INDIANAPOLIS — Donald Warren Tharp, M.D., 87, of Indianapolis passed away on Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, at Community Hospital North in Indianapolis.
He was born on Sept. 13, 1926, a 3.7 pound twin to Frederick Estle and Lelia Mae (Jett) Tharp in Johnson County, Ind., near the Brown County line -- or “on the Brown edge of Johnson County,” as he loved to say. His paternal ancestor, Morgan Pitcher, built a log cabin there in 1839 and was one of the area’s first settlers.
Dr. Tharp graduated from Nineveh High School, where the majority of the classroom scenes were filmed for the movie “Hoosiers.” He earned his B.A. from Franklin College in 1946 aided by an Ella Pitcher Berry Scholarship and graduated from Indiana University School of Medicine in 1950. There, he met nursing student Joanne Carolyn Hunt, the love of his life to whom he was married for nearly 64 years. They married on Nov. 25, 1949.
Serving with his beloved older brother Harold, a surgery resident, he completed his internship at Methodist Hospital in 1951. He enlisted in the United States Public Health Service from 1951-1961 caring for Coast Guardsmen and Merchant Marines in Chicago, Detroit, Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and New Orleans. While in North Carolina, he was the only physician for 3 1/2 years on the isolated Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands. In New Orleans, he completed his residency training in ophthalmology (eye surgery) and otorhinolaryngology (ear, nose and throat surgery) and was among the last of physicians trained in both disciplines in the United States. He received his board certification in Ophthalmology on Nov. 1, 1962.
Dr. Tharp practiced in Muncie, Ind., from 1961-1977 before moving his practice to Winchester, Ind., where he oversaw operations of his Randolph County farms. He retired from medicine in 1993. He enjoyed wilderness backpacking and hiked extensively throughout his life with family and friends, traveling to Yosemite and the Sierras, the Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains, and points along the Appalachian Trail. Most of all, he loved spending time with his family.