Deceased April 2, 2023
Michael George Vesselago died at home, with dignity and grace, on April 2, 2023, six months after being diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma. He was 83 years old. Son of the late George Michael Vesselago and Sophie Nicholas Zvegintzov and predeceased by his sister, Sophie (Schroeder), he is survived by his wife and dearest friend, Barbara (Turner-Vesselago).
Born in Philadelphia, Michael attended Chestnut Hill Academy, Groton School and Amherst College. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, he also took a master’s in public health from the University of Washington. Groton’s motto, “For whom to serve is perfect freedom,” describes Michael exactly.
Son of Russian aristocrats who barely survived the 1917 Revolution, he became the primary caretaker for his mother in childhood. That ongoing desire to be of service fueled his lifelong study of both medicine and a series of other modalities (homeopathy, naturopathy, meditation, psychotherapy) that he felt would further help his patients. And he would run, not walk, to the scene of any nearby accident. (Barbara recalls him phoning from a small car trapped in the wheel well of a giant transport vehicle on the Don Valley Parkway: “The mother is injured and everyone’s cold and frightened. I’m staying until the jaws of life get here.” He had somehow managed to climb through the car window into the backseat.)
He loved his years as chief medical officer with the Department of Indian Health in Nevada and Arizona, post-graduation, after which he opened a solo practice in internal medicine in Seattle and helped to establish John Bastyr College of Naturopathic Medicine (now Bastyr University). He also served on the board of the American Holistic Medical Association.
When he married Barbara and moved to Canada, he studied Adlerian psychotherapy and practiced at the Psychotherapy Institute of Toronto, maintaining a small medical practice in Jackson’s Point, and doing many stints as a locum in Northern Ontario—particularly in Emo, making friends among staff and patients at the Emo clinic.
Michael was a natural athlete who played football at Groton and Amherst. In Canada, he missed Seattle’s nearby hiking opportunities, but he hiked in the Rockies and loved to spend Ontario summers at the cottage on Golden Lake.
A lifelong advocate of meditation, he was one of the first “Governors of the Age of Enlightenment” of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He then went on to work with Richard Moss and Julia Press and became an adjunct professor at McMaster University medical school, specializing in mindfulness.
A month before his diagnosis, Michael delighted in an Adventure Canada expedition to the High Arctic with Barbara and three friends. He thought of that trip as one of the highlights of his life and had every intention of returning there.
Michael will be sorely missed by a wide circle of friends from all stages of his life (as one Groton friend put it), “a fascinating and good man.”
A small private cremation ceremony and party in celebration of Michael’s life have already taken place.
Many thanks to Dr. Ciara Whelan, nurse Yuri and PSW Mo, who filled Michael’s last days with caring attention.