Frederick William “Bill” Karrer, M.D.

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.



  • Tom McGowan Posted November 30, 2020 6:48 pm

    Bill was a wonderful & very close pal. We had many great times together. I shall miss him.

    Tom McGowan

  • Nancy Schloemer Posted December 1, 2020 8:29 am

    One of the best surgeons I have the privilege to know and work with.

  • Carol Lynch Posted December 1, 2020 6:59 pm

    Bob and I are very saddened by Bill’s passing. He was one of a kind on so many levels.
    Bob and Carol Lynch

  • Deborah and Patrick Meyers Posted December 1, 2020 9:18 pm

    Our prayers are with you and your family. We have know Dr. Karrer for the last 40 years, working with him at Methodist. His dedication and compassion for his patients and his commitment to the Methodist Health System has been a driving force to improve care at the Estabrook Cancer Center. He was so supportive of the Lung Cancer Clinic and his advice and direction has helped us become a leading clinic in the region. We have missed him and his wonderful sense of humor these past years. HIs legacy will continue on as the heart of the Methodist System.

  • Joyce Wilson Posted December 2, 2020 9:54 am

    I am so sad. My condolences to Bev and family. Bill was one of the finest gentlemen I have ever met and a truly great surgeon who, incidentally, saved my life 33 years ago.

  • Patricia Jackson Posted December 2, 2020 3:31 pm

    My condolences to Bev and family. I’m sad to hear of Dr. Karrer’s passing. He was kind to me many years ago. A very compassionate man. RIP Dr Karrer, you are remembered in my prayers. Pat Jackson

  • McCook Art Guild Posted December 3, 2020 3:17 pm

    We are sorry to hear of your loss. A supporter of the arts.

  • Dick Beechner Posted December 3, 2020 8:55 pm

    Bill will be missed by many friends of which he had many. Please accept Barbara’s and my sympathy

  • Susan Coady Doak Posted December 4, 2020 1:04 pm

    When your husband and father was just starting out, my mother doctored with his father in McCook. She had been ill for quite a while when doc said he was going to send her down to Omaha to see if his son could figure out what was wrong. It was colon cancer, normally a death sentence in those days, but Doctor Bill took care of her, surgery and all, and sent her back to us healthy and ready to live out the days of her life, which, happened to be till she was a few days short of 99 in April of 2011, 30 + years later. Bill gave us those precious years together and we will always be thankful for his wonderful skills. So sorry for your loss.

  • Chaplain Jack Kouth Posted December 20, 2020 9:58 pm

    Dr. Karrer was a compassionate professional and a great supporter of our chaplain’s department at Methodist. He was warm and caring and had a great subtle sense of humor..

  • Richard (Dick) Belknap Posted January 6, 2021 2:51 pm

    Bill was 3 years older than me.. I was a classmate of Stew Karrer at MHS. I see in the living Family that Stewart was a survivor.

  • Jay Sage Posted January 12, 2021 10:38 pm

    It was a good day when Dad would say, “get in the car we are going out to see Dr. Karrer.” Dr. Karrer was a dear and beloved friend to the Sage family for over 65 years. Ruthie, Pete, Jill, Amy, and I will miss him.

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