The excitement of the 52nd
International Respiratory Congress, with the excellent
presentations, forums, and exhibits that we have come to
expect from AARC, was dampened for me and other attendees by
the news of the death of John A. Wolfe, RRT, CPFT. Wolfe, who
was clinical specialist at North Colorado Medical Center,
Greeley, and a member of RT’s editorial advisory board,
died December 5 of acute myelogenous leukemia. During the
congress, I talked to two of Wolfe’s oldest friends about what
made him special.
John Goodman, BS, RRT, a respiratory care
educator from Colorado, first met Wolfe as his instructor at
St Anthony’s School for Respiratory Therapy in 1978, when
Wolfe began studying respiratory care.
Goodman says, “John was the class intellectual.
He was very smart and well educated. He was enamored of the
What Wolfe hadn’t anticipated, Goodman says
laughing, was the “e-w-w! factor” in respiratory care. Little
did he know that he would have to be dealing with mucus on a
The class was tight-knit, according to Goodman,
and the students worked together to earn money so they could
attend the AARC congress.
“One project took place during Easter in 1978,”
says Goodman. “John was one of 12 students who took turns
wearing bunny suits at a local mall. I’ll never forget John: 6
feet tall with pink floppy ears. The class did many other
projects that year and raised a total of $1,200. Pretty good
money in those days.”
After school, Wolfe went to work at Porter
Hospital in Denver, which, according to Goodman, had the best
RT department in town.
“As a testament to how much they cared about
John, several of the staff at Porter attended John’s
memorial service,” says Goodman, “even though it had been 25
years since he had worked there.”
It was while he was at Porter that Wolfe got the
travel bug and went to Saudi Arabia to King Faisal Hospital,
which was recruiting RTs and other medical personnel to train
its staff. It was there that Wolfe met Hassan Alorainy, BSrc,
RRT, then a blood donor recruiter. Alorainy, met Wolfe at the
airport, and he reports, “I saw this big tall guy with a
cowboy hat carrying a banjo. It was very funny.”
Wolfe shared his passion for respiratory care
with Alorainy, who knew nothing about the field.
“He started talking about what he did,” Alorainy
recalls, “and said, ‘Why don’t you come study in the United
States?’ I wasn’t sure if my family would let me go so far
away, and John said, ‘Come, I will be your family.’ ”
And so he was. Wolfe had returned to Colorado,
and all during the time that Alorainy was studying at Loma
Linda University in California, he continued to stay in touch
with Wolfe and spent every Thanksgiving with his family.
Alorainy finished his studies and returned to
Saudi Arabia where he became supervisor of the RT department.
He called Wolfe and asked him to come to Saudi Arabia. That’s
all it took! Wolfe sold his car and house and went. He stayed
in the department for approximately 4 years.
“He was loved by the department, by the nurses,
doctors, my family. We continued to be friends for 25 years,”
says Alorainy. “He was a wonderful human being.”
Wolfe was passionate about his work—especially
education and smoking cessation advocacy—and was active in
spreading the word about smoking cessation programs, so much
so that a representative of the American Lung Association
stood up at his memorial service and said, “I don’t know what
we are going to do without John, I really don’t!”
I’m sure this echoes the thoughts of all of us
whose lives were touched by this great guy.
John Wolfe is survived by his wife, Pam; two
children, Martin and Tami; his brothers Roger and Gary; and
his sister, Joyce.