Gangadhar Laxman Maddiwar, beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and community servant, was born on January 21, 1936, and passed away with family by his side on May 24, 2023, at the age of 87.
Dr. Gan Maddiwar was born and educated in Maharashtra, India, where he attended medical school. He initially moved to the United States in early 1963 and completed his surgical residency at Wyckoff Heights Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, in 1968. During this time, in late 1966, he went back to India to get married, winning Surekha Ainapure over with his charm and wonderful singing voice. The couple spent the next ten years in Queens where they welcomed three children while Gan continued to practice in New York. Then, in 1977, he moved the family to Eastern Kentucky to provide much needed care as the sole surgeon at Our Lady of the Way Hospital where he served until his retirement in 1998. Even while practicing surgery, Gan always sought additional ways to provide for others. He helped family and friends financially, sponsored multiple family members to resettle in the US, and founded Chandrabhaga L. Maddiwar Primary School, an elementary school in his hometown of Aheri, Maharashtra, India, named for his birth mother, whom he lost as an infant.
Gan felt such great love and gratitude for his adopted country that he enlisted in the US Army Reserves in 1987. During the Gulf War, in 1991, he was called to serve in Operation Desert Storm with the 47th Field Hospital. He remained in the Reserves until 1997 and attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Following retirement from his surgical practice and the US Army Reserves, Gan had more time to play the roles of husband and father in addition to becoming a grandfather. He and Surekha cared for their first three grandchildren weekly for years while still finding time for adventure. Together, they saw well over 30 countries, including an epic year in 2018 when they traveled to both Poles. While on the ship to Antarctica, Gan took a polar plunge with fellow travelers to experience the frigid waters at the ripe young age of 82. At home, Gan delighted in spending one-on-one time with his two grown sons while enjoying a burger and a beer over stories of his youth and his experiences in Greenwich Village in the early ‘60s. Gan was definitely a smooth, cool cat even if his sons didn’t want to admit it. But make no mistake! It was a poorly-kept secret that the sparkle in his eye was for his daughter, his eldest child who not only followed his footsteps into the medical profession but also stayed close to home for college, medical school, residency, and her professional career. To top that off, she also was the first to provide him with highly sought-after grandchildren.
Free time and travel with his wife were not enough for Gan; he was insistent on continuing to find ways to serve humanity. He taught classes at the University of Pikeville Medical School, and he wrote an English language memoir entitled Eternal Happiness in 2011 after having published two books in his native language of Marathi: Kashyasathi-Kunasathi (translates to “For What? For Whom?”), a memoir of his experiences during the Gulf War, and Swant-Sukay (translates to “For One’s Own Happiness”), a collection of stories about being a volunteer surgeon. He was especially proud of being able to utilize his specialized skills by performing pro bono surgery and providing other medical services in well over 20 countries around the world through a variety of non-profit organizations, including Remote Area Medical, Doctors Without Borders, Rotary International, and Vivekananda Kendra, over the course of nearly 20 years. Surekha accompanied Gan on many of these medical mission trips where she often served as a triage team member to determine how best to route patients. Gan’s medical prowess even extended to our four-legged friends when, in the absence of any veterinarians, he was asked to help several animals at a remote animal shelter in India during one of his medical trips. He performed a stomach procedure on a dog and ankle surgery on a leopard.
In 2021, Gan and Surekha became aware of the growing need in Eastern Kentucky to care for people experiencing homelessness. Upon learning that the Floyd County Homeless Shelter was at risk of closing, they stepped in to purchase and donate the building outright to ensure that the future of the shelter would never be in jeopardy. The facility was subsequently re-named Maddiwar House of Hope.
We will all cherish his infectious smile, the twinkle in his eyes, the sound of his song, his appetite for adventure, and his giving spirit.