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.
The family greatly appreciates donations made to these charities in Robert Bruce Sawyer's name.
East High Friends and Family Foundation
PO Box 201404
Denver, CO 80220
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The Denver Hospice
501 S. Cherry St. #700
Denver, Colorado 80246-1328
Visit the website