Dr. Delford L. Stickel passed away May 11, 2015 at Croasdaile Village in Durham, NC. Del was born in Berkeley County West Virginia, December 12, 1927, to Ruth Porterfield Stickel and E. Gustave Stickel. He grew up on his grandfather’s farm picking cherries, trapping rabbits, and learning about the importance of giving to one’s family and community. Del graduated from Martinsburg High School in Martinsburg, WV in 1945. He had great affection for his home state and his upbringing and, over the years, returned for several high school reunions.
Inspired by a high school civics teacher who had graduated from Duke and by a photograph in his civics textbook of Duke Chapel under construction, Del attended undergraduate school at Duke University, graduating magna cum laude in 1949. He attended Duke Medical School and was a member of Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society. He then completed internships in general internal medicine and in general surgery at Duke.
His surgical training was interrupted by two years of active duty as a medical officer in the United States Navy aboard the hospital ship USS Haven, based at Long Beach, California. During that time, San Francisco became one of his favorite places, in part due to his love of architecture and bridges. In 1957 he returned to Duke Medical Center where he completed training in general surgery and thoracic surgery. He was appointed assistant professor of surgery at Duke in 1962, and in that year he was awarded a John and Mary R. Markle scholarship in academic medicine and an NIH transplantation research fellowship. Those honors were followed by a year of study under Professor M. F. A. Woodruff at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
Del returned to Duke Hospital in 1965 and successfully performed the first kidney transplant in North Carolina as well as the first kidney transplant at Duke Medical Center. In his transplantation work he was privileged to serve as a member of the tissue typing research team that was headed by the late Dr. D. Bernard Amos. Del continued the practice of kidney transplantation and helped train other doctors in kidney transplantation until his retirement in 1997. In February this year he enjoyed a reunion with colleagues in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first kidney transplant. As Associate Medical Director of Duke University Hospital for 25 years, Del was active in programs devoted to upholding and advancing the quality of patient care.
At the Durham VA Medical Center he served as Chief of Surgery from 1966 to 1968 and Chief of Staff from 1970 to 1972. From 1978 to 1981 he served as the part-time medical director of the N.C. Office of Emergency Medical Services in Raleigh, NC.
Even as he achieved success in the medical profession, Del remained humble, gentle, and compassionate. He often noted that one of his proudest accomplishments was teaching all three of his daughters to drive a stick shift car. He delighted in solving problems around the house and yard by creating hand-made tools for the job and sharing complex drawings of his plans. He had a quiet, reassuring presence that was healing in its own right. Del was down-to-earth and treasured life’s simple pleasures. He loved photographing beautiful things including his wife’s garden and his children. He was extraordinarily patient and thoughtful. Especially after retirement Del enjoyed reading and was deeply spiritual. He was generous in every way and a student of life.
Del was an avid Duke fan and an active member of Watts Street Baptist Church for over 60 years. During those years he served in various leadership capacities including chairing the board of deacons and the personnel committee where his wisdom and attention to detail were greatly valued.
Del is survived by his wife of 33 years, Ann B. Stickel, by her two daughters: Anne Garland, of Greensboro, NC, and her husband Christopher Garland; Jennifer Gill, of Chapel Hill, NC, and her husband Matthew Edwards; and by his daughter Nancy Stickel Snyder of Chicago, and her husband Thomas Snyder. He is also survived by seven grandchildren, Andrew Garland, Kristen Garland, Matthew Gill, Matthew Edwards, David Snyder, Elizabeth Snyder, and Will Snyder, and by two brothers, Marvin W. Stickel and Dean P. Stickel of Martinsburg, West Virginia.
A memorial service will be held at Watts Street Baptist Church at 2:00pm on Thursday, May 14. Visitation will follow in the church fellowship hall. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Watts Street Baptist Church, 800 Watts Street, Durham, NC 27701 or to the Del Stickel Abdominal Transplant Fellowship Education and Research Fund, Attn: Lindon Pearson, DUMC Box 3704, Durham, NC 27710. Checks should be made to Duke University, in the memo line: Department of Surgery, In memory of Del Stickel. Donations will be used to support basic and clinical research of students, residents and fellows pursuing significant scientific advances in the field of organ preservation and transplantation.