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Dr. Robert W. Crichlow

Hanover, N.H. — Dr. Robert W. “Bob” Crichlow, 80, died Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, of congestive heart failure at Kendal at Hanover.

A general surgeon who joined the faculty of Dartmouth Medical School in 1972, Dr. Crichlow was appointed a full professor in 1978 and served as chair of the Department of Surgery at Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital (later the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center) from 1980 until his retirement in 1995. He was also the William and Bessie Allyn Professor of Surgery.

He was born July 10, 1932 in Fort Monroe, Va., the son of Helen G. Blanchard and Major General Robert W. Crichlow, Jr., a career Army officer. He was a graduate of St. Albans School in Washington, D.C., Haverford College, and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

While still a junior at Haverford, he met his future wife, Marilyn K. Reigle, a Bryn Mawr College undergraduate from Lancaster, Pa. They married in 1956, embarking on a rich and loving partnership that would span 56 years, three children, six grandchildren, two step-grandchildren, one step-great-grandchild, and a long line of devoted family dogs.

He completed his surgical training at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, serving as chief resident in his final training year. He was appointed assistant instructor in surgery in 1962 and later promoted to associate professor of surgery in 1972. At Penn, he also began a decades-long clinical career as a general surgeon.

His connection to New England and the Upper Valley began with his mother, who grew up in Randolph, Vt., and he spent childhood vacations on Lake Fairlee and Lake Champlain.

In 1972, when he joined the faculty at Dartmouth Medical School, the institution was in the process of expanding from a two- to a three-year degree-granting program. Over the course of his career, Dr. Crichlow took great pride in being part of the maturation of both the medical school and the hospital, and seeing the institution grow into a major regional medical center serving northern New England.

He derived special pleasure in preparations for the new Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, serving on design and planning committees for the center’s new surgical facilities. He was also instrumental in the establishment of an emergency helicopter transport system for the medical center. This helped lead to the recognition of Dartmouth-Hitchcock as a Level I Trauma Center. 

As chair of the Department of Surgery, Dr. Crichlow helped develop programs, funding, and recruitment for both the Section of Vascular Surgery and for Pediatric Surgical Services. He also helped lay the groundwork for renal transplantation at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, and with industry support established a laboratory for clinical research and training of surgeons in advanced laparoscopic techniques.

The primary focus of Dr. Crichlow’s research efforts was male breast cancer. He also fostered research opportunities for others, securing funding that allowed residents to have a year’s experience in research in addition to their clinical training. His particular satisfactions came from introducing medical students and residents to the possibilities and the excitement of the practice of surgery, as well as the challenge of managing and caring for very sick patients.

Beyond Dartmouth, Dr. Crichlow served as secretary and later president of both the New England Surgical Society and the Eastern Surgical Society. He also chaired study sections for the National Institutes of Health and an advisory committee of the American Cancer Society. Following his retirement in 1995, he was a member of the Medical Review Subcommittee of the N.H. Board of Medicine.

Throughout his life, music—in particular, opera—was an enduring source of pleasure for Bob. Among his favorite performers was the late Luciano Pavarotti, and Bob was honored when he had the opportunity to treat the acclaimed Italian tenor for a minor ailment prior to a 1970s concert appearance at the Hopkins Center.

In his retirement, he and Marilyn became enthusiastic supporters of Opera North, and Bob served on the company’s board of trustees. They also audited music courses at Dartmouth. Other favorite pastimes included international travel, photography, and philately, a hobby he began as a young boy. More than any activity, he cared most deeply for the well-being of his family.

His family, in turn, can testify to Bob’s large heart and generous spirit, to his warm smile and sense of humor, and to the extraordinary grace and resilience he demonstrated during the final decade of his life, a period of increasingly poor health. He was matched step for courageous step by Marilyn, who was unflagging in her care and love for him, along with tremendous support from the health services staff at Kendal.

In addition to his wife, Bob is survived by three children and their spouses: Beth (Crichlow) Brosnan and her husband, Michael Brosnan, of Exeter, N.H.; Bob Crichlow and Sheree Swanson of Edmonds, Wash.; and Brooks Crichlow and Beth Porter of Brooklyn, N.Y.; by his grandchildren, Helen Brosnan, Matthew, Emily, Justin, Maia, and Talia Crichlow; by his step-grandchildren and their spouses/partners, Sam and Becky Brosnan, and Molly Brosnan and Stephen Wagner; and his step-great-granddaughter, Corin Brosnan.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, at 3 p.m. at Rollins Chapel in Hanover. Those wishing to make gifts in Bob’s memory may do so to Opera North, 20 W. Park St., Lebanon, N.H. 03766.