In Memoriam

Dr. Robert Thomas Schaller, Jr.


From John HT Waldhausen, MD, Division Chief Pediatric Surgery, Fellowship Training Program Director, Seattle Children's Hospital

Dr. Robert Thomas Schaller, Jr., a long time member of the American Pediatric Surgical Association, died at Evergreen Hospice in Kirkland, WA, on December 7, 2014, at the age of 80. He died peacefully after a short illness in the presence of his family. Dr. Schaller was born on October 15, 1934, in Hamburg, NY. He attended Yale University (class of '56), where he was captain of the track team. While there he was a top class mile runner nearly breaking the 4 minute barrier when no one else had yet done so. He attended Harvard Medical School (class of '60), and moved to Seattle, WA for his surgical residency at the University of Washington. While in Seattle he became an accomplished mountain climber with numerous ascents of Rainier and many other mountains in the Cascades, Olympics and Alaska. During the 1960s while a resident at UW, he was involved in an effort by the CIA to climb some of the highest mountains in the Himalaya in order to monitor the Chinese development of nuclear weapons (described in a 2007 article in the Seattle PI,). During the course of one of those climbs he made a solo ascent of Nanda Devi at 25,643 feet the 23rd highest mountain in the world, which at the time set the American solo altitude record. He subsequently was a member and team physician of the American K2 expeditions in 1975 and 1978. The latter was the third successful team in history to summit that mountain, the second highest in the world.

Dr Schaller was a talented and prolific pediatric surgeon in Seattle, conducting thousands of surgical procedures on sick children at Seattle Children’s Hospital. He was a passionate member of the teaching faculty at the hospital and a Clinical Professor of Surgery at the University of Washington. His energy and enthusiasm for his work was infectious and he inspired many residents to seek a career in pediatric surgery.  He had a love of photography and took countless photos of both mountains and his operative cases which he used in his lectures to students, residents and fellows which now reside as a large teaching file.

Dr Schaller lived a full life, and will be missed by many. He is survived by seven children from three marriages, three grandchildren, his younger brother, Chris, and his wife, Teresa. A memorial service is being planned for April, 2015.