Dr. James Allen Littlefield
Cornish, N.H. — On Tuesday, March 12, 2013, Dr. James Allen Littlefield of Cornish, passed away peacefully at Mount Ascutney Hospital, surrounded by his family, friends, and colleagues. A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer cut short the brave struggle he had waged with Parkinson’s disease.
James was born in Concord, Mass. on Oct. 31, 1931, the son of Leon Allen Littlefield and Geneva Priscilla Holt. His parents made their first country home among their many relatives near Norridgewock, Maine. They later lived close to Worcester, Mass. where James spent his teen years and early adulthood on the family’s dairy farm. While there, he graduated from South Lancaster Academy (‘47) and Atlantic Union College with majors in music and pre-medicine (’51-’53). He received his medical degree from Loma Linda University School of Medicine followed by his internship and anesthesia residency at university hospitals in Loma Linda and Los Angeles, Calif. At school he met his future wife, Joan Esther Tilkens of Oshkosh, Wis., and their courtship continued while Joan completed her studies at Loma Linda University School of Nursing. They were married November 23, 1954, in Redlands, Calif.
Dr. Littlefield started his practice in New Hampshire at the former Claremont General Hospital which grew between 1961 and 1998 to become Valley Regional Hospital. Over the years, as head of the anesthesia department, he developed that service from a solo practice to a staff of three full-time and two part-time providers. In a report to his medical class at its 50th Reunion, he wrote, “It is hard to believe that when I first came to Claremont, open-drop ether was still being used by our general practitioners! This puts into context the fact that I established the area’s first inhalation therapy department and an accredited training program at the Vocational Technical College, now known as River Valley Community Technical College. For that, I received a Citizen-of-the-Year plaque, and our program was eventually adopted by Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and thrives there to this day.”
In 1963, Dr. Littlefield joined Dr. J. Wayne McFarland and Pastor Elman J. Folkenberg in a first presentation of their experimental “Five-Day-Plan-to-Quit-Smoking.” It was highly successful, and thereafter, as a public health service, Dr. Littlefield regularly facilitated these clinics throughout the Upper Valley. Eventually the American Cancer Society adopted the ideas from that program, and the Five-Day-Plan is now conducted in countries around the world with over 20 million participants.
When the novel idea of leaving the hospital on the day of surgery was being pressed upon medical institutions, Dr. Littlefield studied the requirements and precautions for such a service and started the area’s first Ambulatory (“Same-Day”) Surgery Program at Valley Regional Hospital.
After 37 years meeting the challenges of Valley Regional’s growth, Dr. Littlefield wished for a lighter practice load, so he answered a call to help out during a staff shortage at Mount Ascutney Hospital. That temporary need soon became a permanent position. The joy of again working with many of his former nurse and physician colleagues in a small, but developing surgical department gave him some of the happiest years of his professional life. The reassurance he gave patients as they faced surgery and the calm he showed during surgical crises is still spoken of by his colleagues. When he retired from the practice of anesthesia in 2005, Dr. Littlefield went on to work in the field of substance abuse recovery until July, 2012.
During his long professional life, Dr. Littlefield was often asked to support various community projects. His love of music found expression through the piano, accompanying local choral groups and visiting concert artists at their practice sessions. For many years he sang in the Community Choral Society and assisted the Art Association with exhibits and fund-raisers. He was president of the Community Concert Series, a trustee of the library, and a member of the Garden Club and the Historical Society.
Already enthusiastic gardeners and amateur landscapers, the Littlefields moved from Claremont to a more secluded life in rural Cornish. Their home in the heart of the former art colony gave Dr. Littlefield ample opportunity to engage in the very activities which brought fame to the early Cornish Colony and its gardens. Pursuing his interests led him to acquire many old and new books, with some subjects approaching the status of full-blown collections. His shared knowledge, compassion, enthusiasm, and humor were valued by all who knew and loved him.
Dr. Littlefield is survived by Joan, his wife of 58 years, his two sons, James Allen, Jr. (of Newton, Mass.) and John Holt (of Claremont, N.H.), their wives, Nazli Kibria and Heather Cross, and four grandchildren, Shomik, Shumita, Duncan, and Ian. Littlefield relatives still reside in Maine, and Pastor Thomas Green, the husband of his late sister Priscilla (Littlefield) Green, lives in Littleton, Colo., near niece Judith and nephew Thomas.
The family appreciates the staff at Valley Regional Hospital and Mount Ascutney Hospital for providing superb medical care and an abundance of comfort and love during his final days. At the request of Dr. Littlefield, there will be no public services.