John C. Herion, 87, retired Professor of Medicine at the UNC School of Medicine, died at home on March 31 after a brief illness. He was born in Salisbury, NC, the eldest child of John H. and Helen Seaford Herion. He grew up in a modest home in Mount Pleasant, NC, and after high school enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving as a sergeant in the 17th Infantry stationed in Korea. He graduated from Davidson College in 1949 with a BS in chemistry. Although he had signed a contract to pitch for the Washington Senators, he chose instead to pursue a career in medicine. After completing UNC’s two-year medical program, he transferred to Harvard Medical School, earning an M.D. in 1953. While in Boston he met and married his lifetime love and companion, Mary Macleod, a nurse from Nova Scotia, Canada.
John returned to Chapel Hill for his internship and residency at NC Memorial Hospital (now UNC Hospitals), then joined the faculty of the UNC School of Medicine, specializing in hematology and oncology. For over forty years, he treated countless patients from across the state, combining compassionate bedside care with rigorous medical research in leukemia and other blood disorders. He and his colleagues and trainees, many of whom remained lifelong friends with John and his family, published over forty articles in major medical journals. John’s devotion to compassionate patient care was given special recognition by two of his patients, who established a fund in his honor (the Rothrock Fund and the Mary Elizabeth Thomas professorship). He also served as chairman of UNC’s Institutional Review Board, providing regulatory and ethical oversight of campus research involving human subjects and medical patients. He retired from UNC as Professor of Medicine in 1996. His professional legacy continues in his children, who are all involved in medicine, medical research, and higher education.
John was an active member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Chapel Hill. He was involved in Lutheran campus ministry work at UNC in the 1960s, and was a long-time board member of the Lutheran Homes in Salisbury, NC. In 1969 the Town of Chapel Hill recognized him as one of six Fathers of the Year.
He is survived by his wife, Mary M. Herion of Chapel Hill, and their five children: Gary A. Herion of Durham, NC and his wife Carol Creath Herion and their children Melissa, Sam, and Daniel; John M. Herion of Wilmington, NC and his wife Robin Wynne Herion and their children Caroline, John, and Robert; Diane Herion Bell of Asheboro and her husband Clark and their daughters Blakely and Rebekah; Carol Herion Buckner of Cary, NC and her husband Kenn and their children Stephen and Mary; and David W. Herion of Chevy Chase, MD. He is also survived by his brother Charles G. Herion and wife Sherry of Charlotte, NC; his sister Elizabeth (“Libby”) Herion Deal and husband Claude V. Deal of Durham, NC; and by several cousins and numerous nieces and nephews.
Services will be held on Saturday, April 4 at 10:00 am at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church (300 E. Rosemary Street, Chapel Hill) with reception to follow at the church. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made either to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church earmarked for the Renovation of the Ministries Center Fund (300 E. Rosemary Street, Chapel Hill 27514), to UNC Hospice (https://www.unc healthcare.org/site/hospice/donations), or to Lutheran Services for the Aging (P. O. Box 947, Salisbury, NC 28145-0947).