Remembering Frederick Eldridge

Frederick “Fred” Louis Eldridge, MD, a professor in the School of Medicine for 25 years, died peacefully at home on June 1, 2017 at the age of 92.

Dr. Eldridge was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to the late Dr. Charles Judson Eldridge and Dorothea Hackbusch Eldridge. He received his undergraduate degree from Stanford University in 1945 and his MD from the Stanford University School of Medicine in 1948, graduating as a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. Fred served in the Army during the World War II and in the Air Force during the Korean War.

After his time in the Air Force, Eldridge and his wife Mary Francis Hill (Mf) Eldridge settled in San Francisco, where Eldridge joined the faculty at the Stanford University School of Medicine, becoming professor of medicine. Eldridge served as chief of medicine at the VA Hospital and head of the division of respiratory medicine at the Stanford School of Medicine.

In 1973, the Eldridges moved to Chapel Hill, NC, when Eldridge joined the University of North Carolina faculty with joint appointments in the department of physiology and the department of medicine (division of pulmonary medicine).

From 1957-1997, he received grants as the principal investigator of research studies relating primarily to the neurophysiology of respiratory control, helping develop an understanding of the mechanics of breathing. He made outstanding contributions in his research to both the control and perception of breathing during exercise. In honor of his work, Eldridge was selected as a Markle Foundation Scholar, received an NIH Merit Grant award, and served as Sir Harcourt Caughey Trust Visiting Professor at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Eldridge retired from the UNC School of Medicine in 1997 as professor emeritus of medicine and physiology.

The UNC School of Medicine meant a great deal to Dr. Eldridge, who named the Medical Foundation the owner of a life insurance policy to be used to establish the Frederick L. Eldridge, M.D. Professorship in Cell and Molecular Physiology, particularly to be filled by a systems physiologist. Further proceeds of his policy would be used to establish the Frederick L. Eldridge, M.D. Fellowship in Cell and Molecular Physiology, also restricted to a fellow in systems physiology.

 Fred and Mf shared a love of travel. Fred visited 49 of the 50 U.S. states and 29 other countries, most of them with Mf by his side. They lived in London for a year while he studied at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, and for another year in Salt Lake City, Utah, during a sabbatical.

Fred was known for his wit, dry sense of humor, and intellectual curiosity. He began playing the French horn as a teenager, enjoyed classical music throughout his life, and relearned to play the same horn, reconstructed, in his 90s. His hobbies and interests included photography, camping, hiking, woodworking, sculpting, and gardening. Fred took many thousands of photographs, filled patios with sculptures from his backyard workshop, and was an avid reader who loved learning new things. He could be seen regularly walking the neighborhoods in Carrboro. Fred learned to play tennis at the age of 50 and continued to play at the Chapel Hill Tennis Club until shortly before his 92nd birthday. He and Mf often played tennis together, winning their age group at the NC state finals Senior Games on several occasions.

Fred was predeceased by Mf, who described him prior to her death in 2010 as her “gem”; he devotedly and lovingly cared for Mf for many years after she had a stroke. He was predeceased also by his sister, Dorothea Helene Eldridge, and his sister-in-law, Betty Elshoff Hill. Fred is survived by his daughter, Karen Marie Eldridge (Carrboro, NC); son, Charles Frederic Eldridge, and daughter-in-law, Jane Marlene Howard (Seattle, WA); grandchildren, Alyssa Blair Eldridge (Portland, OR) and Adrian Howard Eldridge (Rochester, NY); brother-in-law, William Allen Hill (Newburgh, IN), and Mr. Hill’s four children and their families.

The family expresses gratitude to Dr. Christopher Klipstein of UNC Internal Medicine and the staff of UNC Home Hospice for their compassionate and supportive care of Fred and his family.

A ceremony to honor Fred’s life is being planned. Details will be shared later with family and friends. In addition, the immediate family plans to visit North Dakota to scatter Fred’s ashes and complete his visit to the 50th state.

The family suggests that in lieu of flowers, gifts be made to honor Dr. Eldridge’s career as a medical educator, physician, and physiology researcher, as well as the family’s gratitude about the compassionate hospice care he received. Gifts may be directed to the Frederick L. Eldridge, M.D. Professorship in Cell and Molecular Physiology at the UNC School of Medicine, or to UNC Hospice. Checks should be made payable to the Medical Foundation of NC, 880 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514. Please note on the check that it is a memorial for Frederick Eldridge, and specify the Eldridge Professorship (#345933) or UNC Hospice (#345729). Memorial gifts can also be made online: search for the fund number at http://giving.unc.edu/gift/medf.

Condolences may be shared at CremationSocietyNC.com.

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