(303) 674-7750 Helping During a Time of Loss

John B. “Jack” Newkirk, D.Sc.

- February 9, 2019

Longtime Evergreen resident John B. “Jack” Newkirk passed away on Feb. 9, 2019, just a few weeks short of his 99th birthday.  Newkirk was born in Minneapolis in 1920. He was the 4th child of a Schenectady, General Electric Co. senior scientist, Burt L. Newkirk, PhD. and Louise Newkirk. His brother was Horace Newkirk; sister’s were Muriel and Virginia; and brothers-in-law were Bernard Cain and Doug Frost. 

Shortly thereafter, the family moved to Schenectady, N.Y.  In 1941, Newkirk earned an engineering degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, worked at Bethlehem Steel and subsequently volunteered to serve in the U.S. Navy in 1942, where he was a diver in the South Pacific during World War II.  

After the war, Newkirk earned his doctoral degree at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, followed by post-doctoral work as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Cambridge (King’s College) in England.  In 1951, he married his wife, Carol, inside historic King’s College Chapel. Newkirk worked as a research scientist at General Electric prior to becoming a professor at Cornell University. In 1967, he brought his family to Jefferson County. 

Jack then took a position as Professor within the Chemistry Department at University of Denver in 1967 through retirement. He has guided hundreds of graduate degree science students. He has lived in Evergreen, CO since that time but, has spent a portion of almost every summer since then on Lake George, with his family and friends. 

While most of Newkirk’s career was spent as a college professor at the University of Denver, he and his wife also developed a number of medical products, including the Colorado MicroDissection Needle, the Denver Peritoneo-Venous Shunt, the Denver Hydrocephalus Shunt and several other life-saving devices.  He received numerous humanitarian awards including the Colorado Governor’s Citation and the Carnegie Merit Award, and was inducted into the Jefferson County Hall of Fame.   Newkirk also enjoyed running, camping, skiing and cycling, and completed the Ride the Rockies several times during his 80s.  Beekeeping was also one of his life long hobbies.

Jack grew up living life to the fullest on Lake George during all seasons, including camping for the entire summer with his family, while dad worked!! He utilized numerous canoes, row boats, outboard, and inboard motor boats, including the family’s 1920 Faye and Bowen!! Which we still have. Skate sailing and skating was a favorite winter pastime, including recovery from having fallen through the ice!  Of course, hiking and running everywhere he could do so! The family purchased a cabin, “Tongue Rest”, on the eastern shore of Tongue Mnt in Turtle Bay in the 1930’s.

As a 19 year old in 1939, Jack rode a 1932 Harley Davidson motor cycle, with a friend from Schenectady to NYC World’s Fair, down though Pennsylvania, into Virginia.  Then solo, he headed west until he reached the 1939 World’s Fair in San Francisco!!  This has been documented by his son John J Newkirk in a book, “The Old Man and the Harley” !  Read it, there is a whole section regarding Lake George!!

Jack is survived by his children John J. (Melissa) Newkirk of Evergreen, Victoria Newkirk Lierheimer of Evergreen, Christina (Gary) Newkirk Seldomridge of Pennsylvania, and Chinese Son – Jeff (Li Wei) Bi Hua of China; grandchildren Amanda, Kathryn and Sarah Newkirk, Christopher, Abigail, Faith and Rachael Lierheimer, Tyler and Benjamin Seldomridge, and Hansen Bi.

He was preceded in death by his wife Carolyn Newkirk; son Jeffrey Newkirk; and son-in-law Christopher Lierheimer. 

Contributions in memory of John B. “Jack” Newkirk may be made to one of the following –

Mount Evans Home Health Care & Hospice

Evergreen Christian Outreach

Lake George Association, 2392 State Route 9N, PO Box 408, Lake George, NY 12845


18 Responses

  1. Christina Seldomridge says:

    Today would have been my dad’s 99th birthday, and oh what a rich life he lived! These are the words I shared on March 10th as we celebrated his long life:

    An Older Father…

    My dad was an older father. We shared a passion for adventure and a love for nature. He encouraged deep thought.

    From the time I can remember, I was either riding in the scoop of his tractor or tucked safely between his arms on the gas tank of his motorcycle. We hiked and camped, exploring roadways, airways and waterways. He taught me how to wiggle my ears.

    On scuba trips we’d playfully agitate night waters to make the phosphorus light up. For his 85th birthday, we learned about Africanized bees in Central America.
    We both loved the winter months. At an early age, with bear-trap bindings and lace-up ski boots, he taught me how to do the herringbone, climbing up the slopes of Arapahoe Basin.

    When venturing onto black ice, he reminded me of the saying, “1 inch stay off, 2 inches one may, 3 inches small crowd, 4 inches OK.”
    Being a scientist and a veteran, he had access to all kinds of things that many people didn’t. A microscope was used to remove a splinter and igloos were made out of giant balloons. A zip-line and cargo net hung in the forest, and a parachute was the object of many games.

    Together we stood at medical conventions, flew airplanes and participated in week-long bicycle and canoe trips. Whether harvesting honey, gardening, or splitting firewood, he was never one to sit still… except to read or write, AND to recite poetry.

    When asked what led to his longevity, I usually speak of his life-long habit of exercising his body and his mind. And by being very deliberate! Many will remember him for his reverence, integrity, or for his quick wit and gentle demeanor. Or, as a friend recently remarked, “Your dad never let the ‘old man’ in.”

    Pondering once, Dad and I considered the suffix, “er” …
    When added to a word, it usually describes more of something – bright/brighter, cold/colder, etc. But when added to the word “old,” … it suggests the opposite.
    An “older man” is not as old as an “old man,” right?

    Either way, my dad and I spent just over 50 years together. And to me, he was in the prime of his life in these older years.

    ~ Christina Newkirk Seldomridge

  2. Stuart L. Crossman, Jr. says:

    Jack and I are of the same age. We were close friends and classmates during our adolescent years. I have many memories of our friendship to cherish. Most of you today knew Jack as an adult, whereas my memories of him are from the early years. I was the friend who accompanied him on the Harley for the initial part of his trip in 1939 to visit the New York City’s World’s Fair and to cross the country to the San Francisco International Exposition. This was to be our last contact as he continued his education at RPI and I enrolled in the Engineering School at the University of Michigan. We lost contact with one another for many decades until 2015 when I came across a record of his achievements on the internet and tracked down his residence in Evergreen CO. He was in failing health, but able to speak briefly. Through his son, John, I corresponded with Jack and wrote of my life in the intervening years. I wished to send him birthday greetings, but on checking the internet, learned that he had passed away a few weeks ago. With what I have read of his achievements, he had an illustrious and exemplary life, contributing to the well-being of others. My condolences to all who knew him. May he rest in peace.

  3. Melodie Cooey says:

    Uncle Jack and Aunt Carol were like “rock star” relatives for me as I grew up, hearing stories from my mom (Muriel Newkirk Frost) about their wedding in England, their singing talent, the excitment of having children, the move to Colorado starting ground breaking medical devices, the genius of Carol as a life and business partner. I loved Jack’s humanity and humor. He was always interested in others, plying you with questions about your interests and pursuits, sharing family lore with a twinkle in his eye. Our family’s love of Tongue Rest on Lake George (two weeks there every summer of my youth) were filled with stories of the Newkirk “boys” adventures on the lake. Jack was truly a “renaissance man” whose memory will be forever etched in a special place for those whose lives he touched.

  4. Karen Marshall says:

    As someone who is on the outside looking in, who knew him in his later years, Jack Newkirk left a rich legacy of using the gifts that God afforded him to help others. His is a celebration of an abundant life in Christ filled with both joy and sorrow, high academic achievement, perseverance and adventure, and evidently turning pain into product to help so many. As a nurse I can appreciate his work in developing surgical devices/implants to advance medicine and ease human suffering. As a Christian, I can embrace his servitude to God and his church, and to help those in need. His life is an inspiration to us all. Matthew 23:11(ESV) The greatest among you shall be your servant.

  5. Roy Frost says:

    I believe that Uncle Jack was a shining example of the Greatest Generation. I will miss him and his steady influence in both spiritual and earthly matters.

  6. Paul Predecki says:

    To Jack’s entire family, my sincere condolences. Jack and I were colleagues in the Metallurgy Department at DU from 1966 to about 1973. In 1969 we worked, together with neurosurgeon Wolff Kirsch on a prototype of what became known as the “Denver Shunt” for the treatment of hydrocephalus. This effort was in response to Jack’s daughter Vickey – then 3 – whose shunt had become clogged. The shunt we worked on was entirely of silicone rubber and could be readily unclogged by manipulation through the skin. It finally became a commercially available device through the heroic efforts of Jack’s wife Carol who took on the formidable task of manufacturing, testing and marketing it.
    Jack was always optimistic, cheerful and full of bright ideas – a pleasure to work with. I will miss him. May the Lord welcome him into His kingdom.

  7. Ken and Cheryl Touryan says:

    Jack Newkirk was a giant – intellectually and spiritually. He had a heart of love for others, was committed to his amazing wife Carol as well as to his wonderful kids, and shared his many gifts with those around him, including his church family and his community, making a huge impact in the world. Thousands are in a better place today because of Jack. He took the tragedy in his and Carol’s life, and turned it into a blessing. His sense of adventure gave him many stories with which to entertain us. His love of music added to our praises to God. Even at age 96 he joined us singing Christmas carols and as always, sang beautifully. Even in old age he radiated God’s grace, never grumbling but always gracious and grateful. He has left an empty spot in all of our hearts, but he is now filled with joy and strength in the presence of His God. We were all blessed by his presence and I am sure he will hear “Well Done” from the One he loved most, Jesus Christ.

  8. Richard Danks says:

    My condolences to the family and may the Lord give you peace and comfort during this time.

  9. Ian R Munro says:

    I was a cranio facial surgeon and became aware of John while visiting the exhibit area at a medical meeting. He was promoting the micro needle. The incentive for this came from Kim Mainwaring and an ex fellow of mine,Stephen Beals in Phoenix. This device revolutionized the surgery that I was doing. The scalp and the oral cavity are extremely vascular. To be able to make large incisions and wide dissections in these areas not only minimised or even negated blood loss , but also speeded up surgery tremendously.
    I was also involved in children with hydrocephalus. John’s brilliance in developing a shunt saved numerous lives.
    John and I became good friends. I had enormous respect not only for his intelligence ,but also for his attitude to life and lifestyle. As we had both been to Cambridge we had a mutual understanding of what is important in life.
    His daughter Christina followed in his footsteps and in the early stages physically worked on producing the actual micro needles.
    Although it is tragic when someone dies I feel that all who knew John should be proud to have known such an outstanding individual and rejoice in the good he added to our world.

  10. Tom Drews says:

    I had the pleasure to serve with John at YMCA of the Rockies. We served military families who were the to reconnect after the service member returned from deployment. John and I served dinner and breakfast and mingled with the families when we got a chance to do so. I remember him coming into the kitchen to help with breakfast. it was about 5:00 A.M. and he said (or something like it) in response to my asking how he slept..”well there wasn’t much night..but, there was a lot of morning”.

  11. CS says:

    My condolences to the family, losing a loved is very difficult, at 1 Peter 5:7 we are encouraged to “throw all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” May you find comfort in God and his word. (John 5:28,29) For more comforting scriptures please see https://www.jw.org/finder?wtlocale=E&issue=2017-07&pub=wp17&srcid=share

  12. Betsy Nelms says:

    Uncle Jack was part of my life from the time I was born since he & Carol lived only a few blocks from my parents. My mother was his older sister. So many good memories from Schenectady, from Lake George NY, from Snow Valley CO. Family meals shared, bee-keeping knowledge, inspiration for adventures such as ice-sailing, bicycling with the Trail-Tail. I remember his beautiful voice singing hymns in church.

  13. Ann Bradfield Voshall says:

    Special family…love to all of you.

  14. John and Denise Kelly says:

    We send our love and support to the entire family. What an amazing list of accomplishments and contributions he made to help and educate other’s. Thank you to Victoria, her kids, and the whole family for all you have done to help our family over the past 20 year’s.
    John and Denise

  15. Dave & Larelle Whetsell says:

    Uncle Jack, a memorable person with many talents. We thank him for many services to mankind. We thank him for stories & poems that entertained and made us laugh. Thank you for the JOY even though we grieve right now. With love to family ~

  16. Dave Larelle Whetsell says:

    Dear Newkirk Family , We share the grief and joy of knowing Uncle Jack for so very many years. We loved all the time spent with family. Uncle Jack always had a story or a poem to recite. It usually left us laughing. We had a long history with he and Aunt Carolyn in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Carolina. We thank him for his many services to mankind, his good heart and we will see him again. Miss you our dear Uncle Jack. Love, Dave and Larelle

  17. Renee & Stacy walser says:

    We are very sad for your loss and we did love your parents. We have many happy memories of your whole family.

  18. Carol Lewis says:

    What a gentle and intelligent man! So filled with science. The shunts he designed saved many lives. We are thankful to had the privileged of knowing and fellowshipping with both he and Carol.