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Friends, family, remember Late doctor
Conroe Native found in Montana River
once voted "best athlete of the year"

By Meagan Ellsworth, Staff Writer

A Houston doctor found in a Montana River has been identified as 1963 Conroe High School valedictorian and quarterback, Dr. Whitson “Pete” Beazley Etheridge II.

“Pete was kind of the hero of our class,” Retired Conroe ISD teacher and mentor, Sam Cable said “Everybody loved Pete.”
Cable believes the longtime friend of their close-knit class is one of the most successful people to graduate from Conroe High School and that he deserves a place in the downtown Conroe mural among other great alumni for his career accomplishments.

The once voted “best athlete of the year,” who wore bean bag weights on his feet and ran the bleachers, remained active throughout his life. Even as a surgeon, his younger sister Jo Carol Oberman said he would take the stairs instead of the elevator and he had another mode of transportation as a young surgeon in Ft. Collins, Colorado.

“He would cross country ski to and from the hospital to get to work,” Oberman said.

She reflected on her brother’s memory at the Pacific Yard House, the former Sparkle Ice House, that the two would eat popsicles at while cooling off next to the railroad tracks where he once took a train ride with Cable to the Houston rodeo.

Etheridge, 74, and his family have deep roots in Conroe’s history and development. His grandfather, Obie Etheridge owned The Courier newspaper and was a vital part of early Conroe. His father, Whitson Etheridge, was also a Conroe icon.

But perhaps Etheridge left his most notable mark as a nephrologist who helped pioneer life-saving work, mentored surgeons, and dedicated his life to his patients, including his old hometown friend and late Conroe City Councilman J. Ross Martin.

After he graduated from Conroe High School, he served in the Navy Reserves, obtained degrees from the University of Texas and Baylor College of Medicine. He served his internship, residency and fellowships at Baylor College of Medicine, University of Utah, and Breckenridge Hospital. His education and career ultimately led to affiliations with nearly 20 Houston area hospitals and numerous accomplishments.
“In 1986, Etheridge was an integral part of the team at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital that started their kidney transplant program, a unique collaboration between UT-Houston Medical School and the Baylor College of Medicine,” stated Dr. Sarah Shearer with Renal Specialists of Houston, which Etheridge joined as the second member in 1980.

Until his death, Etheridge served as the Medical Director of St. Luke’s Kidney Transplant Program and subsequently Clinical Director of Transplant Services, and the Chair of the Medical Review Board of St. Luke’s Heart Transplant Program.

As a Clinical Associate Professor of Baylor College of Medicine, Etheridge received numerous teaching awards, including the Master Clinician of the Year award at St. Luke’s Hospital in 2011. Over the years, Dr. Etheridge worked as Medical Director of multiple Fresenius dialysis clinics, focusing on the care of patients in communities far removed from Houston’s Medical Center, Shearer said.

“He was dedicated to educating the next generation of doctors,” Shearer stated.

The 1963 Conroe High School Valedictorian and Quarterback, Dr. Whitson “Pete” Beazley Etheridge II, has been identified as a Houston doctor found in a Montana River earlier this month

When he wasn’t at work, the avid fly fisher and his family had a second home with some acreage along the Shields River near Livingston in Southern Montana, where Etheridge went missing on July 10 after running, playing golf, and eating dinner with guests earlier in the day. A search was reportedly conducted with dogs and helicopters equipped with infrared technology. He was found in the river the next day.

Oberman said the final report confirmed an accidental drowning, possibly due to fainting and dehydration, while checking a fishing spot where his reader glasses were found nearby.

Family, friends, and numerous medical professionals described Etheridge fondly as a brilliant, dedicated doctor, a man of few words with a quick-wit and a “heart of gold,” a product of the Texas Public School System, and a “giant among legends.” His medical colleagues shared in an audio recording of the the medical center’s memorial service that it’s hard for them to believe Etheridge is not just on vacation anymore.

“Not only was he a nephrologist, he was a cardiologist, an immunologist, a pathologist, but overall unbelievable doctor,” said Baylor St. Luke’s Kidney Transplant Surgical Director Christine O'Mahony, MD during the memorial service. “…It is going to take many people to do the million jobs that Pete has done flawlessly and effortlessly over the past 30 years.”

Etheridge had three sisters, a wife, a son, a daughter, and five grandchildren. The family is planning to host an event from 4-6 p.m. in Aug. 21 at Martin’s Hall in downtown Conroe for friends to share memories.


The Courier July 29, 2019


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