Posted on: January 29, 2021
John Caleb Starr was born in Vinita, OK on June 14, 1939, 32 years after his grandfather and namesake was instrumental in getting Oklahoma shifted from an Indian Territory to statehood. John Caleb’s parents were Alice Marie (nee Nidiffer) and Charles Jennings Starr. John Caleb had an older brother, William (Billy). A little sister, Sally Starr, followed soon after.
At age 6, John Caleb contracted polio, and was ill enough to require hospitalization at the polio treatment center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 60 miles away. John was in Tulsa for months. His family visited him weekly, but they were unable to enter the hospital for in-person visits. His sister Sally remembers waving to John through windows as he recuperated. It was during this hospitalization that John Caleb started thinking of becoming a doctor.
After WW2 ended, Charles and Marie Starr took their family east to Norfolk, Virginia, where they lived on Thole Street, near the O’Connor family. Charles found work with Thurston Motor Lines as a driver. John Caleb and his siblings attended Granby High School, where John was a stand-out player on the football and baseball teams. He also played varsity basketball, where he was coached by “Lefty” Driesell. After graduation from Granby HS, John Caleb matriculated to the University of Virginia, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History in 1961.
In 1965, John graduated from Medical School at the University of Virginia, and married Mary Sue O’Connor the same year. Mary Sue’s mother, Josephine O’Connor, was a widow who worked as an OB-GYN night nurse at Norfolk General Hospital. Mary Sue’s brother, Maurice O’Connor, was a Norfolk policeman, and later a detective.
After their wedding, Mary Sue and John moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where they lived in a tiny carriage house. In June 1966, John completed his internship in Charleston with the Medical College of South Carolina. During his internship, he learned to speak Gullah, and he and Mary Sue had their first child, Adam Jennings Starr. John then furthered his training at Norfolk General Hospital, and later at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Richmond. In Richmond, John and Mary Sue had their second child, Susan Elizabeth Starr. To complete his training, John returned to the University of Virginia where he was the Chief Resident in Medicine. At the end of his time at UVA, John was Board Certified in Internal Medicine, and then became Board Certified in Allergy in 1972. He was recruited to join the faculty of the Department of Internal Medicine at UVA, but he had his sights set on another target.
Dr. John C. Starr brought his young family west to Temple, Texas, to join the faculty of the Department of Internal Medicine at Scott and White Hospital in December 1972. Mary Sue and John worked hard to build a life for themselves in Temple. Their children attended school at Western Hills Elementary, Bonham Junior High, and Temple High School. Mary Sue and John were active parishioners of St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
During his time at Scott and White, John immersed himself in the study of medicine and worked to improve his skills as a clinician. He became board certified in Pulmonary Disease in 1978.
He studied religiously, 2 to 3 hours a day, and continued this discipline throughout his life. Daily reading and the study of medicine were foundational for him. Journals were read not just once, but twice, because, “It’s impossible to remember anything without repetition.” Over time, John’s study came to contain hundreds of medical journals, highlighted and annotated.
At Scott and White John rose to become the Chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine, and was elected to serve multiple terms on the S&W Clinic Board. The happiest change in his career occurred when Scott and White partnered with Texas A&M University Medical School as the location for clinical training for medical students and residents. John truly loved his work as an educator, and he took great pride in the accomplishments of the students with whom he worked.
John passed away January 2, 2021. He is survived by a son, Adam Jennings Starr M.D., and his wife Heidi of Dallas, a daughter Susan Elizabeth Starr of Belton, grandchildren Sarah Jane Starr, Samuel Jennings Starr, and John Caleb Starr, all of Dallas, a sister Sally Starr of Denver, Colorado, nieces Kristen Livesay and Jessica Livesay, his brother’s children, William Starr, Esther Starr, and Jason Starr. He was preceded in death by his parents, Alice Marie and Charles Starr, brother William Starr, and his wife of 49 years, Mary Sue Starr.
In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Dr. John Starr may be made in support of the Neuroscience Institute at Baylor Scott & White. You may make your gift online or by check, made payable to Baylor Scott & White. Please mail to: BSW CTX Foundation, MS-20-S103, 2401 S. 31st Street, Temple, TX 76508.