Dr. John Graney M.D.

NEW YORK, N.Y. – John was born on Oct. 23, 1948 and grew up in South Portland and Scarborough, Maine. He was the only child of John Francis Graney and Mabel Robinson Graney who everyone knew as “Specs and Belle.” After WW II, Specs with the help of Belle’s father George Robinson, moved a Supply Building from Fort Williams to 39 Vesper Street on Higgins Beach where they converted it to a cottage. With the addition of a long screened porch it became a favorite family gathering place for the Robinson-Graney clan. John spent summer vacations at the cottage until his passing at age 73.

John had many close-knit friends and cousins who spent lots of time together at the beach and in South Portland. There were countless holiday gatherings, ski trips, clambakes, bean suppers, slide-shows, cook-outs, and long days on the beach (sun, fog, and rain) that included the Graney, Robinson, McGouldrick, and LaRou families. In his teens and early twenties John had a small sailboat moored at Centerboard Yacht Club, he became an adept and lifelong sailor. When his tiller broke by Cow Island he was able to sail to safety because he had read about tillerless boats in the Mediterranean.

John attended Brown School, Mahoney Junior and South Portland High School from which he graduated as class valedictorian in 1967. During high school he participated in a piano competition and won a trip to New York and a ticket to Carnegie Hall. He was an actor in the Cape Players, performing at Fort Williams Theatre and the Eastland Hotel Ballroom, and was a late-night classical DJ. John earned a B.A. in History from Swarthmore College where he continued to stay active in Theater and made more life long friends. One of his odd jobs in college was writing synopses for TV Guide. He drove an old Fiat Spyder in his college years and traveled with the top down in all weather, wearing a huge fur coat when necessary. At over six foot eight, it was always clear who was arriving when John turned onto your street. When the Fiat’s engine blew he bought a shop manual and rebuilt it in Belle’s garage on Scammon Street in South Portland.

After graduation John decided that he wanted to go into medicine and enrolled in the University of Montana at Missoula where he earned an M.A. in Chemistry. While there he worked in a virology lab and wrote music reviews for the Montana Kaiman. He lived in a trailer with an apple tree in the yard from which he made a pie every day of apple season. John studied for his medical boards in the summer of 1976 at the cottage on Higgins Beach. He scored in the 99th percentile on all sections and was offered a scholarship at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons from which he earned his M.D. in 1980. He did his three years of residency at Harlem Hospital and then at Beth Israel. In 1982, Dr. Graney began working as an attending physician at Betances Health Center in lower Manhattan. There, he learned Spanish, so he could communicate with his patients. He was also fluent in French, Italian, and German.

In 1986 He began his work at Beth Israel Hospital; he spent one year in the Emergency Department, then became Physician in Charge of Ambulatory Medicine. In 1996, he was promoted to Director of Medical Education, a position he held until his retirement. His colleagues wrote, “…he devoted countless hours to developing and delivering primary care curriculum to the residents both during precepting and didactic sessions. He proposed the structural model for precepting sessions at Beth Israel which is still applied today. Dr Graney’s unique approach helped to etch many foundational principles in the mind of Internal Medicine residents. Those who trained under him continue to apply his teachings.”

In addition to his work in these years, John continued to make and keep many close and caring friends; he was a beloved God Parent to four children in three families. In 1987 he moved to his apartment at 2 Fifth Avenue which had a large terrace where he loved to garden and host gatherings. John traveled around the world often visiting friends in Australia, Japan, and Europe. Two of his favorite destinations were the Glyndebourne Opera Festival and Paris. He frequently brought family, friends, and God Children on his trips. John’s encyclopedic knowledge of and enthusiasm for Art, Architecture, and History made him a wonderful travel companion.

Due to Vascular Dementia John reluctantly retired from Medicine in 2020. Over 100 of his former students wrote letters about what he meant to them as a teacher and mentor. They gave him a book of these letters at his retirement gathering at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He was very proud and grateful for this acknowledgement of his contributions to medicine through his students.

During retirement John continued with his active social and cultural life. A favorite destination was the Metropolitan Opera where he had a box for many years and treated scores of friends to a night at the Opera. With the support of his large circle of loving friends and family John was able to live independently in his homes on 5th Avenue and at Higgins Beach. In his final year, John asked several of his friends and family, “I’ve had a really good life, haven’t I?” all agreed that he had.

Although fully vaccinated and boosted, John caught Covid 19, which coupled with his dementia, caused his death on Feb. 22, 2022. Dr. John Graney is fondly remembered and deeply missed by family, friends, patients, students, and colleagues around the world.

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