A member of the team that performed the first open heart surgery in Rhode Island
Clarence H. Soderberg Jr., M.D., 96, of East Greenwich, died peacefully Monday, May 15. Born in Providence, he was the son of the late Clarence H. Soderberg and Exilda (Picard) Soderberg. He was married to his beloved wife, the late Beverly A. (Dorman) Soderberg for 54 years.
Affectionately known by many as “Doc” or “Soda,” Clarence was a graduate of Cranston High School where he served as senior class vice president and earned varsity letters in baseball, basketball and football. Clarence was the first in his family to attend college. This made him eternally grateful to his older sister, June (Soderberg) Gifford, because the family could only afford one postsecondary education.
Clarence was admitted to Brown University in 1944. However, his education was interrupted by a call to serve his country during WWII, where he trained as a heavy weapons crewman before transferring to the Medical Corp. He also served in the armed forces in Korea.
In 1949, Clarence returned home and graduated cum laude with honors in biology from Brown. He then attended Tufts Medical School where he earned his medical degree and later completed his internship and surgical residency at the Rhode Island Hospital. In 1959 he began his private surgical practice at the Rhode Island Hospital, and by 1960 he became a board certified specialist. One of his proudest accomplishments was being part of the team that performed the first open heart surgery in Rhode Island. He would later become the chief of Rhode Island Hospital’s Second Surgical Service. Clarence also taught surgery at Brown University Medical School where he was a clinical associate professor. This position earned him the Brown University, School of Medicine Emeriti Award for “outstanding service to medical education.”
While working as a surgeon, Clarence was very active in national and international clinical research groups, authoring or co-authoring over 30 papers published in prominent surgical journals. He was chief of the Cancer and Acute Leukemia Study Group at the Rhode Island Hospital, served as the secretary and treasurer of the Rhode Island Chapter of the American College of Surgeons and on the Executive Committee of the New England Cancer Society.
After Clarence retired in 1995, he took to oil and watercolor painting and eventually became an exhibiting/artist member of the Providence Art Club. He also became an active leader in Rhode Island Freemasonry. As a proud Mason, Clarence quickly ascended to a 32nd Degree Mason, member of the Scottish Rite, The Master of St John’s Lodge No. 1 in Providence, medical director of the Palestine Temple Shriners, member of the Board of Governors at the Shriner’s Children’s Hospital and a Knight Commander of the Temple.
Clarence also liked to have fun. He enjoyed playing tennis at the Warwick Heights Tennis Club, going to the beach at The Dunes Club and going to the movies. In his retirement, he also enjoyed a Bombay Sapphire martini every evening at 6:30 pm. Socially, he always kept his family and friends entertained with his incredible stories, great jokes, singing, dancing and magic tricks. A truly remarkable man, he was even celebrated as a hero on the front page of the Providence Journal by the Rhode Island State Police and the FBI. He was praised for dodging a bullet that was fired at him through the window of his home and then thwarting an extortion plot against his family. For all his achievements in medicine and his involvement in community and philanthropic affairs, Clarence was inducted into the City of Cranston Hall of Fame in 2000.
Clarence is survived by his children Leslie Soderberg Deiss and her husband, Jeffrey; Eric A. Soderberg and his wife, Kathryn; Kurt A. Soderberg and his wife, Elizabeth; and his much-loved grandchildren Jeffrey Jr. and Caroline, Eric and Ellie, and Zachary and Gregory. He is predeceased by one sister, June (Soderberg) Gifford, of Cranston.
Calling hours will be held on Thursday, May 25, from 4 to 7 p.m. at Carpenter-Jenks Funeral Home, 659 East Greenwich Ave., West Warwick. A funeral service will be on Friday, May 26, at 11 a.m. at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 99 Peirce St., East Greenwich. Burial will be in Quidnessett Memorial Cemetery, North Kingstown.
You can leave an online condolence at the Carpenter-Jenks Funeral Home website HERE.
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