John Agee, a giant of hand surgery, passed away on Thursday, April 13, 2023. He had been ill for several months and had been in hospice care.
Texas born in 1944, John was raised in Lake Charles Louisiana by Pete and Anne Phillips. John lost his WWII veteran father while still a boy.
Encouraged by his new family, John’s engineering mind grew from RC model aircraft to orthopedic medicine at Louisiana State University and to bioengineering with the establishment of the Hand Biomechanics Lab (HBL). Along the way he served in the U.S. Air Force, trained under his hero mentors Drs. Paul Brand and Daniel Riordan, and loved and was proud of his family.
“Don’t tell me what you know. Tell me what you believe!” John loved that saying and it epitomizes his perspective on both learning and teaching. Through HBL, John researched and found solutions for carpal tunnel syndrome, joint replacement and wrist fractures. Earlier in his career his passion for scoliosis care began and continued for many years.
Outside of medicine, John most liked flying, building his airplane, boating, tinkering in his own machine shop / aircraft hangar, all things efficient, brilliant people, the wonder of God’s creation—the human body, and most of all walking his beloved canines, Oscar, Sparky, and Mutzy.
As everyone who knew John is aware, John was incredibly brilliant yet remarkably modest. He rose from a very modest beginning in Louisiana, supporting himself from a very early age, rising to the highest levels of respect amongst his peers. His inventions changed the practice of hand surgery and prompted many imitators, but no equals. He shared the wealth of his knowledge quite generously, and likewise he generously shared the wealth that came from the commercialization of his knowledge, but only on the condition that it never be acknowledged. He never wanted credit, only to help.
John enthusiastically shared his knowledge with colleagues, dispensing wise analyses of hand biomechanics that were beyond what anyone else had conceived or written. Theories and stories go on and on. Maybe the theories aren’t correct, maybe they are. But it’s a rare individual who constantly challenges themselves to solve problems so much bigger than themselves. John never stopped trying to solve Mother Nature’s anatomical mysteries.
In lieu of flowers, John’s wife and family requests that donations be made in his name to support their Fund for Pediatric Orthopaedic Hand Surgery at Shriners Children’s Northern California Hospital. No public services are planned.