Captain James (Jim) Albert Niffenegger MD passed away peacefully in Sarasota, Florida at the age of 88 on October 28, 2022, surrounded by his family.
Dr. Niffenegger lived a life of love and service. A brilliant ophthalmologist and surgeon with almost encyclopedic knowledge, he was a pillar of his medical community in Canton, Ohio where he practiced for more than 40 years and where he was known for his skills, his good humor, his kindness and his generosity.
Born in South Haven, Jim helped his father with their grocery store, Niffenegger Brothers Handy Market. Early in his freshman year at Northwestern University, he met his future wife, Joyce Ann Urbach, on a blind date. He graduated in 4 years with honors and a master’s degree in chemistry. Joyce and Jim married in Canton, Ohio after graduation and Jim worked as a teamster in Chicago that summer before starting medical school at Northwestern and Joyce began her job as a teacher at primary. In medical school, Jim and his classmates attended lectures during the day, and at night they worked in low-income communities helping pregnant women give birth.
“Despite the difficult conditions, not a single baby or mother was lost during our participation in the program,” he says proudly. After being elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society and graduating from medical school, Jim completed his internship at Northwestern’s Cook County Hospital and continued his training in aerospace medicine as a field surgeon. the air at Brooks Air Force Base.
Primarily based at Carswell AFB in Fort Worth, Texas, Jim helped study and test the escape pod developed to protect the flyers of Strategic Air Command’s B-58 Hustler supersonic bomber, allowing the crew to s eject safely at twice the speed of sound and from as high as 70,000 feet. Jim has further served his country by assessing the psychological and physical health of pilots and crew aboard B-52 Stratofortress bombers during multi-day flights requiring aerial refueling as part of the United States nuclear deterrent from the cold War.
With typical humility, Jim downplayed danger and heroism as he told Air Force stories to his children and grandchildren who listened with rapt attention. It wasn’t until his recent illness that Jim opened up about the radiation exposures and revealed that he injured his leg while ejecting from a trainer plane – which technically backed up his claim to Joyce that he “never jumped out of a plane”. Enjoying a brief leave for an interview at Harvard with Dr. David G. Cogan and faculty at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston, Captain Niffenegger was delighted to accept Dr. Cogan’s offer to join the residency program. in ophthalmology after approving it with a phone call to Joyce. Jim then had to respectfully decline an invitation to stay in sickbay for several more days and was unable to reveal that at the time he was due to return to Carswell the next day to examine a crew of B- 58 after a record supersonic flight.
After completing his military service and training at Harvard, Dr. Niffenegger then served his community in Canton, Ohio, where he taught medical students as part of NEOUCOM’s faculty and served as Chairman of Staff. Aultman Hospital Medical, President of the Stark County Medical Society and chaired part of the United Way campaign. Jim was proud to have his son John join his ophthalmology group as a retina specialist during his last 4 years of practice.
After retiring and saying goodbye to Harriet and the many cherished employees and colleagues of the Canton Eye Center / Eye Centers of Ohio, Jim focused on being with his beloved wife Joyce and enjoying the sunsets and whales from their Maui home not far from the home of Joyce’s parents, Mildred Dole Urbach and Harley John Urbach. After living part-time in Potomac, Maryland to be with his daughter and family, Jim and Joyce later moved from Maui to Sarasota, Florida to be closer to his son and family while enjoying heat and sun.
Witty and warm to the end, Jim was always supportive, kind and loving. In addition to his father John and mother Hildegard, Jim was predeceased by his brothers Jack and Phillip.
He is survived by his devoted wife Joyce; his daughter Catherine Ann Roca MD; son-in-law Rigoberto Amado Roca MD; grandchildren Alexander James Roca and Lydia Marie Roca; and survived by his son John Harley Niffenegger, MD; daughter-in-law Arysol Niffenegger MD; grandchildren James Salvador Niffenegger (who is named after Jim) and Christina Murphy and her husband Nathan.
Captain James Albert Niffenegger MD will be honored with a military funeral at Sarasota National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family requests a donation to the American Cancer Society.
Arrangements by Toale Brothers Funeral Homes, Sarasota, Florida.
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