Dr. Caleb William Herndon

Published 8:00 pm Sunday, April 8, 2012

Caleb William Herndon, MD, PhD, age 69, died April 4, 2012, at King’s Daughters Medical Center in Brookhaven, following a hard-fought struggle with pancreatic cancer. Caleb attended Brookway and Central Churches of Christ in Brookhaven over the past 30+ years. He most recently attended Meadowbrook Church of Christ in Jackson with his wife of 43 years, Natalie Brown Herndon, Ph.D. Caleb was a faithful servant of Christ and loved Jesus. He loved his brothers and sisters in Christ. About a month ago, Caleb rededicated his life, and for a second time, he was baptized in the waters of baptism to renew his vows with God, for the forgiveness of sins.

     On Feb. 5, 1943, Caleb William Herndon was born in Lubbock, Texas, and later was raised in Abilene, Texas. Caleb has always been a hard worker, even as a young man. He lived right down the street from the Abilene Christian College on campus court drive in Abilene and worked for his dad at his auto repair shop and auto parts store, delivering parts every day after school. Caleb graduated from Abilene High School in 1961, the fifteenth in a class of 551. He was president of the Sophomore, Junior, and Senior Classes, a National Honor Society member, and a Finalist in the International Science Fair of 1961. Caleb won several college scholarships because of his academic success, but chose to attend Abilene Christian College. He graduated Abilene Christian College in 1965, with a B.S. degree-major in biology, minor in chemistry and minor in bible and was on the Dean’s Honor Roll.

     Caleb’s father, Sam Cyril Herndon, served in the Army Air Corps, as an airplane mechanic. Caleb’s mother, Dorothy Ernestine “Teeny” Cox Herndon, was a devoted housewife. Caleb said his mother always had lots of friends and was a sweet and loving person and he adored his mother. It was because of her death, at age 42, by a fast growing brain tumor, that he decided to become a doctor.

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     Caleb had a precious brother, Ted, who had Down syndrome. Ted was 10 years old when their mother died. Each time Caleb knew a family who had a special child born, he would tell them how very kind and loving his brother was. Caleb also loved his stepmother, Betty Warner Herndon, who now lives in San Diego. Betty along with Caleb’s stepsister, Diana Lewis, her husband Darryl Lewis, and Caleb’s stepbrother Ronnie Warner, raised Ted to the age of 55 years. They gave Ted a home and loved him as their own. 

     Caleb and his wife, Natalie, shared 45 years of interest in science. They met at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, followed by their study at Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans. Caleb was a devoted husband and father, and mentored his two children to follow in scientific and medical professions. His daughter, Natalie C. Herndon, Ph.D., LPC, practices as a psychologist in Salt Lake City, and his son, Caleb William “Billy” Herndon II, is a medical student at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

     Caleb graduated from the University of Mississippi Medical School, in Jackson in 1969, with a Ph.D. in physiology and biophysics, together with his wife, Natalie, who received her M.S. in physiology and biophysics at the same time. Caleb had fellowship training in biomedical engineering, and his doctoral research was a servo-analysis of the cardiovascular system. He was also author or co-author on 9 different medical publications. Caleb then graduated from Tulane Medical School, in New Orleans, with his M.D. in 1972, again together with his wife, Natalie, who received her Ph.D. in biochemistry at the same time. Caleb served his ophthalmology residency at the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital in New Orleans and Gallup, N.M., between 1973-1976 (during the Vietnam War), with emphasis on ocular trauma, surgery and external eye disease. Following his residency in 1974, Caleb was honored to have three months of intensive training in Waterville, Maine, where he was taught by Harvard University Ophthalmology professors at the Lancaster Course in Ophthalmology. 

     In 1976, the Herndons moved to Brookhaven to set up Caleb’s medical practice in ophthalmology, where they were welcomed by the local physicians and community. Caleb was a much-respected, valued, and loved husband, father and ophthalmologist. He served over 30,000 families throughout Brookhaven and Southern Mississippi over his professional career of 35 years. His talents were exceptional, providing diagnosis and treatment of complicated cases and making himself available to his patients at anytime of the day or night. He was a voracious reader and lover of knowledge, continually studying the latest research, reading textbooks, and honing his medical skills. He attended many seminars from Maine to California over his many years of practice, to deepen his understanding of the latest surgical techniques in ophthalmology. He was one of the first ophthalmologists to use single stitch as well as no stitch surgery in his cataract procedures. He was a talented surgeon and diagnostician, as many of his patients will attest. In addition to his expert knowledge of ophthalmology, he also diagnosed neurological disorders, cardiac disease and cancer, sending people to the great surgical centers of the south based on his recommendations. His colleagues knew him as a great humorist, many times keeping them “in stitches” in more ways than one, in the operating room. His beloved surgical team, medical colleagues, and fellow doctors expressed their love and respect for him, and his family, at his bedside, often in tears.

     Caleb enjoyed a wonderful relationship with this community. Caleb was devoted to serving others and was a long time member of the Brookhaven Evening Lions Club. He was awarded “Lion of The Year” by the Brookhaven Evening Lions Club in 2011 for his extraordinary service. He was also a lifetime member of the New Orleans Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

     Not only did Caleb have a love of people, but also a love of animals. Caleb adopted animals frequently, providing them with a good home and loving care. He raised Australian Shepherds, hogs, horses, donkeys, cows, cats, and at the time of his death, he even had a pet squirrel that he rescued. He was extremely soft hearted and couldn’t say “no” to a stray animal, or human being. He was known by family, friends, and strangers to help others before himself. He was a very generous man and the world was a better place because of his presence.

     Caleb is survived by his wife, Natalie Brown Herndon, Ph.D., MS, formerly of Jackson; his two children, Natalie Cox Herndon, Ph.D. of Salt Lake City, and Caleb William “Billy” Herndon, of Jackson; his stepmother, Betty Warner Herndon of San Diego; his stepsister Dianna Warner Lewis and her husband Darryl Lewis of San Diego; and stepbrother Ronnie Warner of Tucson, Ariz. Preceding him in death were his father, Sam Cyril Herndon of Tucson, Ariz.; his mother, Dorothy Ernestine “Teeny” Cox Herndon; and his brother, Ted Herndon of Tucson, AZ.

     Pallbearers will be Ben Windham, Brett Ashy, Jeremy Robbins, Landon Jordan, Walter Sills, Jim Williams, Jeffrey Michel and David Fields. Special Honorary Pallbearers will be the physicians and nurse anesthetists at King’s Daughters Medical Center.

     May God richly bless all those who have given Caleb and the Herndon family their love, support and prayers over the last year in his battle for survival, including the entire staff of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, specifically the Oncology Department, Fifth Floor staff and nurses, Drs. Puneky, Herrin, and Helling, King’s Daughters Medical Center (especially the angelic third floor medical staff), Haven Hall Nursing Home and Hospice Compassus. 

     Visitation will be held at Brookhaven Funeral Home, located on Natchez Drive, Tuesday, April 10th, from 5 until 8 pm. Services will be held at the Meadowbrook Church of Christ, in Jackson, on Wednesday, April 11, with visitation at 4:30 pm and the funeral service to follow at 5:30 pm. 

     In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the following organizations: King’s Daughters Medical Center, care of hospital administrator, Mr. Alvin Hoover, to whom we owe so much; Meadowbrook Church of Christ, care of Jerry Neil, senior minister, 4261 I-55 North, Jackson, MS 39206: or to Reverend Jerry Sullivan, minister, 322 Quitman Lane, Brookhaven, MS 39601.