PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A memorial service for Dr. Thomas Starzl, the father of organ transplantation, was held Saturday afternoon.

Dr. Starzl died at his Pittsburgh home on Saturday, March 4 at age 90.

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He performed the first successful liver transplant in 1967, and he later conducted thousands more at the Starzl Transplantation Institute, renamed in his honor.

Transplantation surgeon Dr. John Fung felt a sense of shock and awe when he lost his mentor.

“Yes, Dr. Starzl was awesome,” he said. “No one had accomplished more, contributed more, sacrificed more for his profession. No one was more dedicated than Dr. Starzl.”

Former University of Pittsburgh chancellor Mark Nordenberg was not surprised when Dr. Starzl developed an anti-organ rejection drug.

“All it took was a look in his determined eyes, and I was convinced that this man was going to meet and defeat any challenges that came his way,” Nordenberg said.

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“We were fortunate to have him in our family,” relative Bob Starzl said, “but he had created a far bigger family of medical professionals, patients and their families.”

Bob Starzl was one of several people who talked about their world famous relative, who not only saved lives, but influenced other doctors.

“Go to Paris, go to Denver, go to New Delhi,” Tim Starzl, Dr. Starzl’s son, said. “You will always find somebody who has been touched by Dr. Starzl’s process.”

Joy Starzl thanked all the physicians for continuing her husband’s work. She read an excerpt from a poem in his memory.

“It broke our hearts to lose you, but you didn’t go alone,” she read, “for part of us went with you, the day God called you home.”

The memorial service was held on what would have been Dr. Starzl’s 91st birthday, and those in attendance sang “Happy Birthday.”

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