Harry Thurman McPherson, 92, died at home Wednesday, August 8 of natural causes. He was born January 9, 1926 in Walnut Cove, North Carolina to Gladys (Wheeler) and H. Russell McPherson. He graduated from Walnut Cove High School with the last class of public school students to have completed 11, not 12, years of schooling. He entered Duke University in 1942 at age 16 on a combined undergraduate and medical school curriculum, graduating from Duke Medical School in 1948. Dr. McPherson was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Omega Alpha honor medical society. He received the Borden Undergraduate Research Award while still in medical school. Dr. McPherson interned at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, then returned to Duke for residency and fellowship in endocrinology.
In the U. S. Army Medical Corps during the Korean War, he served in Taegu and then in Ulsan at the 25th Evacuation Hospital after which he was stationed for a year in Japan at Tokyo General Hospital. Following his military service, Dr. McPherson became Chief Resident in Duke Hospital’s Department of Medicine, and in fact, at the time of his death, was Duke’s oldest living Chief Resident He remained at Duke for his entire career, becoming Professor of Medicine soon after he joined the senior staff. He combined interests in teaching, research, and clinical practice; he authored numerous research publications, shared his enthusiasm for thorough investigation of diagnoses, and often devoted extra time and effort to his students. He was a member of the Endocrine Society, the American College of Physicians, and other national and regional medical societies.
Harry was married to Jane Harmeling in St. Petersburg, Florida, on September 11, 1954. They settled in Durham where they reared their four children. He was one of the earliest members of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, where he was its first Acolyte Master. He was also a founder of St. Stephen’s Chamber Orchestra (now Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle) and of St. Stephen’s Concert Series, when the church embarked on its musical ministry for the community. He also served as a Stephen Minister.
A supporter of local music performances, Harry was a long-time member of the Durham Chamber Arts Society, a board member of the Triangle Opera, and since his undergraduate days, a supporter of Duke’s cultural events. His and Jane’s trips to Europe coincided with opera, orchestral, and chamber music performances in many cities and also behind the Iron Curtain. The son of a piano teacher, he enjoyed playing show tunes and hymns. He was also a charter member of the Triangle Chapter of La Chaine des Rotisseurs.
During his 28 years of retirement, Harry enjoyed visits with his family to his second home on Kerr Lake in Clarksville, Virginia, where he and Jane were active in the community and St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church. A member of The Cedars of Chapel Hill retirement community since its opening in 2004, he took weekly French lessons which led to his reading novels and poetry in the original. He played duplicate bridge, and was among the founders of the Cedars Concert Series. Harry could be seen walking his faithful canine companion, Lucy Frances twice daily in all kinds of weather.
Dr. McPherson is survived by his wife of 63 years, Jane, and their four children, Rhett McPherson (Elaine) of Clayton, NC; David McPherson (June) of Midlothian, VA; Leslie McPherson Hadley (Mark) of Charlottesville, VA; and Mary McPherson McNulty (Martin) of Oldsmar, FL; and four grandchildren, Spencer Hadley, Olivia Hadley, Harrison McNulty and Gavin McNulty.
A memorial service will be held 4:00 PM Saturday, August 11 in St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 82 Kimberly Dr., Durham. In addition to those attending the service, friends unable to attend are cordially invited to a reception in the church’s parish hall at 5:00 PM Saturday.
Contributions in Harry’s memory may be made to Paws4Ever, 6311 Nicks Rd. Mebane, NC 27302 or paws4ever.org. Arrangements are with Hall-Wynne Funeral Service & Crematory.