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Dr. Guenter Ludwig Spanknebel

Obituary for Dr. Guenter Ludwig Spanknebel

May 5, 1933 - December 15, 2018
Sterling, Massachusetts | Age 85


STERLING-Dr. Guenter Ludwig Spanknebel, 85, passed away peacefully at his home in Sterling Massachusetts on December 15th surrounded by his family. Guenter was born May 5, 1933 in Stuttgart Germany, son of a fifth generation musician, Georg, and piano teacher, Clara (Weingaertner) Spanknebel. He became an accomplished pianist under the tutelage of a student of Franz Liszt, played violin and cello, and was bound for a musical career. However, as a young boy growing up in Bavaria, Germany during World War II, he vowed to become a priest should he and his family survive. His father did not, however a physician friend of the family guided Guenter to what became his life calling, which was to "bring a little religion and philosophy (as a priest) to patients while I'm healing their ills."
Guenter led a truly extraordinary life that in many ways embodies the American dream. After graduating from Neues Gymnasium in Regensburg, Germany in 1952, he went on to earn his M.D. degree in 1958 and to complete a pathology internship in 1959 at the Friedrich-Alexander University School of Medicine in Erlangen, Germany. From 1959 to 1965, and through sponsorship by the Ventnor Foundation, he came to the United States to complete a residency in internal medicine at the former Memorial Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts, and a fellowship in Gastroenterology at Tufts New England Medical Center in Boston. In order to fulfill exchange visitor requirements, and before becoming an American citizen, he completed additional residency training in Germany.
Guenter returned to Memorial Hospital, now known as UMass Memorial Medical Center, and established a private practice in gastroenterology in 1968, which he maintained until his retirement from active practice in 2008. Over a long and accomplished career, Guenter emerged as a true pioneer in his field establishing a reputation for excellence in medical education and clinical care. In 1975 he was appointed Director of Medical Education and established the hospital as a recognized academic teaching affiliate of the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine, and served continuously as a faculty member. Prior to establishing Memorial's GI Endoscopy Department in 1975 and his appointment as Chief of Gastroenterology and Endoscopy, he traveled to Japan in 1971 to learn what was then a novel procedure, "endoscopic retrograde choleangiopancreatography (ERCP)," developed by Dr. Itaru Oi, and was the first to introduce this to the New England area. A decade later he traveled to his native Germany to learn endoscopic laser therapy, a technology he then established at his institution. Guenter was nominated to serve as president of Memorial's Medical Staff and chaired and served on numerous committees.
He was a founding member of the New England Endoscopy Society and of MassPRO, a statewide quality review organization. He served on the Board of Directors of the Foundation of Central Mass Health Care Inc., was former President of the Worcester District Medical Society and Chair of its committees on Medical Education and Legislation. By 1995 he was voted President of the Massachusetts Medical Society, the oldest continuously operating state medical society in the country, established in 1781. It was an honor for him to be the first international medical school graduate to be elected to the position. As President, one of his primary goals was for physicians to channel their energy into excellence in patient care believing that, "We are in the profession as a calling."
In 2007 he was awarded the Worcester District Medical Society Career Achievement Award in recognition of his dedication to the medical needs of his patients and his outstanding contributions to the community and the practice of medicine. In 2009, he received the Laureate Award by the Massachusetts Chapter of the American College of Physicians for demonstrating, by example, an abiding commitment to excellence in medical care and education. Beyond these achievements, Guenter also took great pride in serving as a mentor to an entire generation of doctors and medical professionals, a legacy that will long be felt throughout the medical community. His colleagues have expressed that there was no one more diligent, responsible and caring and Guenter was the best of his generation.
He was a lifetime member of St. Michael's-on-the-Heights Church in Worcester serving on the church's vestry and a member of the Quinsigamond Lodge of Masons. For several decades he also presided over a non-profit, The Sterling Oktoberfest, which raised scholarship money for local college bound students, first established with, and then continued in memory of, his late wife, Carol. A lifelong breeder and trainer of German Shepherd dogs, he will also be fondly remembered by the many individuals and families who also loved these animals.
Guenter's love of family was constant throughout his life and he will be dearly missed. He is survived by his loving wife of 37 years, Janet (Villemaire) Spanknebel, his children Elizabeth (Dieter) Effenberg of Hessen, Germany, Dr. Kathryn Spanknebel (Jason Hart) of NY, New York, and Michael (Jessica Krieger) Spanknebel of Hadley, Massachusetts, his sister Dr. Margrit Roth-Spanknebel, his brother-in-law Volkbert Roth, and sister-in-law Brigitte Grauschoph, all of Germany, his grandchildren Carol, John, Gage and Sloane, and several nieces, nephews, and cousins, and his beloved German Shepherd, "Farina" von de Piste Trophe. He was predeceased by his first wife and mother of his children, Carol (Denno) Spanknebel, in 1979, and his brother Dr. Horst Spanknebel in 1993.
A private funeral and burial are planned. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to the Hadley Volunteer Fireman's Association Scholarship Fund, 15 East St, Hadley, MA 01035 or HealthAlliance Home Health and Hospice, 25 Tucker Dr, Leominster, Ma 01453, or St. Michael's-on-the-Heights, 340 Burncoat St., Worcester, Ma 01606. Arrangements have been entrusted to Callahan Fay Caswell Funeral Home, 61 Myrtle Street, Worcester.

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Callahan, Fay & Caswell Funeral Home

61 Myrtle Street
Worcester, MA 01608
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