Dr. John D. Bartels, an obstetrician and gynecologist who brought an estimated 5,000 babies into the world -- including the only one ever born in Veterans Affairs Medical Center -- died Saturday in his Amherst home. He was 78.
Born in Buffalo, he was a 1946 graduate of Canisius High School. At age 17, he joined the Navy for a two-year stint, serving aboard the USS New Jersey.
He went on to graduate from Canisius College in 1952 and earned his medical degree from the University of Buffalo's School of Medicine in 1956. He was a member of Alpha Omega Alpha, a medical honor society.
A board-certified OB/GYN, Dr. Bartels worked almost 40 years in private practice. That special delivery at the VA came during the Blizzard of '77.
"In the middle of the blizzard . . . my father received a call from the VA," said his daughter, Maureen Pratt. "There was a woman being transported; she was ready to deliver her baby."
The VA was the only hospital the ambulance could get to.
"We live literally behind the hospital," Mrs. Pratt continued. With the blizzard raging, "We couldn't even see the hospital. We watched him disappear into this cloud of snow."
The result was the first -- and only -- baby ever delivered at the veterans' hospital.
In addition to delivering babies, Dr. Bartels helped facilitate the adoption of many others and, in the 1970s, was involved in keeping a brain-dead pregnant woman alive for several months until other doctors were able to deliver a healthy, full-term baby.
Earlier this year, Dr. Bartels' pro-life activity received special recognition from Bishop Edward U. Kmiec of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo during the Roe v. Wade Mass.
Dr. Bartels also pioneered the practice of vaginal deliveries on patients who previously had Cesarean sections to deliver babies.
He retired in 1998.
Dr. Bartels was a past president of the Buffalo OB/GYN Society, and a past member of the Erie County Medical Society, the Medical Society of the State of New York and the American Medical Association.
He had a special interest in gynecological oncology. Dr. Bartels had served as a clinical associate professor at UB for 30 years and was on the staff at Sisters, Kenmore Mercy and Millard Fillmore Suburban hospitals, as well as Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
Additional survivors include his wife, the former Barbara Kelly; five sons, Jonathan B. and Drs. Edward K., James P., Christopher J. and Matthew F.; three brothers, Donald, Daniel and Robert; and two sisters, Marianne LaGattuta and Caroline Cave.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in Christ the King Catholic Church, 30 Lamarck Drive, Snyder.