Jim Underhill was an extraordinary man who lived well and approached each endeavour with the same passion that made him a successful surgeon. Though he was born in the United States, Saskatoon was his home from early childhood. He graduated from the College of Medicine in 1982. After brief residences in Kingston and Vancouver, Jim returned to Saskatoon to build his practice and make his life. When an airplane crash ended his life in 2009, our community lost not only a surgeon, but a man of great compassion, caring and generous spirit.
As a surgeon, his skills improved the lives of thousands of residents of Saskatoon, but most who encountered him are quick to point out that his caring and compassion were more important features of his approach to his work. His patients and friends remember the house calls, personal phone calls, and personal interventions to ensure that people got the treatment that they needed. Sometimes people would just show up at his house seeking treatment. He didn’t hold himself above people and always did his best to see that they were cared for.
In his personal life, he was equally passionate about his family, his children, his friends and his hobbies. He was an avid skier, sailor, motorcyclist, and pilot. He loved sports cars, from his Opel GT to his Alfa Romeo to his jet black Boxster, but he also invested in a camouflage suburban for hunting and a 1973 motor home for his trips to Sturgis for the annual Harley Davidson weekends. He was always on the go, often combining activities, phoning while on the way from place to place. He lived each day to the very fullest.
He was known for his sense of humour and his generosity of spirit. Though he took great pride in his children, he also expected them to live up to the same high standards that made him the person he was. Yet he could also be generous and patient in teaching them how. Whether it was learning how to roast lamb on a spit or special-ordering a wedding dress from Spain, Jim was never deterred by the word “No.” Jim was a man who gave more than 110 per cent each day to his patients, profession, friends, community and family, especially Jenny and his children.
When Jim passed away, his family, business colleagues and friends worked together to establish the Dr. Jim Underhill Fund in his memory. The Fund will provide a lasting legacy to the contributions Jim made to his community and the love he shared with family and friends. Annual income from the fund will support the purchase of a pediatric retinal camera in the Department of Ophthalmology at Saskatoon City Hospital. Once this initial goal has been achieved, income from the fund will continue to support the many charities that Jim supported through his life.