Louis H. Guernsey Sr., 89, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, died of kidney failure Thursday, Dec. 6, at a care facility in Frederick, Montgomery County, where he had gone for rehabilitation after hospitalization.
Dr. Guernsey came to Philadelphia in 1973 and settled in Wayne. Several years ago, he moved to Shannondell, a retirement community in Audubon, Montgomery County.
He was an internationally renowned oral surgeon, author, educator, and pioneer of treatments, but his work resonated most with those whose shattered faces he rebuilt after war wounds or other disfigurements.
"During the Vietnam War, when my dad was chief of oral surgery at Walter Reed, my very best friend was evacuated from the battlefield, and my dad rebuilt his face," recalled his son, John.
The friend, recovered and now living in Iowa, "remembers my dad as talented and loving," he said.
Dr. Guernsey was born in Port Chester, N.Y., but spent his early years speaking French in Algiers, Algeria, then a French colony, where his father was the American consul.
When France fell to the Nazis in 1940, the family had to leave. Dr. Guernsey was 17.
"My dad and his younger brother were put on a ship with a note to my aunt and uncle that said, these are your nephews. Please take care of them," his son said.
Dr. Guernsey graduated from New York University and then from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine in 1947, where he also received his master's of science degree in 1956.
After training, he landed a job as a dentist in Gooding, Idaho, and three of his four children were born there, his son said.
He entered the Army as a captain during the Korean War, and served tours of duty across the United States and in Europe. He retired with the rank of colonel in 1973 as chief of dental services at Walter Reed Army Hospital.
Dr. Guernsey then became professor and chairman of oral and maxillofacial surgery at the Penn School of Dental Medicine as well as visiting professor, oral surgery, at Baylor University and visiting lecturer at Georgetown University. He was professor emeritus at Penn at the time of his death.
He was honored with the American Cancer Society's Harold Krough Award for outstanding contributions to oral cancer control. He was a founding member of the Delaware Valley Dental Implant Study Club, and a fellow of the American College of Dentists, the International College of Dentists, and the American Dental Society of Anesthesiology.
He followed closely the development of his children. One became a nurse; one a doctor, and a third a marketing specialist, said his son, a lawyer.
"He was outgoing, full of life, full of energy and determination," his son said. "He would share stories with you, and talk about matters of interest to you."
He enjoyed skiing, boating at the Jersey Shore, or going for drives in his antique cars, including a 1930 Chevrolet and a 1952 Oldsmobile.
In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife of 67 years, the former Isabelle Margaret Napoli; another son, Louis H. Jr.; two daughters Nancy Coelho and Paula Lefever; 21 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.
A viewing from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13, at Szpindor-Meyers Funeral Home, 101 N. Park Ave., Trooper, will be followed by a 10 a.m. viewing on Friday, Dec. 14, at St. Teresa of Avila Church, 1260 S. Trooper Rd., Norristown. A Funeral Mass will be at 11 a.m. at the church. Burial will be in Arlington National Cemetery.
Donations may go to the Wounded Warrior Project at www.woundedwarriorproject.org.