In mid-November, 1995, Jon Bertschi was admitted to a hospital in Flint, MI, complaining of pain in his legs and general exhaustion. He died there 16 days later after being treated for colon cancer and deep vein thrombosis, an apparent victim of medical malpractice. Jon’s death cut short a successful professional life teaching Latin and Greek to college and secondary school students.
After graduating from Carleton, he married Alice, whom he had met during high school when they both worked at Cedar Point amusement park near Cleveland. He taught for two years at North high school, Des Moines, IA, and then enrolled in graduate school at the Ohio State University. He received an M.S. in classical languages in 1967, and completed all course requirements, except for dissertation, for a Ph.D.
For three years, Jon was head of Classical Languages at Denison University, Granville, OH until the school shuttered the department. During his final year at Denison, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and studied for a year at the American Academy in Rome, Italy.
Upon his return to the U.S., Jon taught at high schools in Greenville, OH and Midland, TX. In 1985, he accepted a position teaching Latin, Greek and English at Flint Southwestern Academy, Flint, MI, where he served until his untimely death.
Jon had a green thumb, spending numerous hours in a large garden he invariably maintained wherever the Bertschis lived. “He’d spend his entire summers out there, growing almost everything,” recalled his son, Jason. “There are vegetables that I still can’t look at, because we had so many out of his garden.”
He maintained a strong interest in classical music throughout his life, and sang tenor in several choirs, and spent ten years with the Flint Symphony Choral. He also did regular exercise, including lengthy cycling outings.
In early 1995, Jon began complaining about leg pain and shortness of breath. “When our son Jason graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in May,” Alice recalled, “Jon had trouble keeping up.” His family noticed he lacked energy for his bicycle and even for gardening that summer, but he postponed seeking medical attention.
Alice finally set up a full-day checkup with the Cleveland Clinic for the Thanksgiving recess — an appointment he was unable to honor. At the Flint hospital Nov. 13, Jon was found to have numerous blood clots, some in his legs, and doctors administered blood thinners. But he was also diagnosed with colon cancer, even though a colonoscopy had found no serious problems only 18 months earlier.
After more colon surgery, doctors neglected to resume the blood thinners. Jon continued to complain about exhaustion, and just before he was scheduled to be released from the hospital, he collapsed and died on Nov. 29, 1995. He was 53 years old. The hospital later settled a malpractice suit brought by his family.