Posted on: April 11, 2023
John Keith Earl, MD, of Hickory passed away peacefully at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center on Tuesday, March 14, 2023. He was lovingly surrounded by his family.
John was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 18, 1946. He was a graduate of Tulsa Memorial High School and received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1968. He went on to earn his medical degree at the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine in 1972. He completed his residency in family medicine at the University of Virginia.
In 1976, he partnered with Dr. James Hodges, Dr. Lee Young and Dr. William Thompson, founding Hickory Family Practice Associates. Soon after starting his practice, he met and married the love of his life, Jane Sementilli Earl. They were married on January 6,1979.
Dr. Earl was a beloved physician for 40 years and cared for his patients and staff with extraordinary kindness, patience and devotion. Beyond his family practice, his career also included serving as Medical Director at both Pellcare/Trinity Ridge and Brian Center in Viewmont. After retirement, he worked in clinical research, and most recently served as the Medical Director of Accellacare Medical Research of Hickory, as an investigator in the Covid vaccine trials.
John’s work as a doctor and humble servant of God was far reaching. His passion for caring for the needy, elderly and less fortunate, prompted him to use his medical expertise in a voluntary capacity to serve his local community. His efforts left an indelible mark on Hickory. He helped to found the Hickory Soup Kitchen’s walk-in medical ministry, which later became the Medical Clinic of Greater Hickory Cooperative Christian ministry. This ministry has helped thousands of people in need in our community. Beyond Hickory, he served with medical missions teams through the LaGonave Partnership in Haiti.
His achievements in the medical field and his investment in our community were indeed significant. But without a doubt, anyone who knew John well knew that his family was his first love. His devotion and commitment to the well-being of his family marked his life. His favorite thing was when everyone was together. He and Jane provided a home and a haven where everyone loved to gather. He loved to laugh with his grandchildren and was always finding ways to bless them and make them feel loved. We will carry this legacy of love with us always.
John was also blessed with the gift of song! He had cherished memories of singing with his talented family and was even part of a barbershop quartet. His love for music was a very special part of his life. His gifts live on in the talents passed down to many of his grandchildren!
John was an active member of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Hickory, serving as a deacon and choir member. He and his wife Jane enjoyed many years of participating in ministry there together.
In recent years, he and Jane had started a tradition of taking each of their grandchildren on a special trip upon graduation from high school. They took Sarah Jane and Kate to Paris in 2018, Garrison and Randall to Montana in 2019 and Tate to Los Angeles in 2022.
The Earl family beach trip also began as a gift to their children and grandchildren. The whole family looks forward to this yearly gathering. It has become a treasured time of love, laughter, singing, and games. This family priority has long been called our “best week of the year.”
As a close friend commented, “”Phrases such as “Saint on earth” get tossed around but this man truly was. His strength, wisdom, humility, gentle spirit, wit and compassion for those living in the margins of life [and his family and friends] were unparalleled.”
Truly, he was the best of men and we were so incredibly blessed to share this life with him. Our hope is that his legacy of love, service and devotion to family and community will live on through all of us.
John was preceded in death by his parents Gene and Marjorie Earl, as well as his daughter, Elissa Earl Harrell.
John is survived by his beloved wife and best friend of 44 years, Jane Sementilli Earl, his children, Janie Farwell (John) of Raleigh, Jeff Mullis (Stacey) of Hickory, Randy Harrell Jr. of Hickory, Adam Earl (Sherée) of Aniston, AL, Anna Carsner (Richard) of Belmont, and Emily Freeman (Mike) of Apex. He is also survived by his seventeen grandchildren; Randall and Sarah Jane Harrell; Kate, Garrison, Quinn and Emma Mullis; Tate, Kenslow, and Sadie Farwell; Ella and John Carsner; Lily and Grace Freeman; and Brooks, Asher, Easton, and Lauryn Elissa Earl; his brothers, Gene Earl of Tyler, TX and Steve Earl (Diana) of Tulsa, OK; many nieces, nephews and cousins.