Dr. John P. “Seán” Callan, 82, died August 26, 2021, surrounded by his wife and four children, after developing Covid-19 pneumonia. A native of Dublin, Ireland, Seán immigrated to the United States with his wife, Clair, in 1965 after graduating as a physician from the National University of Ireland (University College Dublin).
A man of varied interests and a wide range of skills, Seán lived in four different states, initially settling with his family in Wethersfield, Connecticut. He first worked at Connecticut Valley Hospital in the psychiatric residency program and also had a private practice in West Hartford. He later became the medical director of the psychiatric clinic at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center as well as Blue Hills Hospital, both in Hartford. In 1979, Seán was selected as the second Morris Fishbein medical journalism fellow at the Journal of the American Medical Association based in Chicago. Subsequently, Seán became a contributing editor of the Journal and medical director of Medicine Today, the AMA’s weekly news program on cable television. While in Connecticut, Seán obtained his pilot’s license and kept it current throughout his life. He spent many happy hours soaring above the neighborhood. Seán, Clair, and their family were active members of Pine Acres Swim and Tennis Club and many a summer the Callans would be found there from open to close. Seán continued to play tennis well into his 80s and always enjoyed a good competitive game.
Seán was an officer in the US Army and served as Chief of Mental Hygiene at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, for two years during the Vietnam Conflict. Subsequently, he became a flight surgeon in the US Air Force Reserve, saw active duty during Operation Desert Storm, and retired as a Colonel.
Seán and his family moved to Illinois where he remained involved with clinical medicine as medical director of Family Services Community Mental Health Center in McHenry. Seán continued in that role until he became a hospital surveyor for the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, a position he held for more than a quarter of a century. An excellent teacher, Seán was Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and Chicago Medical School. He was intrigued by all aspects of psychiatry, and especially the causes of schizophrenia. He cared deeply for his patients and made a significant difference in many of their lives.
Seán and Clair spent most of the last decade in Naples, Florida, and once again immersed themselves in their community, particularly at Wyndemere Country Club. Always an enthusiastic tennis player, Seán became a more active golfer in Florida, less because he liked it than because he loved being with Clair, an avid golfer since her teens. He also joined the Civil Air Patrol in Naples for a brief time.
Seán was a talented writer who wrote several Irish-themed books and plays exploring facets of ethical conflict. Four of his plays were produced (The Day Patient, The Day Room, The Sixteenth Man, and Hearthstone) and he authored The Physician, Your Guide to Mental Help, and Courage and Country, a biography of 19th-century Irish-American General James Shields. Seán was US correspondent for Irish Medical Times for nearly 30 years and wrote a two-part autobiography, The Road Before Me Began Behind.
Seán made fascinating friends wherever he traveled. He had a mind that loved to explore and learn different skills. An engaging and captivating storyteller, Seán had an infectious sense of humor and a smile that could light up any room.
The only son of Patrick and Bridget (Meade) Callan, Seán married Clair Mills, also a physician, in Dublin in 1964, after a courtship that started in their teens. In their six decades together, they enjoyed extensive travel, tennis, dancing, and writing. They have four children: Eoin (Geneva, Douglassville, PA), Grainne (Norm, Sunnyvale, CA), Colm (Julie, Palo Alto, CA), and Maeve (Seth, Des Moines, IA). All have survived him. Seán is also survived by grandchildren Seana, Rhylee, Kylie, Ashlyn, Hailey, Finnian, and Hunter, his sister Bernadette Deane (John, Howth, Ireland), nephews Jonathan and Richard Deane (Dublin, Ireland) and David Murray (Mikaela, Northampshire, UK), and niece Diane Murray (London, UK). His sister Anne Murray died the day after Seán in Paphos, Cyprus.
A mass will be held in Seán’s honor at St. Agnes Catholic Church, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Rd. Naples, Monday, September 6, 2021. Interment with honors will be held Tuesday, September 7, 2021 at Sarasota National Cemetery at 11:30 a.m.
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