Dr. Wallace J. Mulligan, USN / USPHS (Ret.) passed away peacefully in his sleep with family present in the early morning hours of Aug. 31, 2018. He was 82 years old.
Wally was born in Brownsville, Penn., on Oct. 19, 1935, to Robert A. “Doc” and Bernadette Wallace Mulligan. He attended grade school in Brownsville and was enrolled in St. Vincent Preparatory School in Latrobe, Penn., at age 13. He graduated from St. Vincent College in Latrobe and earned his Doctor of Medicine from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in 1961. Following medical school, he completed his internship at Cincinnati General Hospital, where he met and married Sara “Sally” Nelson in 1962. He joined the United States Navy Reserve, and after serving as a Battalion Surgeon for the United States Marine Corps in California, Wally, Sally, and their newborn son Michael returned to Cincinnati, where their daughter Rebecca was born. Dr. Mulligan completed his residency in pulmonary and internal medicine in Cincinnati and Cleveland, where he also taught at Case Western Reserve University. He was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1964. Wally opened a private medical practice in Cleveland, Ohio, and later worked in Hough-Norwood at an inner-city medical clinic in Cleveland. Dr. Mulligan also served a tour as a civilian doctor in Vietnam in 1969.
In 1973, Wally moved his family to the heart of the Dine Tribal Lands, serving as medical director of the nation’s first Native American-run health care organization at Sage Memorial Hospital in Ganado, Ariz., where Sally worked as a registered nurse. As a general practitioner, Dr. Mulligan developed a deep affinity for the Dine people and worked tirelessly to treat many medical afflictions in Navajoland until 1979, when he moved to Tucson, Ariz., and worked at Kino Hospital. A few years later, he met Alma Zapata, and began an 18-year career as a physician with the Public Health Service, Indian Health Service, where he served the Native People of Northern New Mexico. He deeply admired and thoroughly enjoyed working with the Pueblo People. He retired from IHS as a full Colonel in 2001.
Wally and Alma settled in Pecos, New Mexico, in 1983 and married in 1988. Alma worked as a certified nurse mid-wife in northern New Mexico, and Wally worked at the Indian Hospital in Santa Fe. Their children would often visit them in Pecos during the holidays and summers, enjoying Alma’s home cooking, fishing and swimming on their property on the Pecos River, picking apples and making cider, and hiking in the Pecos mountains.
Dr. Mulligan was a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a member of Mensa. He had original research published by the New England Journal of Medicine and was an accomplished author, publishing 12 books, including five books of poetry. Wally was also a prolific storyteller in the great Irish tradition, and would often regale family and friends with tales of his experiences in childhood, college, medical school and other times in his life.
Wally will be fondly remembered for his brilliant mind, unique sense of humor, carpe diem approach to life, as well as his charisma, dedication to liberal causes, and overall humanistic view of life. He would often say, “Life is to be lived, not endured,” and he lived life fully. He wanted his headstone to read:
He was born with a gift of laughter
And a sense that the world was mad
Rafael Sabatini, Scaramouche, 1921
Wally is survived by his children Michael Mulligan, Rebecca Mulligan, John Gummel (Pam), Chris Gummel (Kandie), Paul Gummel (Jeanne), Tom Gummel, Mark Gummel, Maria McMahon (Ben), Lisa D’Alessio (Anthony), Claudia Rodriguez, Patricia Sternenberg (John), and Lori Barlow (Jeff), and their many children and grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife Alma.
A public memorial service will be held on Saturday, Sept. 8, at 4:00 pm, at Montezuma Masonic Lodge, 431 Paseo de Peralta, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, behind the pink Scottish Rite Temple. Food will be served. Interment in the National Cemetery in Santa Fe will follow on Monday, Sept. 10, at 9:30 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that donations be made to The Food Depot, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Wally’s favorite charity where he often volunteered.