‘Caring for women his goal’ Russell K. Laros Jr., doctor and philanthropist
Russell K. Laros Jr. joined his father’s already long-running charitable foundation in 1965, and over more than 50 years he served as trustee, chair and board member while pursuing an equally storied career in obstetric medicine.
Born here at St. Luke’s Hospital in 1936, Laros was a pioneer of high-risk obstetrics – medicine involving childbirth and women giving birth – and earned local awards for his community support and philanthropy. But more than that, say people close to him for many years, was that his drive was tempered by his engagement. He didn’t only lead; he listened, and he wanted to see things and talk with people firsthand.
“Dr. Laros was humble, caring and compassionate, with an open heart and willingness to help others,” said Ronald Donchez, senior vice president at BB&T Bank. A 25-plus year Foundation board member, Donchez said, “Whenever Dr. Laros came to Bethlehem for our meetings, he always wanted to visit nonprofits that we were looking to help with our foundation. Those visits stand out in my mind for how engaged and excited Dr. Laros always was to see how those organizations were making a difference in the community. He cared greatly and it was always noticed by all.
“Dr. Laros was and will always be a role model for me. Professionally for his work ethic, but most importantly for who he was as a person. He was very humble and treated everyone with great respect.”
Trustee George Mowrer, whose father Gordon was the mayor and also a trustee for many years, said Laros was a close friend of the family. “He was a brilliant man, yet he was a very humble, kind, and simple man, valuing his relationships with his family, friends, and colleagues.
He was very proud of his kids and grandkids. It was important to him to have his family involved in the Foundation.”
He said Laros was also a wine connoisseur and scuba diver. “My favorite memory of Dr. Laros was doing a night dive with him in Kona [Hawaii] where we hung out with manta rays. He didn’t scuba much in those days, but because I was there, he joined me. What an amazing unique experience hanging out with the manta rays and a 66-year-old.”
Professionally, Mowrer said, “He was a good leader and facilitator. He may have had his opinions, but he was always genuinely interested in what the other Trustees thought. He quietly seemed to work everyone to a healthy consensus, where we were all pleased with the decisions we made.”
Foundation Director Russell Keller Laros III lives in Hawaii as a master scuba dive instructor, says his father was a smart and caring man who whose personality made him an excellent educator.
“He was personable and enjoyed telling jokes and talking story. I learned how to interact with people from him. He was not overly outgoing, but when he was in the room people knew it. When people spoke he listened, and when he spoke people listened. The spark he provided brought the light from and to everyone around him. His personality and intellect were organic and fantastic, probably why he was such an excellent teacher,” Laros said.
“His mark on the world of obstetric is pronounced not just by is academic accomplishments but by his impact as a teacher and instructor. His students and their students and their students will continue to foster and benefit maternal and fetal medicine for decades to come.”
Laros said his father was beloved by patients, and he was often asked if he was related to the doctor who’d delivered their baby. “He sincerely loved every aspect of his career. As a youngster I asked him why obstetrics? He said he had a deep respected and appreciation women, probably because he was the youngest child with 4 older sisters. His mother was very sweet to him and his eldest sister gave birth when his was just six.
“Caring for women was his goal.”
Mowrer, thinking of the late Gordon Mowrer, said, “I love that he and my dad were close friends. They were born within weeks of each other at St. Luke’s hospital and died within eight months of each other. Despite living far away, they were close friends with each other their whole lives. Their last conversation was last February when both of these old guys said their final words to each other. So beautiful. So sad.”
Donchez concluded, “One of my favorite artists is Neil Young. He wrote a song called ‘Walk Like A Giant.’ It’s about thinking big and trying to make a difference. Whenever I hear that song I think of Dr. Laros. No doubt in my mind; he accomplished much for others during his life. His spirit will always remain strong among us.”