A joke a day. A doctor who cared for his patients and their precious cargo. A friend, a co-worker.
"He's been missed ever since he quit working here," Beth Rundquist said from the pediatric center at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. "Now, he'll be missed everywhere."
Vernon Branson, 88, a pediatrician in Lawrence for more than 40 years, died Monday, leaving behind memories of a wonderful man and generations of healthy children.
Funeral arrangements are pending at Warren-McElwain Mortuary. Survivors include his wife, Jessie, a former state legislator.
After getting his bachelor's and medical degrees from Kansas University and serving three years overseas in the Navy during World War II, Branson returned to Lawrence and started a practice at the Medical Arts Building.
Since then, Branson served in high-ranking medical positions throughout the city and state. He served as president of the LMH medical staff and the Kansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, established the Birth Defects Center at the KU Medical Center and held a teaching appointment at KU.
But his positions on state boards truly reflected his love for children. He served on the Governor's Commission on Children with Special Health Care Needs and on the Kansas Task Force on Prevention of Developmental Disabilities, and was president of the Douglas County Association of Retarded Children.
Branson's work was important to him, Rundquist said, because his patients came first, always, as he looked past whatever lay on their surfaces to see the person inside.
He was pure joy, coming to work every day with a new joke and an uncanny ability to spell any word the staff might throw his way.
But now, the soft-spoken, gentle doctor is gone, and Rundquist said the city won't be the same.
At the hospital, they already feel the loss.
"We are always here being compared to him," she said. "He's touched so many."