Frank Vilanova Comas, 1926-2010

This is the obituary for my late father. I re-posted it here with the correct paragraph breaks.

Frank Vilanova Comas, born Francisco Comas i Vilanova, passed away peacefully surrounded by his loving family on Monday, March 22, at home.  He was a research and clinical physician in Oak Ridge and Knoxville ending his career as the Director of Radiation Oncology at UT Hospital in 1994.  At that time, his colleagues initiated the “Frank Comas Annual Cancer Oration” to honor his “relentless pursuit” of medical excellence and his “wit and wisdom” in driving his fellow dedicated colleagues.

He was born on February 16, 1926 in Barcelona, Spain, to Josefa Vilanova i Montiu and Francisco Comas i Durall.  He grew up with his sisters, Rosa and Pepa (Josefa), during a time of tumult that included the Spanish Civil War.  He enjoyed music, sports, and spending time with his uncle, Pelayo, on their farm in Premía D’Ált.

After entering the pre-medical university program at the University of Barcelona, he endured a terrible accident that would shape his whole life for better and for worse.  On March 13, 1945 he lost both legs in a traffic accident on the streets of Barcelona.  He spent a summer recuperating with the help of his loving family especially his sister and cousins Consuelo and Mercedes.  By the fall of 1945 he re-entered medical studies to the applause of his classmates and was carried from class to class by friends, especially his childhood friend, Salvador Perez i Fabra.  In 1950, he completed his M.D. and a Ph.D. in medical studies.  During this time he was fitted with steel and leather prosthetic legs and he re-learned to walk ensuring a lifelong love of his independence that continued until the end.

Sojourns in the U.K. and Germany as a medical resident led to appointments at hospitals in St. Louis, Colorado Springs, and Toronto.  By 1958, he was a radiation therapist in the medical division of the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies (now OR Associated Universities).  He worked on cutting edge radiation treatments of cancer with his colleagues there until switching to clinical practice in 1970 at UT Hospital.  He mentored, questioned, upbraided, prodded, and most of all, cured as many as he could.

Through a mutual devotion to contract bridge, he met Mary Ann Behymer (now Marion Von Beck) in 1962.  They married in September, 1963.   Together they had two sons, Jeffrey Ross Comas of Knoxville, TN and Jordi Ross Comas of Lewisburg, PA.  After divorcing in 1977, Dr. Comas and his former spouse remained co-parents to their sons and close friends attending many family events together over the years.

After retiring in 1994, Dr. Comas enjoyed a quiet life visiting with friends and family, especially a group of scientists and physicians who met monthly for lunches.  He always called them “the old fogeys” and loved his time with them.  He enjoyed reading books, including those written by his cousins, nephews, nieces, and daughter-in-law.  He spent his final months in the care of UT home hospice and greatly appreciated their care.

His forebears were doctors, entrepreneurs, and sea captains, and he embodied all as he crossed an ocean to learn to heal and traversed tragedies that would have laid many low.  To those blessed to know Dr. Frank V. Comas, we will always recall his generosity of spirit and wealth, his wit, his eloquent way with words in letters and even e-mail, his love of music, his keen intellect, and perhaps most of all, the resiliency and courage that molded his long life and marked his final days.

Frank Vilanova Comas is survived by: his elder son, Jeffrey, his wife, Laura Ann Comas, and their children, Jody Ann Comas and Cole Robert Comas; his younger son, Jordi, his wife, Virginia Lee Alice Zimmerman, and their children, Elijah Xavier Zimmerman Comas, Alexander Pau Zimmerman Comas, and Dorothea Marie Zimmerman Comas; his loving and beloved older sister, Rosa Comas i Vilanova and all her children, all of Barcelona; his Godson Pere-Albert Balcells i Comas; his close cousins, Consuelo Vilanova and Mercedes Vilanova, and their children, also of Barcelona; and many other friends and relations.

In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to The American Cancer Society.

Family and friends will gather at the Woods Memorial Auditorium, located at UT Hospital for a memorial service at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, March 24.  Arrangements by Lynnhurst-Greenwood Chapel.  http://www.lynnhurstchapel.com

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Frank Vilanova Comas, 1926-2010

  1. What a fine, powerful elegy.

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