Ernie Pellegrino Jr., MD, gave up his spirit on November 25, 2015, after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Born January 30, 1939, to Italian immigrant parents Ernie Pellegrino, Sr. and Caterina DeCristofero, Ernie was raised in Kenosha, WI, with brothers Ron Pellegrino, Robert Pellegrino, Richard Pellegrino (deceased) and sisters Rita Ritacca and Rosemary DeLano. Ernie graduated from Kenosha Bradford H.S. in 1957, as an accomplished student, musician (trumpet player and swing band director) and athlete (football and track). Ernie was accepted to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical School after three-years of undergraduate studies, received his MD in 1964, and in the same year wed the love of his life, Barbara Ann Werth, a physical therapist and graduate of UW-Madison, with whom he celebrated 51 years of marriage and raised dearly loved children Mark Pellegrino, Ellen Pellegrino Braatz and Todd Pellegrino.
After medical school, Ernie completed an internship at Washington, D.C. General Hospital before returning to Madison for his residency in Orthopaedic Surgery at UW Hospital and practicing orthopaedic surgery for two years as a Major in the U.S. Air Force at Sheppard Airforce Base in Wichita Falls, TX. Ernie returned again to Madison where he joined the East Madison Clinic and later the Dean Clinic as a practicing orthopaedic surgeon and served as Chief of Staff at St. Mary's Medical Center and as a Clinical Associate Professor of the Department of Surgery at the UW-Madison Medical School where he trained several generations of residents in orthopaedic surgery.
In addition to his career as a supremely talented and highly respected surgeon, Ernie had many other passions and pursuits. He was a gardener extraordinaire, master fisherman, hunter, actor with the Madison Children's Theatre (Sir John in Cantebury Tales and Dr. Livesey in Treasure Island), singer in a barbershop quartet, volunteer team doctor for Madison LaFollette H.S. football and Madison West H.S. hockey teams, passionate Badger fan, golfer, Brittany Spaniel owner, northwoods (Manitowish Waters, WI) enthusiast, dedicated Salvation Army bell ringer, serial author of letters to the editor of Madison's newspapers, and self-published autobiographer of A Doctor's Path: Lessons I've Learned on My Journey through Practicing Medicine.
Post retirement, Ernie and Barbara made trips to Mwanza, Tanzania in 1998 and 2000 with Healthcare Workers Overseas, where he helped train a general surgeon in orthopeadic surgery and provided direct patient care at Bugando Medical Centre while she treated children with neurologic disabilities as a physical therapist. In 2001, wanting to make a difference in his own community, Ernie founded, served as a Board Member of, and volunteered as an orthopaedic surgery consultant at the Benevolent Specialist Project (BSP), a free clinic providing specialty care to uninsured and underinsured patients in the Madison area and staffed primarily by retired volunteer specialists. Ernie and Barbara wintered at Waterlefe Golf & River Club in Bradenton, FL.
As Ernie waged his personal battle with cancer, he reapplied his time and energies to his love of music, and practiced and performed as a tenor with the Singing Men of Central Wisconsin, the choir from the Center for Building Hope in Lakewood Ranch, FL, and the choir from First Presbyterian Church of Waunakee. In July 2014, he traveled and sang with the church choir at cathedrals in Austria and Germany. In addition, Ernie became a prolific watercolorist and painter, producing beautiful images that he shared with admiring family and friends. He continued singing and painting until his final days.
Ernie valued community service and sharing his many talents. He was driven to serve and dedicated himself to medicine as a result of his own mother having succumbed to cancer while he was still in high school. He led a deeply purposeful and spiritual life as a healer, husband, father, brother, friend, writer, singer, artist, visionary, and character who inspired others to embrace life to the fullest by way of his larger than life example.
In addition to his wife Barbara Pellegrino and children Mark Pellegrino, Ellen Braatz and Todd Pellegrino, Ernie is survived by beloved daughter-in-law Carrie Dolan and son-in-law Steve Braatz, precious grandchildren Cavan and Quinn Pellegrino and Gabriella, Ethan and Bennett Braatz, cherished siblings Rita Ritacca, Ron Pellegrino, Rosemary DeLano and Robert Pellegrino, and many adored nieces and nephews. Ernie's family wishes to say a special thanks to Agrace HospiceCare and, in particular, to all of Ernie's friends and extended family members whose presence, love and affection sustained him and Barbara through his protracted and difficult illness.
Visitation will be from 4- 7:00 PM at the Cress Center, 6021 University Avenue, Madison on Friday, December 4, 2015. Visitation will continue from 10-11:30 AM on Saturday, December 5, 2015 at St. Bernard Catholic Church, 2015 Parmenter St., Middleton with a Memorial Mass of Christian Burial to follow at 11:30 AM. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Agrace HospiceCare, 5395 E. Cheryl Pkwy., Madison, WI 53711 and BSP Free Clinic, 2711 Allen Blvd., Middleton, WI 53562.