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Dr. Len's Cancer Blog

The American Cancer Society

Gordon Klatt, MD: We Mourn The Loss Of A True American Hero

by Dr. Len August 07, 2014

We have lost a hero. A true hero. Not one whose name would be on the tip of everyone's tongue or whose passing would be on nationwide news, but a hero nonetheless. We have lost a man who possibly had more influence on the lives of cancer patients and advances in cancer than most of us will ever realize.

Gordon (Gordy) Klatt, MD died this week. A colorectal surgeon who lived in Tacoma, Washington, Dr. Klatt died from the very disease which he did so much to eradicate. And even while ill, he contributed time and effort tirelessly to the American Cancer Society and the very volunteers-like himself-who do so much to reduce the burden and suffering from cancer for so many.

Dr. Klatt is a hero because almost 30 years ago he had an idea and he acted on it. He decided to walk around a track for 24 hours to raise money for cancer care and cancer research. He was the founder and inspiration of the American Cancer Society's signature "Relay For Life," which has spread not only throughout the United States but now is found throughout the world.

If you ever wake up one day and say, "I have an idea," then become discouraged as you try to enable your dream, please don't ever forget Dr. Klatt. He had an idea, and his idea enabled the Society to raise the funds needed to meet cancer head on through research, education, advocacy, and service. That money has done more to support cancer patients and their families, advance cancer research and treatment, and improve the quality of life of cancer patients than you can ever imagine.

Give a moment of thought to what it is like to have an idea, move it forward, see it succeed and grow to proportions no one can even dream of. Think about having an idea that has endured to make a difference in so many lives in so many places. Imagine having an idea that leads to a worldwide movement that is preventing cancer and impacting people with cancer wherever they may be, in ways that could only be possible because of the organizations that have embraced Gordy Klatt's vision and purpose in life.

Few of us ever have that opportunity, although many of us have the dream. The thousands of volunteers and staff colleagues who have worked on Relay teams year after year know the spirit of Dr. Klatt. Thousands have heard the story, heard the person, felt the inspiration, and enthusiastically embraced the mission and the goal.

Dr. Klatt's passing is painful for all of us who share his vision and share his dream. Our thoughts, hearts, and prayers are with his family and many friends at this moment of their loss. We hope there will be peace in his immense legacy, knowing that his impact will be enduring. He was a man who gave so much to so many in ways they will never know.

Gordy Klatt's death is a loss but his presence was and remains a blessing that will be with us forever.



Dr. Klatt's family has requested that donations in his memory be made to the "Gordy Klatt Pay-If Research Endowment Fund".


About Dr. Len

Dr. Len

J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, MACP - Dr. Lichtenfeld is Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the national office of the American Cancer Society.