Published March 16, 2023 at 6:00 a.m. | Updated March 16, 2023 at 10:23 p.m.
Champagne Johnny took his bottles to the sky on March 7, after spending the last few months analyzing his illness through the lens of a pathologist — always realistic and forever curious. He died peacefully at home when prostate cancer finally took over.
Dr. John Mech was born on February 1, 1942, son of Frederick and Angela (Nelva Kulikowski) Mech. He grew up in Irvington, N.J., surrounded by a vibrant extended family, the source of many stories John and his brother Stan would reminisce about as they grew older.
John graduated as the valedictorian from Archbishop Walsh High School and later attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After a year, he transferred to Cornell University, where he earned his BS degree in chemistry. Following graduation from Cornell, John was accepted to the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, where he received his MD degree in 1968. He spent a yearlong internship at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle before completing his residency in pathology at the University of Vermont Medical School in 1975. Dr. John remained in Vermont for the entirety of his career, covering pathology at Copley Hospital in Morrisville, as well as stints in St. Albans and other Vermont hospitals. His work was considered at the highest level of competency by his peers. He retired from practice in 2018.
John knew something about just about everything, especially history. He liked football and was especially knowledgeable about the NFL’s earliest beginnings. As an above average guitarist in his younger years, his love of music never waned. He was profoundly interested in wine, especially French wine. In addition to reading widely, he traveled to the French wine country to see, experience (taste) and study firsthand the complex processes involved.
John’s first marriage ended in the early 1970s. Subsequently, he practiced a fervent bachelor life. His friends knew the party was about to get good when John walked into a room with a bottle of excellent champagne under each arm. One friend noted, “John was the most generous man I ever met, a great listener, fun, full of life and so willing to just be who he was.”
In 2007, John met Deb Ellis. They married in 2013, bringing together a diverse set of experiences, interests and friends. Together, they built a warm home, cooked, drank wine, grew more friends and dreamed. They enjoyed many late summer days and raucous evenings at a camp he rented for years on Starr Farm Beach in Burlington. When that chapter ended, they spent more time in Nantucket walking the beaches.
John continued an active life to the end, engaging in deep conversations with old friends and making new connections with members of his care team. He managed to cook (e.g. telling Deb how to make sauces or combine spices), act as a master mixologist titrating medications to suit his needs and creating his own version of the once ubiquitous “Brompton’s Cocktail.” John never stopped the magic. He possessed an aura of formality and properness but was never stuffy. You just felt good being around him.
He leaves many friends and family, including his wife, Deb Ellis; stepson, Kiah Ellis; brother, Stan Mech; parents-in-law Nancy and Russ Ellis; brother-in-law, David Ellis (Natalie Camus); sister-in-law Betsy Ellis-Kempner (Paul Kempner); and sister-in-law Rebecca Ellis (Mike Rossi); the Copley gang; his Lakewood neighborhood family; Cam Page and family; his "adopted daughters” Jessica and Amanda; his friend and caretaker, Zoltan Keve; and his Wednesday caretaker, Lamiae. We are especially grateful to the University of Vermont Home Health and Hospice team for the extraordinary care with which they surrounded the household.
Although a transplant from Jersey, Dr. John became a true Vermonter. A gathering in memory of John will be planned at a later date. In the meantime, keep your eyes open, and you may see that cute smile and sweet wink peek around a corner, especially at a gathering of friends. What a good egg.
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