A short time after his teenage son, David, died in 1975, Dr. William Gamble boarded a plane to Honduras for a faith-based medical missionary trip.
For Gamble, a surgeon, the missionary experience was necessary for healing.
The two-week trip would become an everlasting passion and inspire several trips to other countries, including a return trip to Honduras and two three-month stints in Kenya.
“He felt that he was very fortunate in life and wanted to use his skills in training to help people ... to give back, really,” said his daughter Anne Pereira.
Gamble, a surgeon who practiced in St. Louis Park, taught at the University of Minnesota Medical School and spent many summers abroad doing faith-based medical work, died Sept. 6 at his Edina home. He was 82.
Born in Batavia, N.Y., he earned his undergraduate degree from Amherst College and his medical degree from the University of Rochester at age 25. After his graduation, he and his family moved to Cleveland in 1960 to begin his surgical residency, which was interrupted by a two-year stint with the Air Force in California.
Gamble entered the service as an officer and was quickly given responsibility to make clinical decisions. He would say his time with the Air Force is where his career took off, recalled his son, Tom. “That short time increased his confidence and clinical skills,” Tom said.
After finishing his residency in Cleveland, Gamble took a job at the new St. Louis Park Medical Center (now Park Nicollet Medical Center) in Minnesota. Neither he nor his wife, Katherine, called Cassie, had Midwestern roots, but they settled in comfortably in Edina.
After retiring from clinical practice in 1999, Gamble stepped up his work at the University of Minnesota medical school, teaching students and residents surgical ethics and technique for more than 15 years.
Over more than 47 years of clinical practice and teaching, he influenced countless students and surgical residents now practicing around the country, his family said.
“He was what people called a ‘surgeon’s surgeon,’ ” Tom Gamble said. “Doctors would call him up for care.”
Dr. Michael G. Sarr, a surgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, described Gamble as “gracious.”
“I have tremendous respect for the guy,” Sarr said.
Anne, who had the opportunity to do a surgical rotation with him during her medical studies, said that in the operating room, her father had a “gentle demeanor.”
He was “reassuring and calm and an unusually good listener for his generation,” she said.
Before he died, the family gathered notes from his trainees. Many thanked him for his guidance and patience.
Although Gamble was a busy man, he tried to make it to his children’s school and extracurricular events. When the family built a cabin on the North Shore, Cassie and the children would spend summers there, and Gamble would visit on weekends.
The very few times the family saw their father practice medicine was during those medical missionary trips, on which he often brought his family.
“His call to the mission field was really important to him and set him apart from other colleagues,” said his daughter Kay Kuth.
In the last weeks of his life, Bill and Cassie were able to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.
In addition to his wife, Cassie, son, Tom, and daughters Anne and Kay, he is survived by 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Services have been held.