Richard Weld Fletcher
14 November 1942 - 27 April 2014
To know Dick Fletcher was to know a man who lived his life under a moral code, so that whether you got him as a friend, a colleague, an associate, assistant or as a patient, you got exactly the same absolutely genuine man - the perfect gentleman.
Dick was born in England on 14 November 1942. His mother and father, Dr Malcolm and Janet Fletcher, went to the UK just before war broke out, where Malcolm was to continue his studies as a Physician. War changed their plans and Dr Fletcher spent six years as a ship's surgeon, and Mrs Fletcher as well as having two children (Richard and Margaret) worked as a District Nurse.
Returning to Australia in 1945, Dr Fletcher settled his family in Launceston where he was initially Hospital Superintendent and later started his practice as a Physician. Two more children arrived (Caroline and Helen). Dick went to Launceston Grammar and at the age of twelve went to Melbourne Grammar School.
Starting Medicine at the University of Melbourne as a resident at Trinity College, he graduated in 1967. While at Trinity he met the love of his life Jane, and they were married in 1966.
Postgraduate years were spent in Hobart and then at the Austin Hospital where Dick spent a year in the Pathology Department while studying for the RACS Primary Fellowship Examination. A further year was spent in Sydney at Prince Henry's Hospital in the Urology Unit of Professor Joe Murnaghan.
1975 saw Dick and Jane go to the UK where he worked with Martin Claridge in Canterbury. Then they went on to the USA where 1976 was spent with Professor Kaufman at UCLA. Back in Australia Dick obtained his FRACS in 1977 and then his Urological Fellowship in 1984.
In Melbourne he was an Assistant Surgeon in Urology Units at Sandringham Hospital and the Queen Victoria Medical Centre. In 1986 he was appointed Head of Unit at the Queen Vic., taking his Unit to the Monash Medical Centre when that hospital opened at about that time.
At this time Dick went into private practice with an eminent Surgeon from The Royal Melbourne Hospital. This was a great association. John Bowie Somerset was a man of great charm who loved his work and the good things of life away from work - hunting, fishing and club life in general. He was a great mentor for Dick, and the practice was passed over to him when Bowie Somerset retired.
After the move to Monash we saw attributes in Dick Fletcher that we had not appreciated, though we were all very much aware of the clinical and surgical skills of a well-respected colleague. The early years at Monash were difficult with the amalgamation with Prince Henry's Hospital, with all Units trying to establish themselves in the various specialties. Visionary that he was, Dick made the masterly stroke of moving his entire Unit to the Moorabbin Campus. There he developed links with not only the Investigative Services but also the Research Bodies at Monash, with regular meetings. He looked for and encouraged young Urologists to join his team, and worked hard to teach and train Registrars to become Urologists. The end result of this was a strong, viable Unit, which was to gain recognition for Registrar training in Urology and eventually to obtain positions for an Overseas Fellowship.
This was all great but Dick felt that he had gone as far as he could go, and in 1997 voluntarily resigned as Head of Unit and was instrumental in having Mark Frydenberg, soon to become Professor, appointed to the position.
The result of all Dick's work is perhaps best expressed in the words of Professor Frydenberg when Dick retired from practice in 2007, "Thanks to his tireless efforts, the Unit is now the largest in Australia. It has assisted many Registrars to achieve their goal of passing the College of Surgeons Fellowship Examination and becoming successful independent urologists in their own right. The Unit has achieved international reputation. To us he will always be the Father of the Urology Department of Southern Health."
There was yet another part to his vision. He built and established a suite of consulting rooms adjacent to the Moorabbin Campus, where he invited young Urologists to join him, and where, they will attest, he was very generous in helping them to establish their own practices. Dick was ever ready when asked, to advise and assist them in every way.
Dick was a fine Surgeon in every sense of the word. He was an astute diagnostician, and his judgement was at its best in the management of difficult Oncological cases, where often his courage and skill would ensure the best possible outcome. With all that, Dick had unrivalled human qualities - every patient was special, and deserved and got managed with consideration and compassion. Every patient, with the family, was his personal responsibility and deserving of his personal care from start to finish.
There was more to Richard Fletcher away from his busy life in Medicine. He was essentially a family man, and forever Jane and the children were first and foremost in his mind. Married life for Dick and Jane had its sadness - they have had two babies lost in infancy, there has been serious illness in the family, and a child with Down Syndrome. Despite this, and with the power of a great marriage, the Fletcher household has always been a great haven of happiness and love.
In 1980 Dick became involved with Bayley House for the Disabled, when Malcolm with Down Syndrome joined the Kindergarten programme. This was the start of nearly 35 years of absolute commitment to Bayley House and what it was able to achieve. He served on the committee for several years, and indeed served two terms as President. Always available to help in any way, he was notably instrumental in securing an appropriate lease from the Council to refurbish and construct more workshop facilities, at a time when the Council was considering reclaiming the land for other purposes. He also secured a satisfactory lease in Sandringham for the development of further workshops. At Bayley House he was considered one of their greatest treasures and was recognised as such.
Another of his time-consuming activities was his work for his church, All Souls Anglican Church Sandringham. There he seemed to do everything, help organize the Kindergarten Committee, weed the garden, clean the windows, cook sausages at fundraising events and do anything else that needed to be done.
It is appropriate to mention Dick the best of Club men. He loved his golf at Royal Melbourne; cards were another delight. He also had one short venture into the world of sailing. But I suspect above all in these activities he loved the companionship of his fellows and especially, at the appropriate time, over a glass of red - and indeed he was expert in making sure it was the right red.
We sadly say farewell to this very fine gentleman who never once wavered from his high moral code, who leaves behind Jane, his wonderful wife of nearly 48 years, and three children Charlie, Malcolm and Lucy, who are all very much in our thoughts and prayers.
John D. Callander