Milestones, Obituaries


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Dr. M.H. (Hu) Sangree Jr.

WATERBURY, Conn. – Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2019, Hu Sangree died January 20. A memorial service will be scheduled in Greensboro next summer.

Named for his father, the Reverend Milton Huyett Sangree, living somewhat in the shadow of an older brother who also became a minister, and bearing a mouthful of a name, it was perhaps inevitable that the younger son would live a life of purpose, but do so on his own terms. Known to professional colleagues and patients as Dr. Sangree, Milton Huyett Sangree Jr. insisted that friends, new acquaintances and family members (including children and grandchildren) call him “Hu”.

Practicing as a gastroenterologist while the field was making advances in diagnostic devices and methods, Hu did take part in some of the important underlying research. But treating patients in the clinic was much more important to him. He never talked about his patients, but they talked about him. There were numerous occasions when family members would be button-holed by a friend who wanted to tell them what Dr. Sangree had done for them.

Hu was a lifelong enthusiastic tennis player. He played year-round, indoors and out: rain, shine, snow and dwindling light. His tennis equipment included a squeegee, a rake, and a snow shovel. In his tennis bag he had a fold-out ruler to check the height of the net, a rule book to settle any on-court disputes, and extra racquets in case someone didn’t have one.

It seemed that the game of tennis touched the cornerstones of his character. On the one hand there were clear rules and a somewhat formal culture of the sport. On the other hand, it was a game that anyone could play and encouraged mixing of people of different ages and walks of life.

For Hu, mixed doubles was the epitome of the game and could mean: men and women, young and old, skilled and not so-skilled. Every summer he kept an active list of what tennis players or should-be players were in Greensboro and could organize a match with a few phone calls.

Hu was born August 7, 1933, in Barre, Vt., on his mother’s summer vacation. He was proud of his Vermont birth certificate and returned almost every summer to the headwaters where he was spawned at Caspian Lake in Greensboro. Summers were spent there with children, grandchildren, a cat or two, and numerous water-loving golden retrievers.

Hu grew up in Kenmore, N.Y., and graduated from Haverford College in 1955. He then enrolled at Cornell University Medical College, receiving his M.D. degree in 1959. He completed an internship and residency in internal medicine at Bellevue Hospital and Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, followed by a fellowship in gastroenterology at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in 1962. He served during the Vietnam War in the Navy as a gastroenterologist at Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va.

After leaving the Navy, Hu became a clinical professor of gastroenterology at Yale New Haven Hospital and, when Yale established a new program in gastroenterology at Waterbury Hospital, he moved to Watertown to become chief of gastroenterology there, a position he held until 1989 when he joined Drs. Joel Garsten and Albert Marano in private practice. He retired in 2000 and never looked back. He did not miss the business that medicine had become.

Hu leaves his wife of 67 years, Gail A. Sangree of Watertown and four children and their partners: Carl H. Sangree (Sarah Smith) of Summit, N.J.; Suzanne Sangree (Bruce Strong) of Baltimore, Md.; Michael H. Sangree (Ruth Romano) of Washington, Mass.; Sarah Sangree Gamble (Ron Beliveau) of Granby, Conn.; as well as 12 grandchildren: Benjamin, William, Charles, and Annabel Sangree; Nathanial Colbert-Sangree and Colby Sangree; Elizabeth Sangree and her husband Alex Noel, Carl Sangree, and Eleanor Sangree; and Seth, Brielle, and Shelby Gamble. Additionally, he is survived by his sister Jenny of Craftsbury Common, Vt.

Hu also leaves an open slot on the court for anyone who wants to play.

Memorial donations may be made to Doctors Without Borders, 40 Rector Street, 16th floor, NY, NY 10006.

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