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Dr. James C. Gunnells Jr.

Posted By Hall-Wynne On June 21, 2018 @ 8:34 am In Durham,Obituaries | 17 Comments

James Caulie Gunnells Jr passed away peacefully at his home in Croasdaile Village on June 19, 2018.  Caulie was born February 4, 1931 in Greenwood SC to the late James Caulie Gunnells Sr and Frances R Gunnells where he also grew up.   He graduated from Greenwood High School, Furman University and the Medical School of South Carolina. He was preceded in death by his wife of 58 years, Virginia Burns Gunnells, and survived by his daughters, Virginia Burns Rhoton “Burns” of Durham; Mary Madge Amsler and her husband Allen Amsler of Lexington, South Carolina; his son Michael Francis Gunnells and his partner Cyndie Gregory ,of Durham; his sister, Jean Gorman of Greenwood, South Carolina; his grandsons, Michael E. Rhoton and Preston J. Freeman; a number of cousins, nieces, nephews and his furry four-legged child, Jasmine.

Our Dad was an extremely private man, a proud man and one who loved his family more than anything. He taught us so many things.  He and our mom moved as newlyweds to New York City where he did his residency, at Bellevue Hospital.  The stories of their time in NYC as young loves from South Carolina made us know that their love for each other could always get them through good times and bad.  They moved to Virginia, as Caulie spent two years in the Navy.  Then with two young children, Burns and Madge, they moved to Durham where the family was complete with the arrival of their son Michael. Caulie spent the next 30 years practicing medicine at Duke University Medical Center and then with colleagues in private practice at Wake Nephrology Group.

Dad taught us that you need to love what you do for a living.  He always wanted to be a physician and wanted to take care of people and he was great at doing just that.  He was one of the top Nephrologists in the country although he never cared about the accolades.  He loved teaching other physicians at Duke and teaching them to think and care about each patient.

Our Dad taught us to love the arts.  Dad always supported and admired our mom’s passion for art and loved traveling with her to art galleries.  The countless paintings and jewelry that she created were proudly displayed in his home.  Dad loved music and going to Broadway shows.  The family fondly remembers weekend mornings when you could have the windows shake with music loudly playing from his beloved McIntosh Stereo.  You never knew if you were going to be treated to Classical, Jazz or Rock and Roll.  He had such a varied taste in music and we will so miss the memories of Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd or Boz Scaggs blasting in the den!

Our Dad loved to travel with his family but especially with our mom.  They loved soaking up the culture in cities all over the world, especially in Europe and Mexico, but the most loved place was only hours away at the family beach house on Topsail Island.  He taught us all to love the sun (sometimes too much), the sand and the ocean.  He loved that it was just his family and we spent many of the years without a phone at the house.  Nobody could interrupt the time with his family at the beach.  He was completely disconnected from work and gave 100% of his time to us as DAD.  The memories of where life was easy and happy at the beach will be with us forever.

Dad loved to eat at a great restaurant with his family.  He loved a proper cocktail and always loved something sweet to end that meal no matter how full we already were!

Dad loved his pets.  The family dog Bismark, was the first to be loved unconditionally, followed by two more Schnauzers, Daisy and then Jasmine, who has been by his side until the end.  These little people with fur loved our Dad just as much as he loved them.  We smile knowing that he can now shower Bismark and Daisy with love again and feed them the table scraps they have been missing from their time apart.

Dad taught us to value friendships.  He knew that his profession and his dedication to his family sacrificed time with a lot of friends, but his close friends knew who they were and that he truly loved them. He wanted us to understand that true friends were to be cherished and never taken advantage of.

Dad loved to worry about his children.  Sometimes the worry was justified, but most of the time it was just that he loved us so much that he did not want anything to make us sad.  We all are going to miss our hero, our best friend and our Dad.  We are going to miss that smile and hearing him hum a familiar song knowing he was happy.  We are going to miss everything that made him who he was, but we want him to know that we are all going to be alright and that until that day comes when we see him again, we will always do our best to make him proud and smile down upon us.

Love you Dad and we will miss you so much, -Your children

The family will be having a Memorial Service at Hall-Wynne Funeral Home, 1113 W. Main St., Durham, NC 27701 on Monday, June 25th at 1pm.

The Family asks for assistance in supporting the angels that work for Hospice.  If you would like to make a donation, please feel free to reach out to Transitions LifeCare of Wake County. The family can’t thank them enough! https://transitionslifecare.org/


Condolences for the family of “Dr. James C. Gunnells Jr.”

Condolence from Martha Hall on June 21st, 2018 5:26 pm

Virginia and Family,
You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Love, Martha Hall

Condolence from Ronald R Beauvais on June 21st, 2018 7:51 pm

You go through life collecting only a few true friends on the journey. I was so glad that I accompanied him on part of his and that he was with me on part of mine. Caulie Gunnells was an honest, true friend of mine and Nancy and I will miss him greatly.

Burns, Madge and Michael – you were very fortunate to have had him as your dad and friend.

Condolence from Dr. Michael & Kristen H. Monahan on June 22nd, 2018 7:39 am

What a truly great man. Caulie was a friend, partner, colleague, and mentor to me, my dad, and my husband. He was unbelievably sensitive, gregarious, caring, humorous, and had such a vigor for life. We grieve with you and know you will be ‘alright’ but wish you peace as the days, months, years go by remembering the joys of his life.

Dr. Michael & Kristen H. Monahan

Condolence from patsy Yates on June 22nd, 2018 9:07 am

I was so sorry to read that your Dad had passed away. The last time I saw you was at Harris teeter getting lunch and we talked about your Dad. The obituary was so well done. We spent many years behind your parents at Duke basketball games.. I’m thinking of you and your siblings.
Patsy Yates

Condolence from Robert Gutman on June 22nd, 2018 10:48 am

Caulie was the mainspring of clinical excellence and teaching during my years on the faculty of Nephrology.

Condolence from LaRue D Poe on June 22nd, 2018 4:48 pm

Burns, Madge and Michael,

Your dad was a wonderful person as well as an outstanding physician. I remember when he came to Duke Nephrology. As I was a research technician (37 years), we shared those ground-breaking years in the lab. I cherish the memories.

The obituary is beautiful and shows how much you loved and appreciated him and your mom.
La Rue Poe

Condolence from John Cranford on June 23rd, 2018 4:08 pm

Blessings to you and your family. Your Dad lived a very full and wonderful life that is truly worthy of celebrating! I know he is genuinely at peace now and enjoying all the Glories and Majesty of Heaven! My prayers are with you and your family.

Condolence from Jennifer Watson Conklin on June 24th, 2018 8:46 am

What a beautiful remembrance of your dad. Although I didn’t get to see him much, I knew he was a good man who loved his family. I enjoyed talking with him on the occasions that I did see him. He was so gentle. I know he will be missed immensely.
Virginia (Burns) you know you are in my thoughts and prayers as well as the whole family. My heart goes out to you. Love you like my sister!!

Condolence from Harry Gallis on June 25th, 2018 10:59 am

Caulie was my teacher, my colleague and my doctor. A role model in all three. Susie and I had many fond memories with him, Ginger, Ike, Anne, and the entire nephrology division.

Condolence from Bobby Thompson on June 25th, 2018 11:12 am

Burns, Madge and Michael

My Heartfelt thoughts and Prayers go out to you in the loss of your Dad and my dear Friend Caulie. I had the pleasure and privilege of knowing him for 50 years this past February. I owe him everything that I turned out to be. He was my Mentor, Confidant and Asbsolutely my best friend. I will miss the phone calls, visits and pep talks of life that he was so good at. Keep your heads up and keep living. It is what he and your mom taught you.

Love Bobby Thompson

Condolence from Bob Spurney on June 25th, 2018 11:35 am

I met Dr. Gunnels when I arrived at Duke for training in medicine and nephrology ~35 years ago. His clinical expertise and teaching abilities taught the next generation of nephrologists at Duke and contributed to the growth of the Division over the last 3 decades.

My condolences to his family.

Condolence from Vindagra USA – Darren and Karen McMahon on June 25th, 2018 2:01 pm

To Michael and family – There are very far and few between men in this world but as we can read on Dr. James Gunnells was the pinnacle of a man; what every father should model his family after. His devotion to helping others and his self-sacrifice to his loving wife of 58 years should truly be immortalized. There is no other greater accomplishment than having your children truly emulate what they have been taught by their own father. His life will live on through them and his grandchildren for the many generations he has created.

Condolence from Stewart Bell on June 26th, 2018 6:29 pm

Your Dad was my physician at Duke for many years. What a good man and excellent doctor. When he retired from Duke he continued to be my doc and I would see him at the Dunn office. Always caring and asking about my wife and 3 kids, we spent a lot of time after my check up just sitting in his office and visiting. Over the years he became my friend. After his retirement I had many visits with your Dad on the screen porch of your home at Topsail. I also met your Mom at that time. We have a home a little over a mile from yours. My last visit was in the summer of 2016 and we spent the better part of a morning on the porch, talking and catching up. Your Dad took such good care of me when I was having serious health issues in the early 90’s and I am very grateful he was my physician. You all were very blessed to have such a fine Father.

Condolence from Jack Markham on June 26th, 2018 7:15 pm

Gunnels family,
Caulie was one of the finest men I’ve known in my life. Although I knew that he was an outstanding physician, I did not know him as a doctor but as a thoughtful and deeply religious churchman. I had the honor of serving on church vestries with Caulie on several occasions and admired his wit, compassion and common sense. We continued to see each other several times a week at the Lakewood YMCA for a number of years and it always amazed me how vigorously Caulie exercised. I will miss him but I know he is happy to be reunited with Ginger.

Condolence from Joy Edwards on October 15th, 2018 10:08 pm

Joy Edwards
Oct 15, 2018

I first saw Dr Gunnells in 1977. My local nephrologist had been his student at Duke. I continued to see him until his retirement. He was the only nephrologist I ever saw at Duke. As a young sick wife and mother I was worried, angry and scared. Dr Gunnells’ care, compassion, understanding and expertise gave me the courage and health care to keep me here these years. I’m a Christian and I have thanked God all these years for sending me to Dr Gunnells. He was the smartest person I have ever met. I was his first patient and Duke’s to get pregnant after a Duke kidney transplant. He followed my pregnancy with the OB doctors and the day she was delivered he came to see me, telling me he had seen her and she had all her fingers and toes, although small she was going to be fine. That was all the reassurance I needed. Seeing him every six months for check ups I can remember once describing symptoms of ongoing pain, edema, petechia. He calmly listened; as I got up to leave he handed me an order to go immediately to the hospital for an ultrasound; saying he was pretty sure I had a blood clot in my leg, saying I’ll call the hospital and your medical dr to alert him. That was Dr Gunnells not alarming me but always there for me. There were other incidents through the years, but I was able to handle it because I knew I had Dr Gunnells taking care of me. When my check ups were finished, we talked about our families; he asking about my daughters, then telling me about his family. The last visit to him I cried until I couldn’t talk; he hugged me, reassured me and sent me to the ladies room to get myself together while he talked to my husband. Today when I saw my nephrologist, I asked about Dr Gunnells and told he had died. I felt such sadness but such pride and joy that I knew him. Our world needs more fathers and doctors like Dr Gunnells. God bless you all.

Condolence from Melissa Holland on October 18th, 2018 12:59 pm

I know I am late seeing this, and responding. Your father was my mothers doctor from the time she was a child until well into her adulthood. Thank you for sharing your fathers gift of being a amazing doctor with the world. He saw more than a statistic in my mother. He saw someone who was a Nurse, Mother and wife, with a kidney disorder. I have and will always credit your doctor with giving me more years with my mother that anyone expected. I wish you all comfort, as losing a parent is very difficult.

Condolence from Darryl Quarles on October 26th, 2018 8:24 pm

Caulie was a mentor, role model and a great inspiration to me. I am very sorry to hear belatedly of his passing yesterday at the Duke ASN reception. He defined Duke Nephrology! I will always be greatful for what he taught me.

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