J. Harper Gaston IV M.D.
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J. Harper Gaston IV M.D. died on July 12, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia due to complications of dementia. He was a most caring father and grandfather, a loving husband of sixty-seven years, and an honorable, dedicated, and talented physician, who was beloved by his many patients, family, and friends. Dr. Harper Gaston worked for the Kaiser Permanente Medical Group of Northern California for over twenty years, and later founded and served as the first Medical Director and Physician-in-Chief of the Kaiser Permanente Southeastern Medical Group in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Gaston was 88 years old.
Dr. Harper Gaston was born on November 2, 1931 in New York, New York to Joseph H. Gaston III M.D and his wife, Louese Hays Gaston. Raised in Columbus, Georgia, where his father practiced orthopedic medicine, Harper Gaston attended Columbus city schools and was a high school graduate of the Darlington School in Rome, Georgia. After his father's death, Dr. Gaston worked as a grocery clerk to help support his mother and to earn his tuition money, and at age sixteen he entered Emory University, where he received both his Bachelor (C'52) and Medical Degrees (M'55). Dr. Gaston was a Board-Certified Internist and Cardiologist.
While attending Emory Medical School, Dr. Harper Gaston met and married the love of his life, his medical school classmate, Dr. Anne Elizabeth Hendrick Gaston. Both doctors completed their internships and residencies at Grady Memorial Hospital, where Dr. Gaston was named the first fellow in Cardiology under the direction of world-renown cardiologist, Dr. J. Willis Hurst. Upon completion of his residency program, Dr. Harper Gaston enlisted in the United States Air Force and was stationed at Kessler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, where Captain Gaston served as a general internist and (oddly) Chair of the Dermatology department while his wife, Dr. Anne Gaston worked as a civilian pediatrician in the Kessler Air Force Base General Hospital.
In 1961, Drs. Anne and Harper Gaston moved first to Oakland, and then to Piedmont, California, where they joined the Kaiser Permanente Medical Group in the KPMG's first medical office in San Leandro, California. Their decision was based primarily upon the fact that the KPMG was one of the only medical groups in the country which would allow a husband and wife to both practice medicine for equal pay.
Dr. Harper Gaston was appointed the Assistant-Chief of Medicine at the then new Kaiser Permanente Hayward Hospital in 1966; Chief of Medicine in 1971; Assistant Physician-in-Chief in 1976; and elected Physician-in-Chief in 1977-1984. In 1984, Dr Gaston was chosen to return to his home State of Georgia to establish the Kaiser Permanente Southeastern Medical Group, where he served as its founding Medical Director. In addition to his work with the Permanente Medical Group, Dr. Gaston also served as an Assistant Clinical Professor in Internal Medicine at Stanford University.
Dr. Harper Gaston was also active in the State of California Heart Association, where he served on the Board of Directors, and in the Alameda County Heart Association, where he served as President. Dr. Gaston's many years of work with the California Heart Association was responsible for securing and installing the first maned cardiac defibrillator station in a sports venue on the west coast at the Oakland Coliseum. This activism led to one of his fondest memories where he acted as personal game-day cardiologist, sitting next to Charlie O. Finley, owner of the Oakland A's, for all of the home games in several world series from 1972-1974.
In Atlanta, Dr. Gaston continued his community service, by serving the Emory University Medical School in many capacities for over 50 years, including as an adviser to the Emory University System of Healthcare Board of Directors, as a member of the Emory Board of Visitors, and as Co-Chair with his wife of the National Council of Medicine. The Drs. Gaston also established the Gaston Service Scholarships for Emory University Medical School students who exemplified community volunteerism and service, where he stated: "Service in and of itself is the greatest reward that our profession can offer us. It is the heart of medicine." Dr. Harper Gaston was awarded the Emory Medal, Emory's Highest Honor, for his service to Emory and the community in 1997.
Dr. Gaston remained an avid sports fan of the Oakland A's, the Oakland Raiders, the Atlanta Braves, and the Georgia "Dawgs" for all of his life. He loved to travel and traveled with one of the first physician groups to ever visit the USSR in the late 1960s. He also loved horse racing and was a co-owner of Dogwood Stables in Aiken, South Carolina. His one disappointment in life was when Dogwood's horse, Summer Squall, won the 1990 Preakness, but despite being the favorite to win, came in second in the 1990 Kentucky Derby. His greatest achievement was his generosity of spirit and his tremendous love for his wife and family.
Dr. J. Harper Gaston is survived by his wife, Dr. Anne Elizabeth Hendrick Gaston, his only child, Lisa Anne Gaston, his son-in-law Michael Gerard Reff, and his two granddaughters and their spouses, Allison Elizabeth Stalla (Timothy Zeid Stalla) and Hayley Harper Swarbrick (Andrew John Swarbrick).
A private service will be held where Dr. Harper Gaston will be laid to rest at Greenville Presbyterian Church Cemetery. A public memorial service will be planned and announced at a later date.
Condolences can be expressed online at www.mckoon.com
McKoon Funeral Home & Crematory (770) 253-4580