Dr. Edward A. Dainko Jr., 87, loving husband to Ellie, father to nine children and grandfather to 25 children, passed away peacefully surrounded by family on Dec. 21, at home in Dana Point, Calif. Ed was born on Feb. 8, 1933, in Joliet, Ill., the first son of Dr. Edward A. Dainko Sr. and Marie Dainko (nee Hucek).
Ed grew up in Joliet. An industrious lad, he had many hobbies as a youth. He enjoyed all sports but was especially skilled at baseball, basketball and boxing. He raised homing pigeons and enjoyed hunting with his father and uncles. He graduated from Joliet Catholic High.
Inspired by his physician uncle Alfred, Ed enrolled at the University of Illinois pre-med program offered on the campus of Loyola University in Chicago. Ed graduated from the University of Illinois medical school in 1957 and soon accepted an internship at San Bernardino County Charity Hospital.
At a party during his medical school days Ed fell in love at first sight with Mary Eleanor “Ellie” Hallagan. On the day he met her, he remarked to his friends that he was going to marry her. They married shortly after his graduation.
Together, they raised nine children. They were devoted to each other and joyfully celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary three years ago.
Ed and Ellie traveled often, a shared passion between them. They delighted in trips that included their children and grandchildren, including five international cruises.
Ed also was an avid Notre Dame fan and attended some of Notre Dame’s greatest football games.
After two years of naval service aboard the USS Henrico. Ed served a residency at Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital in Chicago. Following his residency, Ed accepted a fellowship to study surgery at the London Hospital Medical College in England.
Ed’s passion was surgery and what a surgeon he became. Ed eventually became chief of surgery at the San Bernardino County Medical Center and later St. Bernardine’s Medical Center.
One of his proudest achievements was the success of the transplant program in San Bernardino. He pioneered transplant surgery in 1970, establishing the Renal Transplant Program at San Bernardino County Medical Center and becoming the first surgeon to perform a kidney transplant in the county that year.
That same year, he performed a kidney transplant on a 23 year-old college student. The patient went on to live another 47 years with the kidney. He is believed to be the second longest survivor of a non-relative cadaver kidney transplant in medical history.
In 1983, the program, now at St Bernardine’s Medical Center, was recognized as having the highest three-year survival/success rate of all 23 transplant programs in California and third highest in the nation.
Ed felt that in addition to being the finest surgeon he could be, he was called to share his knowledge and experience with fellow doctors. His many professional appointments include clinical instructor of surgery at the University of Illinois, lecture of surgery at London Hospital and clinical associate professor of surgery at UCLA.
He was passionate about teaching. Many of his students became leaders in the field of surgery including Dr. Ron Busuttil, who established the largest liver transplant program in the country at UCLA.
Ed also served as chief of staff at San Bernardino Community Hospital.
He was extremely active in medical societies, including serving as a past president of the Southern California chapter of the American College of Surgeon, the Tri-County Surgical Society, the California Society of Transplant Surgeons (charter member), the Western Association of Transplant Surgeons, the Southern Califfornia Transplant Society, the former chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee on General Surgery for the California Medical Association. He is a member of the Western College of Surgeons, the Pacific Coast Surgical Association and American Society of Transplant Surgeons.
He authored more than 30 papers and in 1963 received the Fremont A. Chandler Award for his original research on the pancreas.
But Ed wasn’t always so serious. If you want proof, simply YouTube “Dainko Family Feud."
While Ed’s family and profession were of paramount importance, he valued his faith in God above all. He believed he was simply a vessel for doing the Lord’s work. He began each day reciting a prayer for God’s help in guiding his hands as he operated. He attended Mass daily. Ed was a member of Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church in San Bernardino and, following his retirement in 2007, moved to Dana Point to become a member of St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church.
He was a fourth-degree member of the Knights of Columbus, Fr. Louis F. Knight Council 12451 and Santiago de Compostela Assembly 2305. He also was a devoted member of the Serra Club of the San Bernardino and Orange diocese, which fostered vocations to the priesthood and religious life. He served as past president of the Serra Club of South Orange County in 2014.
Ed is preceded in death by his beloved Ellie. He is also preceded in death by his three sisters, Julia, Marilyn and Adrienne and one brother, Rainer. He is survived by their nine children, Edward III (Terri), James, Kathleen (James) Young, Robert, Thomas, Michael (Carla), Patricia (Douglas) Green, John Paul (Suzanne) and Matthew (Tawnee); his sisters-in-law, Terri Dainko, Sharon O’Keefe and Kathleen Wilson; brothers-in-law, Valcour Miller and Bill Wilson; 25 grandchildren, Edward IV, Andrew, Michael, Eleanor, Beth, Caroline, James, Joseph, Thomas, Alexandria, Kyle, Kaylyn, Leah, William, Mary Clare, Gabriel, Patrick, Julia, Blaise, David, Mia, Sean, Tyler, Cali and Olivia, whom he called “my little girl”; 34 nieces and nephews; and other relatives and close friends.
In his final days, it was beautiful to see the profession he loved and served so faithfully, provide such kind and compassionate care to him and his family, his family stated.
“We wish to thank the outstanding staff at Providence Mission Hospital and MemorialCare Saddleback Hospice for their skill, concern and dedication. We are thankful for the wonderful service provided by his many comfort care providers. Lastly, we are forever grateful for the loving care of Ed’s personal physician, Dr. Ryland Melford,” the Dainko family stated.
Visitation was held on Monday, Dec. 28, at O’Connor Mortuary, Laguna Hills. The Rite of Christian Burial Mass was held at St. Edward Catholic Church in Dana Point on Tuesday, Dec. 29.
Ed will be interred with his wife at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Orange. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be sent to the Mary Eleanor and Edward Dainko Scholarship Fund at Aquinas High School, 2772 Sterling Ave., San Bernardino, CA 92404, The National Kidney Foundation, or a favorite charity of your choosing.