It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved father, Earle Wayne (“Wilk”) Wilkins, Jr. Wilk died at home and at peace. He was one-hundred and one years old. His last days were in keeping with all his days: uncommonly attentive to others, driven to get the very most out of life. Wilk grew up in Rensselaer, New York, and after graduating from The Albany Academy in 1937 went on to Williams College, where he majored with honors in chemistry, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude in 1941. While at Williams he also played varsity football and baseball, and served as president of both his class and his fraternity—setting up a lifetime relationship with the College that spanned nearly eighty-four years, including as a dedicated member of the board of trustees and president of the Society of Alumni. A graduate of Harvard Medical School in 1944, he served shortly thereafter in the US Navy in the Pacific before launching his forty-year career—nearly all of it in Boston as a prominent thoracic surgeon at the Massachusetts General Hospital, where he also served as chief of Emergency Services and a member of the faculty at Harvard Medical School. He spent a mid-career sabbatical leave on a Fulbright Grant as a Visiting Surgeon at the Allgemeines Krankenhaus/University of Vienna, Austria, an experience from which he drew great meaning and developed a number of lifelong friends across the Atlantic. His work ethic, his self-discipline, his deep commitment to his students and the wellbeing of his patients and the pride he took in his work were at the core of a number of his professional innovations—from esophageal surgery to the airlifting of trauma patients—and forming the energy behind his appeal as a highly sought after teacher and mentor. Often called a “Renaissance Man” by friends and acquaintances for the striking breadth of his interests, he was more endearingly known as “Doc,” whether to the Boston Bruins hockey players he served as team doctor or by his friends around town. Wherever he went he built community, and whatever the cause he provided assertive and moral leadership. But it was during his retirement years in Williamstown that he seemed to hit his highest gear, teaming up with his beloved wife, Suzanne (“Suki”), in an array of service projects all over the Berkshires, for which they would share the 2004 Williamstown Community Chest Good Citizen Award. Wilk, for his part, held a number of leadership positions during those years—with the Williamstown Library, as president of the Taconic Golf Club, as a trustee of the Village Ambulance Service and as co-chair of the the North Adams Regional Hospital’s Capital Care Campaign—where he found great satisfaction in putting into practice his formidable problem-solving skills. He also has found great joy in life’s daily routines in Williamstown—mornings with friends at Tunnel City Coffee, lunchtime among sports fans at the Quarterback Club and dinner with townsfolk at the Purple Pub. Wherever he’s gone and whatever he’s done, there’s hardly a person in town who hasn’t experienced the glow of his kindness, the power of his attentiveness and the authenticity of his respect. But all these activities and all these accomplishments would pale in comparison to the devotion he heaped upon his family. His love for Suki and her love for him would complement one another and serve as the grounding and the inspiration for all they experienced for a full seventy-five years together. This mutual devotion would also serve as the glue that would bind his family together through whatever came their way. Wilk is survived by his family: Clint and Carla Wilkins; Wendy and Peter Hopkins; Wayne Wilkins and Kate Notman; five grandchildren: Matthew Hopkins, Sam Hopkins, Heather Lee, Jacqueline Wilkins and Timothy Wilkins; and four great-grandchildren, William and Sophie Hopkins and Mirabelle and Elodie Lee. A memorial service will take place when feasible at the Thompson Memorial Chapel on the Williams College campus. If friends desire, memorial gifts may be made to the E. Wayne Wilkins, Jr. 1941 Community Outreach Fellows Fund at Williams College, 75 Park St, Williamstown, MA 01267.
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