Frederick William “Bill” Karrer, M.D.
March 9, 1931 – November 28, 2020
On Saturday, November 28, 2020, Frederick William “Bill” Karrer, cancer surgeon, husband and father of two children, passed away at the age of 89. Bill was born March 9, 1931 in Palisade, NE to Merrill and Elinor Karrer. The family moved to McCook where he met his lifelong sweetheart, Beverley Ann (Bush) Karrer. He attended the University of Nebraska where he was a member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. He received his medical degree and general surgery residency at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine. Unusual for that era, Dr. Karrer sought specialty training in Surgical Oncology at M.D. Anderson Hospital at the University of Texas in Houston.
For the next 35 years, he practiced in Omaha largely at the Nebraska Methodist Hospital. Over the years, he and his partners developed a large general surgery practice with a focus on the surgical treatment of cancer and became recognized for their expertise in head & neck cancer surgery. He was a UNMC Clinical Professor of Surgery and contributed to the training of generations of young surgeons from the UNMC program. He was a fellow of the American College of Surgeons (and served on the ACS Cancer Commission 1980-1990, President of the ACS Nebraska Division 1990-1991, and ACS Board of Directors 1992-1999). He retired from the active practice of surgery in 1997 but continued to serve as the medical director of the Estabrook Cancer Center at Methodist Hospital and consultant to the Methodist Foundation. Dr. Karrer initiated weekly treatment planning conferences for cancer patients at to discuss all the possible treatment options. His work ethic served as an inspiration to colleagues and trainees who described him as a mentor and the kind of doctor they aspired to be. In 2010, Nebraska Methodist hospital named the Karrer Conference Room in the Cancer Center in his honor.
Across 89 years of living, Bill Karrer created a fascinating trail of accomplishments, acquaintances and adventures. He was not only a distinguished physician, but also a civic leader, philanthropist, humanitarian, horseman, artist, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, mentor and friend. Sometimes described as ornery, the label never stuck for long; he was just too much fun. Few people earn so many labels in the conduct of their endeavors. Then again, few people pursue their eclectic interests with the vigor of Bill Karrer, a trait consistent with both the ancestors and offspring of the Karrer clan.
Dr. Karrer was a proud member of a four generation UNMC legacy family. In addition to himself, his grandfather, his father and his son all graduated from the University of Nebraska College of Medicine. The entire Karrer family was recognized in 2008 with an Alumni Family Award from the University of Nebraska where 33 members had attended. In 2010, he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the College of Medicine.
Much more than a skilled surgeon, Bill was interested in people; people of all walks of life, all socioeconomic strata and a variety of vocations. He had broad interests included breeding and racing horses, farming and gardening, playing golf, hunting and fishing, skiing and birding. He was a collector of everything; old maps (mostly of his home state), stamps, coins, Custer books, antique tools, western art (specifically Nebraska artists). He was also concerned with civic duty and volunteered with many organizations; Museum of Nebraska Art, Nebraska Historical Society, Rotary Club, Omaha Symphony, Brownville Fine Arts Association/Brownville Historical Society. Bev and Bill’s civic contributions were honored by their appointment in 2007 to the Aksarben Court of Honor.
Bill is survived by his wife, Beverley; his two children, Fritz (Debbie), a Denver pediatric surgeon and Suzan (Brad) Rohrig, an Omaha architect; four grandchildren: Courtney (Matt) Molettiere, Ashley (Ryan) Snowdon, Michael and Thomas; six great-grandchildren: Kenley, Parker, Grant, Bennett, Amelia and Freddie; and his brother, Stewart (Jan).
Due to the pandemic, a private service will be held this week, with plans for a celebration of his life and legacy in the Spring or Summer of 2021. Donations may be made to the Methodist Hospital Foundation.