In Memoriam: Harry Rozmiarek, DVM, PhD

by Joan Rachlin, JD, MPH 
Photo courtesy of Harry’s son, Daniel.

It is with a profound sense of loss and deep sadness that I write to let our community know of the untimely death of Harry Rozmiarek, DVM, PhD, a cherished member of the PRIM&R Board of Directors since 1990, and a longtime leader in the wider laboratory medicine world. Harry died on June 15, 2013, in Boston. Alexander Capron, PRIM&R’s board chair, expressed what all of us are feeling, noting: “We will remember and celebrate his warmth, humor, and dedication to the welfare of humans and animals, and we will always be grateful for his wise counsel and unswerving support of PRIM&R.” 

Harry was an active and valued member of PRIM&R’s executive, finance, and certification committees, served as PRIM&R’s board treasurer and secretary, and taught at more of PRIM&R’s annual Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) Conferences than almost anyone else, all of which he did with great skill, prodigious energy, bottomless wisdom, and common sense. Just recently he was asked if he was willing to be re-nominated to the board as the end of his current term approached, and, in characteristic “Harry-fashion,” he said, “I’m more than willing to run again because I still have so much I want to do.” 
He was unfailingly helpful and collegial, and was admired, liked, and deeply respected by his PRIM&R colleagues. As former board chair Walter Straus wrote: “Within PRIM&R, Harry was both a colleague and a mentor. At board meetings, he could always be relied upon to offer his frank and well-considered thoughts, which invariably enriched our decision-making. He had a good head for finances, and provided generous mentoring to many. I am also sure that PRIM&R’s support for ethical protection in animal research would not be nearly so strong were it not for Harry’s advocacy.”  
Other reactions from members of PRIM&R’s Board of Directors—past and present—similarly bespeak his colleagues’ admiration and corresponding heartbreak, and I’d like to share a few of those comments with you:
    • “Harry was very helpful in building bridges and it was always a great treat to have time to talk with him about his life and work, particularly his years of service to several presidential pets.” – David Borasky, Jr., MPH, CIP


    • “I am honored to have known and learned so much from Harry and will remember him most fondly.” –  Susan Fish, PharmD, MPH


    • “Harry was always so kind and supportive.” – Cynthia Gomez, PhD


    • “I am truly shocked and saddened. He was an amazing man.” – Tanise Jackson, DVM, DACLAM


    • “Harry was a gentleman and a scholar, and I will miss his wisdom and humor.” – Moira Keane, MA, CIP


    • “It is so devastating to lose such a dedicated, warm, and generous human being.” Paula Knudson


    • “Harry was such a wonderful, kind, and dedicated individual. His compassion, commitment, and diplomatic ways serve as a role model for many of us. PRIMR will certainly miss Harry.” – Susan Kornetsky, MPH


    • “Harry was one of the best people I know and a very fine colleague. I mourn this loss and will miss him greatly.” – Robert Levine, MD


    • “Harry was fearless. He was a healer, a peacemaker! He revolutionized the care of animals and brought reason and order wherever he worked. He was a highly competent professional, but first and foremost he was a family man!” – Charles McCarthy, PhD 


    • “I had the fortune to work with Harry on the veterinary side on committees, boards, publications, and activities for over 30 years. He had a positive impact on many developing careers in lab animal medicine and science, and will be missed deeply. Harry’s enduring and pervasive commitment to the organizations of this field and to PRIM&R was a persistent feature of his life.” – Chris Newcomer, VMD, MS, DACLAM


    • “Harry was the ultimate gentleman and perfect colleague. I am so thankful for having had the opportunity to share time, ideas, conversations, and laughs over the past many years.” – Pearl O’Rourke, MD


    • “Harry has set a high standard for us to follow.” – Marky Pitts, CPIA


    • “Harry was such a wonderful person. I have no words to express the sadness of this tragedy.” – Ada Sue Selwitz, MA


    • “Harry was simply one of a kind.” – Barbara Stanley, PhD


  • “It was only after a few years of knowing Harry that I began to grasp the breadth of his knowledge and  professional stature. He was that modest. He managed to make significant contributions in several different professional paths, ranging from military veterinary medicine, to academic research, to enhancing the profession of veterinary medicine and finally to the broader PRIM&R constituency.” – Walter Straus, MD, MPH
There are many more testimonials, but what I’d really like to share are a few favorite snapshots of Harry’s overflowing life. He was born on a dairy farm in Wisconsin to hard-working parents who did not have an opportunity to obtain a formal education. His mother had desperately wanted to go to high school, but her father insisted that she instead stay home and learn to cook, bake, and otherwise care for a family. To demonstrate her thirst for education, she offered to walk to and from school, but her father said that would wear out her shoes, whereupon she said that she would hold them in her hands and walk to school barefooted. Her father never relented, but her drive is symbolic of the thirst for education that was instilled in Harry by his parents, which he more than quenched over his long and illustrious career.
To list Harry’s accomplishments would take hours, but even a quick look at his CV tells the tale of a man who embraced life, learning, research, teaching, a career as a laboratory animal veterinarian, organizational work for at least a dozen nonprofits, and service on a remarkable number of high level committees and commissions. Those professional achievements are only part of the story, though, as no CV can describe or measure Harry’s devotion to his family, friends, colleagues, mentees, and to the many who met him in the course of his near non-stop travel.  
By his own admission, Harry loved excitement, and the nearly endless travel opportunities life brought him provided him with enough excitement for many lifetimes. He made regular trips to China and other parts of Asia, South America, Europe, and Africa, and had, in fact, just returned from Spain prior to his passing. His passion for travel was not limited to international excursions, though. While serving as an attending veterinarian for the US Army in New York City from 1965-1967, Harry and his wife, Jane, went to 35 Broadway shows in an effort to pack in as much culture as they could before their family began expanding.
Another very unique source of excitement for Harry was his service as the Army veterinarian in charge of many presidential pets. He cared for President Lyndon B. Johnson’s dogs, Caroline Kennedy’s pony, “Macaroni,” and several deer that had been given to the Kennedy family by the President of Ireland. He was also responsible for the horses that pulled the caissons for President Harry S. Truman, General Douglas MacArthur, and President John F. Kennedy, and had a treasure trove of stories from those years.
During another Army stint, this time in Bangkok, Harry and Jane accumulated a large and beloved menagerie of animals that ranged from chicks to ducks to geese to dogs to baby otters to a one-day old black sheep; Jane nursed both the otters and sheep through their infancy. This barnyard assortment gave rise to many touching and funny stories, including the time Harry had to “introduce” one of the dogs to the gardener, lest he disturb the ducklings who were under the dog’s protection. When the Rozmiareks decamped for the United States, they painstakingly found homes for each of their animals. This, and all of Harry’s experiences, demonstrated his unwavering compassion and innate capacity for and commitment to nurturing whatever was under his care.
Harry Rozmiarek’s embrace of education, hard work, volunteerism, and his family, combine to compose a life that defies sufficient description or adequate tribute. He was someone who had a prodigious appetite for adventure, and everything Harry embraced became an adventure. There are many ways to measure a life, but living with a whole heart and with kindness and respect for all creatures is surely one of the most recognized. Harry was a pure of heart man whose thoughts, beliefs, and actions were aligned.
As Bishop Beckwaith wrote in 1885…
“Plant a thought and reap a word;
plant a word and reap an action;
plant an action and reap a habit;
plant a habit and reap a character;
plant a character and reap a destiny.”
Rest in peace, Harry. You will be missed, but our lives have been so enriched by your presence among us and we will never forget you.