Dr. Waldo Cory Melrose Johnston III died in a backcountry skiing accident after summiting Mt. Hood on February 25th, 2020, on his 47th birthday.
Born in 1973, Cory grew up in the mountains of Colorado where he first developed his love of the outdoors along with his parents, Waldo and Candy, and his older sister, Crickett. It was amongst these mantled peaks that he first learned to ski.
His family moved to North Carolina in 1980 where he developed a passion for other activities: hockey with his dad, tennis with his sister, viola with his mom. While a student at Durham Academy, he was elected President of the Senior Class, constructed an epic volcano for the Senior Prom with his best friend Javier, became North Carolina’s first All American lacrosse player, and, despite some aversion for practicing for the SATs, earned his acceptance to Yale where he played varsity lacrosse and squeaked across the finish line in 1995 with a degree in American Studies.
Following graduation, Cory heeded the call of the West where he engaged in a assortment of experiments including waiting tables in San Francisco, filming documentaries in Whistler, selling climbing gear at REI in Salt Lake City, and painting houses. He and his friend Johnny loved to explore the backcountry of the Wasatch. Eventually, he joined the ski patrol at Brighton where everything changed one night when he and his colleagues tried to save the life of a young skier who had sustained a mortal injury. He was profoundly impressed by the efficiency of the nurse as she intubated the patient. As Cory watched the helicopter transport the patient off the slope, he realized he wanted to be there on the other end of the helicopter ride, to take care of that skier when she arrived at the hospital. The very next day he called his parents to say that he was going back to school to become a doctor.
Discovering an intense focus that his friends and family had never seen, Cory completed premed courses in Utah, and was accepted to medical school at the University of Pittsburgh. There he connected with his lifelong friends Kia, Jordan, Toby, Jim, and Thomas.
Cory returned to Salt Lake City for his six-year general surgery residency at the University of Utah, where he spent an extra year specializing in rural general surgery. He won the residency wide teaching award and was considered one of the best residents they ever had, but was also humble and humorous and true to himself; kind, patient, and unflappable. He again formed a close group of friends “The Honey Badgers” with whom he enjoyed long days out on the mountains.
Cory then came to Oregon in 2012 for a two-year hepatobiliary and pancreatic surgery fellowship at the Providence Portland Cancer Center. Here he was mentored by Drs. Paul Hansen, Ronald Wolf, and Chet Hammill, as well as his future wife, Pippa Newell. Pippa and Cory’s first date was at the start of Cory’s second year of fellowship. It was not intended to be a date; but they had spent an intense day together in the operating room, and it was a balmy Midsummer Night with a full moon, and it seemed a shame not to enjoy it together.
Cory and Pippa moved to Hood River in 2014, where Cory started his first and only job as an MD, as a General Surgeon at the Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital. Here he earned the trust, love, and respect of his colleagues and the Hood River community through his passion for the welfare of his patients and his dedication to his practice.
Cory found immeasurable happiness with Pippa, raising their sons Rocky and Bode. He was so proud of his boys. He loved everything about them. He loved singing funny songs with them, loved running alongside them as they learned to ride bikes. He marveled as they learned anything new. The family’s last ski trip, he was so proud of Bode making his first turns and of Rocky zipping through the trees. There was nothing that made him happier than his family.
As he had done as a young man, Cory found the wilderness a source of wonder and immense joy. As mountains shaped much of Cory’s life, they also, in a way understood by only God and the cosmos, took it away.
Cory, we love you. Thank you for the many epic turns.
Services to honor Cory’s life and mourn his passing are planned as follows;
A time to visit with family is planned for 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Friday, March 6th, 2020 at Anderson's Tribute Center (Funerals • Receptions • Cremations) 1401 Belmont Avenue, Hood River, Oregon 97031.
A Natural Burial and Committal Ceremony is planned for 3:00 P.M., Saturday, March 7th, 2020 at The Great River Natural Cemetery of Mosier, Oregon (45.649166, -121.364981).
A Memorial Service will be at 2:00 p.m., Sunday, March 8th, 2020 at Columbia Gorge Hotel (4000 Westcliff Dr, Hood River, OR 97031).
Countless people have reached out to ask what they can do to support Pippa and the Johnston/Newell Family. Education is a high priority for the family. A 529 Education Fund for Rocky & Bode has been set up and donations can be made through the attached link:
Visit www.AndersonsTributeCenter.com to leave a note of condolence for the family.