Dr. John Joseph McDermott, MD
Ophthalmologist, philanthropist, father, friend
Dr. John “Jack” McDermott, a longtime Claremont resident, died on September 22, 2013 in the presence of his family and close friends. He was 81.
Dr. McDermott was born on June 18, 1932 in Bayside, New York, where he was raised. He graduated in 1955 from Columbia University and then obtained a medical degree from New York University in 1960. It was also in 1960 that he married Eileen Joan Keane and moved to California.
Both Dr. and Mrs. McDermott worked at LA County/USC Medical Center, Jack as an intern and Eileen as a nurse in the ICU. After completing his ophthalmology residency, Dr. McDermott started his own private practice in Claremont.
Dr. McDermott began his lifelong devotion to international charity work during his residency at USC, volunteering on the ship USS Hope in Ecuador. This was followed by 2 extended trips to Vietnam in 1968 and 1973, where he provided medical treatment to Vietnamese civilians. Upon his return he remained involved in the Vietnamese resettlement effort in the United States, regularly opening his own home to numerous refugees. Throughout his life, Dr. McDermott would use such occasions to expose his children to the world beyond Claremont.
In the 1980s, Dr. McDermott also spent time in India, not only performing surgeries but also teaching Indian physicians the latest surgical techniques. It was also in the 1970s that he purchased the Millard Sheets building on Foothill Boulevard, where his son John continues practicing ophthalmology.
During the 1980s, Dr. McDermott traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan where he again became involved in treating patients and training local physicians during their war with the Soviet Union. Mrs. McDermott would accompany him on many of these missions and became skilled at secreting medical supplies through customs. Other missions followed to such places as Honduras, Ghana and then Latvia, where Dr. McDermott established the first private eye care facility in a former Soviet Bloc country.
Life was not only about work and foreign missions for Dr. McDermott. He had a passion for flying, firearm collecting and, of course, all things scientific. But most of all, he had a passion for politics. Having such vast knowledge and interests enabled Dr. McDermott to expose his children to unusual individuals and experiences, which made nightly family dinners fascinating experiences that could be daunting to newcomers. Throughout these adventures, Dr. McDermott was almost always accompanied by his lifelong friend Jim Thurman, who was with him to the end.
Dr. McDermott will be missed by Eileen, by his children, Kristin, Katie, Susie, John, Jim, Charles, Thomas, Anna and William, and by his 24 grandchildren.