Jeffrey Manning Piehler of Prairie Village, Kansas, passed away on November 14th, 2014, in his home surrounded by family and friends. Jeff was born on June 11, 1947, in New York City, the son of Edmund O. Piehler, M.D. and Martha C. Piehler. He grew up in Worcester, MA with his three siblings Edmund Jr. (Ned), Jennifer, and Lisa, to whom he stayed close throughout his life. He graduated from Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts in 1965 and from Williams College in 1969. Jeff attended Cornell University Medical College in New York City, graduating in 1973. His surgical career took him to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover NH for general surgery training and to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN for training in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery, finishing in 1980. He subsequently joined the staff of the Mayo Clinic, where he practiced both general thoracic and cardiovascular surgery. In 1986, Jeff joined The Mid-America Heart Institute in Kansas City where he became the head of residency training program in thoracic surgery at St. Luke’s Hospital. In 2000, Jeff focused his practice on thoracic surgery and moved to the University of Kansas Medical Center as a Clinical Professor of Surgery. Jeff was a dedicated teacher throughout his career and valued relationships with his patients above all.
Jeff was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2002, and side effects of chemotherapy forced his retirement from surgery in 2005. Jeff would never become a contented retiree, however. His intellectual curiosity never failed him, resulting in eclectic pursuits that were never casually undertaken. He relearned French, becoming the grammarian in his French class and enjoying heated political discussions with native speakers during his many trips to France. He was a passionate and knowledgeable collector of American antique furniture and art. Jeff pursued cooking with his usual perfectionism, often requiring a full day of visiting different markets to procure specific ingredients. His wine collection became epic in scope. His pursuit of photography was transformative, particularly a photography trip to Bhutan. Jeff came to appreciate that a life should not be measured by a quantitative list of accomplishments, but rather by the softer, but greater standard of what one has done for others, family, friends, and strangers. Jeff’s family became accustomed to his embraces with baggers at the supermarket and spiritual conversations of life and meaning with his seatmates on airplanes.
Jeff is survived by his wife, Jean, who loved and supported him for 28 years of marriage, his four children, Britton (Rebecca), Timothy (Sarah), Benjamin, and Elizabeth, his four grandchildren, Henry, Owen, Lola, and Alice, and friends too numerous to name. He adored his family and friends and was humbled by their love for him. Even up to the end, Jeff was thankful that he had had such a good run with the cancer that eventually took his life. He had been able to live with the disease for 12 years, thanks to fabulous medical care, the support and prayers of many friends, and the love of his family. He left this world having touched so many people, first with his work as a surgeon, and later by embodying his beliefs that genuine human connection is paramount, and that beauty can be found everywhere.
Jeff’s family would like to express their deepest gratitude to all his caregivers, especially Drs. Peter Van Veldhuizen, Suman Kambhampati, Jay McNitt, and Greg Muehlbach, Sister Mary Ann and the Sister Servants of Mary, Muncie Matthews, the K.U. Oncology staff, and Kansas City Hospice. Assistance by Funeral Advocates LLC. Arr: Signature Funerals. 8019 State Line Rd KCMO. 64114. 816-214-5174. www.cathyb6.sg-host.com
A celebration of Jeff’s life will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, November 23, at the Community Christian Church (4601 Main Street, Kansas City, Missouri 64112). In lieu of flowers, gifts in memory of Jeff may be made to the University of Kansas Cancer Center via the KU Endowment Association. A collection of Jeff’s writings and photographs can be found at http://www.jeffreypiehler.com/