of the candidates’ scholarly accomplishments. John’s father had earned his doctorate, therefore, this celebration of accomplishement was made even more special because his father was able to participate with John during the doctoral hooding ceremony.
John loved to eat. His family has shared that he was always the last to leave the table at holidays. He was always willing to try new foods – the first one his coworker’s would think of to give left overs and new dishes!
Originally relocating back to Minnesota to practice medicine and support his love of sled dogs, he found he wanted to be closer to family and moved back to the Chicago area and began working at our clinic in 1999.
While at our clinic, he developed a loyal clientele that loved his quiet manner and booming laugh. Most of all they appreciated his open ear – always listening to their concerns and questions. Often found on the floor with his patients – enjoying who they were – many of his clients were also friends. As one of his patient’s owner said “He saved my pet’s life – how do I thank someone for saving my best friend?”
The call of the north and nature was always a draw for Dr. John. He purchased some land up in Minnesota that he visited regularly for his “sabbaticals” always coming back a little more scruffy and full of great stories. He was an outdoorsman, conservator of nature and true friend. We will continue to laugh as we remember those tales and our hearts will be touched as we remember his life.
It was during his journey home on July 27, 2009, from his beloved Minnesota that he left us all to soon. The suddenness of his passing has made it that much more difficult to understand but his legacy and spirit will be forever remembered.
The lives he touched are immeasurable. The impact he had on so many is something to behold. His life and character are something to be admired.
We will miss him always.