May 3, 1933 ~ December 1, 2018

Born in: Denver, CO
Resided in: Denver, CO

A Denver Physician and Community Leader.

Dr. Robert Bruce Sawyer of Denver passed away peacefully on December 1, 2018, after an extended illness.  He was 85.

The son of prominent Denver surgeon Kenneth Charles Sawyer and Elizabeth McAndrew Sawyer, Bob (aka “Dr. Bob,” or simply “DB” to many) was born during the Great Depression on May 3, 1933 and was raised in Denver.  He attended Graland Country Day School, Morey Junior High, Denver East High School, the University of Colorado/Boulder, and the University of Colorado School of Medicine.  He was a Captain in the Colorado Army National Guard and served in the U.S. Army Surgical Research Unit at Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, Texas, during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

A top student at East High, Bob was active in many sports and clubs, playing on the school’s State Championship football team in 1951 under legendary coach Pat Panek, and competing every year in the State wrestling tournament.  While attending CU/Boulder, he played Varsity football under coach Dal Ward until an injury curtailed his athletic career, yet he remained a lifelong supporter of the University. He was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, where he roomed with future Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert, and was a loyal member of the CU Buff Club (the guy just loved “Ralphie”).  In 1976, Bob ran for an at-large seat on the CU Board of Regents, believing the CU Medical School deserved more of a voice in University decisions.  Although he lost that race, he contributed to the school in other ways, including teaching at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, where he was Clinical Professor of Surgery.  In 2005 Bob received the Silver and Gold Award for Excellence in Humanitarianism, Citizenship and Professionalism, the highest honor bestowed by the University of Colorado Medical Alumni Association.

Professionally, Sawyer was a General Surgeon. For many years, he and his father were partners in one of Denver’s most respected general surgery practices, principally working out of Presbyterian Hospital (now HealthONE-Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center, or P/SL).  Following his father’s death in 1977, Bob continued running the practice until retiring from surgery in the early 2000s, from then on serving as Medical Director of the Denver Wound Healing Center at P/SL.  At various stages of his career he was also Chief of Staff, Chief of Surgery, and on the Board of Directors at P/SL; Chairman of the HealthONE Foundation; and President and a longtime Board member of the P/SL Community Foundation.  In addition, he held appointments at many other Denver-area hospitals, including St. Joseph’s, The Children’s Hospital, Denver Health, and Aurora Presbyterian.

He cared for thousands of people over the course of his long career and felt blessed to do work that he truly loved.  He always advocated for his patients, respected the dignity of the human person, and as much as possible without surrender fought against the idea of socialized medicine, believing trained doctors – not the government, insurance companies, lawyers or hospital administrators – should have the most say in determining a patient’s course of treatment.

His passion for this and other healthcare issues carried with him throughout his career, as he was active in many local, state, regional and national medical organizations.  Over the years he held leadership, advisory or board-level positions with the Denver Medical Society (Lifetime Achievement Award 2008), Denver Academy of Surgery, Denver Clinical Pathological Society, Denver Medical Library, Webb Waring Lung Institute, Belle Bonfils Blood Center, Colorado Hospital Association, Colorado Medical Society, Colorado Medical Society Foundation, Colorado Foundation for Medical Care, Colorado Judicial Institute, Colorado Health Foundation, Mountain Medical Physicians, Southwestern Surgical Congress, Rocky Mountain Traumatological Society, Western Surgical Association, American College of Surgeons, American Heart Association (annually a top private fundraiser for “Heart Walk Denver”), American Cancer Society, National Council of Preventive Law, and was for many years a Colorado Delegate to the American Medical Association.

Always engaged with his community, he served on the Medical Advisory Committee and the Board of Trustees for 9Health Fair, a community program he stayed involved with for nearly 40 years.

He was a dedicated member of the Republican Party and actively supported many candidates’ campaigns and causes.  A strong supporter of the Boy Scouts of America, he received the Silver Beaver Award, that organization’s highest honor, for his years of distinguished service to the Denver Area Council.  A longtime member of the Denver Rotary Club, he accomplished the remarkable feat of having over 50 straight years of perfect attendance at that club’s weekly meetings.  He was also the longest-serving Board member and an Honorary Life Trustee of The Denver Zoological Foundation.

Bob had two siblings. His brother, Kenneth Charles Sawyer, Jr. also a physician, passed away in 2014.  He is survived by his sister, Patricia Teets, of Los Angeles, California, and his wife of 34 years, Clarice V. Sawyer (“Curley”).   Children from his first marriage, to Margaret Dolan Sawyer (now Peggy Sawyer Gorsuch), include Robert B. Sawyer, Jr. (Hilda), Patrick D. Sawyer (Julie), John K. Sawyer (Cindy), Mary R. Sawyer (Alyce), Joseph M. Sawyer (former wife Heidi), Michael M. Sawyer, M.D. (Kate), and the late Margaret E. (“Beth”) Sawyer.  He has two step-daughters, Jennie Coulthurst (Tom) and Kellie Allen Strawbridge (former husband Whit), 16 grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and many cousins, nieces and nephews.

A man of great intellect, keen insight, silliness and quick wit, he always believed that laughter is the best medicine.  Equally well-known for his Operating Room tirades and his caring bedside manner, he always put his patients first.  Culturally, Bob enjoyed traveling, collecting art, attending the opera and the symphony, gardening, golf, tennis, skiing, and watching the Denver Broncos, the CU Buffs or the Denver Nuggets. When not working, volunteering, or participating in community activities, Bob enjoyed road trips throughout the Southwest, and spending quiet time in the mountains at his cabin in Conifer.

He was a member of the Denver Athletic Club, the Denver Country Club, and the Colorado Arlberg Club, among others, including the Choir Boys Society.  He was also the founder of the infamous Sawyer Family Green Beer Party, an annual St. Patrick’s Day tradition dating to 1963.  And it’s worth noting too that “Dr. Sawyer’s Office,” a small-scale replica of the building in which he long practiced medicine, is the only doctor’s office to be found in Tiny Town (Morrison, Colorado).

In his early religious life, he belonged to what is now Good Shepherd Catholic parish, and later became a member of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral.  Services will be held at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral on Monday, December 10, 2018, at 1pm.  In lieu of flowers, people are encouraged to make donations to Denver Hospice, St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, the Denver Zoo, 9Health Fair, the East High Friends and Family Foundation, or any charitable healthcare organization.

Services

Visitation: December 6, 2018 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Horan & McConaty - South Denver
1091 S. Colorado Blvd.
Denver, CO 80246


Funeral Service: December 10, 2018 1:00 pm

St. John's Episcopal Cathedral
1350 N Washington St
Denver, CO 80203


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Charities

The family greatly appreciates donations made to these charities in Robert Bruce Sawyer's name.

9Health Fair

1139 Delaware St
Denver, CO 80204
(303) 698-4455
Visit the website

East High Friends and Family Foundation

PO Box 201404
Denver, CO 80220

Visit the website

The Denver Hospice

501 S. Cherry St. #700
Denver, Colorado 80246-1328

Visit the website

The Denver Zoo

2300 Steele St, Denver
Denver, CO 80205
720-337-1400
Visit the website

Memories Timeline

Guestbook

  1. Ahhh, DB!

    A huge smile comes to mind thinking of all the laughs he brought from me. He was ever a cheerleader for my interest in medicine, and I was fortunate enough to have him shape the way I treat patients– even today. Will ALWAYS think of DB with a smile, and feel so fortunate that his life blessed mine.

  2. DB was a wonderful mentor, friend, and defender of the doctor-patient relationship. I will fondly remember the twinkle in those dark eyes when he was up to some merry mischief or telling a good joke. He will be sorely missed.

  3. A great family man, surgeon, and community leader. We will miss his big smile and big heart. Thank for all you have for so many🙏

  4. I’ll always remember meeting with him about my female partner’s cancer diagnosis and treatment with my 3 male partners. His patience and information were incredible, and she is still surviving well.

  5. Dr. Sawyer,
    It was such a blessing to know Dr. Sawyer. He was so soft spoken but was so funny. Me & my wife Cathy had the pleasure of having breakfast at (Dozens) many times , which Curley renamed (Sausages) !, With the Sawyers. Me and Cathy wish sincere condolences to Curley and all the Sawyer families. Dr Bob will always be in our hearts and minds for the rest of our lives.

  6. DB led such an accomplished and productive life, and inspired so many young medical students and doctors (including me). He will be missed! His passing reminds me of this wonderful NPR story about the Sawyer family which demonstrates the enormous contribution the Sawyers have made to the Denver medical community spanning the past 87 years:
    https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2014/02/04/271522288/a-denver-family-of-doctors-has-seen-medicine-transformed

  7. Dr Sawyer was a wonderful man and a great physician.
    I had so many opportunities to interact with him….. all positive.
    Such a kind soul!
    He is going to be missed by many!
    Anne Savage

  8. How I wish I’d had the opportunity to know Dr Sawyer. His legacy will surely be embedded forever in Denver’s medical establishment. There aren’t enough people in the world like him.
    My heartfelt condolences to Bob Jr. and the rest of the family.
    Chip Irving

  9. Many happy memories from our years at East High, Class of 1951. Bob was an excellent and outstanding athlete (football and wrestling) in high school, as well as a very good student: always one of our class leaders. God bless!

  10. We knew him as a long time family friend, supporter of the community, Denver Zoo Board member, and all around fun man! We should all aspire to be as involved in community and family as he was.
    Hugs to the entire Sawyer family.
    Lou and Sue Clinton

  11. DB was truly a mentor to all who had the opportunity to know him. I was one of those very fortunate people to work for him over the past 41 years, although Mary and I convinced him he worked for us.
    My heart will always remember those time when he would look at me and remind me “they are all God’s people” – I was always awestruck with that comment and never could come back with a retort –
    Love ya DB – thanks for the teachings…..

  12. A kind man with many contributions to his surgical career, hospitals and society.
    A follower of Bob from East High and beyond.

  13. Dr. Sawyer was a great man. He was our doctor for many years. Always there for us. I can’t say enough about this fine gentleman.

  14. To Bob, a good friend. We will miss you and may you rest in peace. We had many fun times together and it was my pleasure to have sponsored Bob to the Arlberg Club – Merrill Yale. He was a great member and will be missed there as well. A great human being to all people. Our love to the entire family.

  15. Anyone who new Big Bob will miss him.
    An elf in human form.
    The Sawyer Green Beer Party was as anticipated an event as Christmas for us diehards.
    R.I.P., DB. I’ll tip a cool one, and tell a few Irish jokes in you honor.

  16. Dr. Bob saved our daughter , Amy, on a cold winter night at 2am when she left our house and couldn’t get back in, crossed the street and went a half block to the Sawyer home. She was 3 years old in her PJs. Thanks for the rescue, Bob. You are now the angle I always knew you were.

  17. Bob was a friend through junior high school, high school and medical school. He was smarter than I was and a better athlete, but always a warm and caring friend. My condolences to Curley and all of her family. Watty Bowes

  18. You will be missed! I enjoyed knowing you for over 50 years . A very bright, caring man who loved Denver, the medical profession , his many friends, and his wonderful family. Ed Johnson

  19. To all the Sawyer kids and Curley, sincere and heartfelt condolences on the loss of Dr. Bob. Longtime friend of my family and former squash partner to my dad. (still love that story) He will be missed by all of us in the Haskins family and you are all in our thoughts and prayers at this time.
    sos sa tsíocháin! (rest in peace)
    Toni and Chris Lesniak

  20. DR. B Was not only my cousin,but also my family Dr, for many years. Performing many operations on me, etc. DB and his dad were the best DRs I have ever had in my 85 years!!!! DB you will be missed, love you and God bless you!!

  21. I thoroughly enjoyed knowing Dr Sawyer. He was a fine surgeon and one of the funniest men that I ever met, just a great guy! Until I read his obituary, I hadn’t realized the full extent of his contributions to the community. My deepest sympathy to the Sawyer family. We will all miss him but you may take great pride in all his accomplishments and the knowledge that he was a very good man.

  22. My deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Bob. May your treasured memories bring you joy, and may ‘the God of all comfort’ give you strength and a measure of peace for your grieving hearts at this most difficult time.
    2Cor 1:3

  23. My deepest sympathies to the Sawyer families. I had great respect for Dr. Sawyer and am fortunate to have known him. He was very humble; never knew about all of his accomplishments and accolades. What a kind soul.

  24. I always liked Bob. I was CEO of Presbyterian Hospital for seven years and I always felt like Bob was doing everything he could to make Presbyterian the best hospital in the state of Colorado. He was a good doctor and a good person. Errol Biggs

  25. I was fortunate to have trained under not only Dr. Bob, but his Father and brother. He was a great teacher and it was always great fun to be in his company!

  26. Bob was a great friend of mine, and many others, at East High School. I am thankful for Bob and his great family for all of the memories. His father brought my brother Jim, now deceased, and me into this world. He was a wonderful friend and a great human being. He will be missed my many!

  27. At least I got to share two schools with Bob–Morey and East. Quite guy! How he had time for all he did I can’t fathom. It was good to read the comments of two of my two doctor friends from East–Tom Carey and Watty Bowes, as well of the many who submitted their thoughts and prayers. this s a curious which I didn’t know until a few minutes ago after reading his obituary. He grew up at what is now the Catholic Church of the Good Shepherd and became an Episcopalian at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral. I grew up at St. John’s Cathedral and became Catholic (along with my wife Molly) at the same Church of the Good Shepherd. Life has different and specific paths for each of us. On behalf of my wife and me and the East Class of 1951, we will miss Bob, and our condolences we send to all his family and friends. John Archibold, Senior Class President East High ‘51

  28. Dr. Sawyer was my husband’s doctor for many years, and in fact saved his life by making a house call (remember those?) when I came home one evening to find my husband having what I feared might be a heart attack. Bob and Curley lived a block away from us and when I called his after-hours service to see what I should do, he didn’t hesitate to (literally) come running over. It wasn’t a heart attack, but it was an issue with his intestines that required immediate surgery. Bob sent us right to Presbyterian Hospital where he scrubbed in and performed the operation within minutes after we arrived.

  29. Generations of Sawyers, Winters, Jordans, Smiths and Russes! Chris and I both send you all our love. Thank you for weaving the fabric of our lives.

  30. I have known Bob as a classmate, Dr., and friend. He was an outstanding, special person in all endeavors. Bob will be deeply missed by all who knew him. Blessings, Nita Horner

  31. Bob was a dear and wonderful man. He always knew how I was feeling really, and was very empathic. Our parents were friends from WWII, Big Kenneth and Gordon Murray, incorrigible. Our kids have known each other for a long time.
    Bob unsuccessfully mentored Mark in pre-med, which ended up in his flunking out and acquiring mono.
    My deepest sympathy goes out to all of you.

  32. Doctor Bob (and Curly, for that matter), always made room in their homes and hearts for even the craziest of extensions of the Sawyer family. I’ll not soon forget the joy in his eyes as he shared a quick witticism (for which he was so well known). You will be missed but your legacy is complete…rest in peace, DB.

  33. I spent the last 4 months of my internship on the “Sawyer service” with Bob and his father in early 1968. Then I consulted for them and internist brother Ken for 4 years as a pathology resident, then on the medical staff with them for 36 years. From them I learned that humanity and kindness were an important part of the art of medicine. They treated me like a son and brother. I hope they have a wonderful Sawyer Christmas party this year together in heaven. R.I.P.

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