John H. Brinkman, 84, of Mason City, Iowa, died Saturday, April 3, 2021, at Mercy One North Iowa Hospice surrounded by his family.
When Brinkman was 16, he helped save Eugene F. Fitzgerald, also 16, from drowning in a pond on July 4, 1952, in Colo, Iowa. Eugene was a poor swimmer and became exhausted, submerging briefly at a point 35 feet from the bank.
John and others heard Eugene’s calls for help and ran to the bank. John kicked off his shoes and swam to Eugene. The boys submerged. John brought an inert Eugene to the surface. Feeling weak and having difficulty breathing, John was could barely maintain his hold on Eugene and couldn’t make any progress towing him.
Another woman, her husband, and a teen, towed Eugene to wadable water. Meanwhile, John swam 15 feet to a dock. He was fatigued and winded, but recovered.
Brinkman was born Dec. 29, 1936, to N.H. and Mildred (Kimberly) Brinkman. As a child, he worked on his Uncle Harold’s farm, the location of his heroic act. A proud member of the Colo, Iowa, community, Brinkman graduated from high school in 1955 and went on to attend Kemper Military School in Kirksville, Missouri. In 1962, he graduated from the University of Iowa with his Doctor of Medicine degree.
Brinkman and his wife, Maxine, who were married 57 years, met in Houston before moving to Minneapolis where Brinkman completed a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in Endocrinology with the Veteran’s Association through the University of Minnesota.
Preceding the Vietnam War, Brinkman served in the U.S. Army as a Medical Corps captain in Honolulu.
After moving to Mason City, Iowa, Brinkman worked as an internist at Park Clinic and at Mercy Medical Center. He went on to fulfill roles with the Iowa Foundation for Medical Care, the Iowa Medical Society, the Iowa Board of Medical Examiners, as a fellow with the American College of Physicians and the American College of Endocrinology, and as Mason City Health Director for 16 years.
Brinkman also trained medical students and residents as a Clinical Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Iowa’s Carver College. In 2004, he was honored with the Carver College of Medicine Distinguished Service award.
Brinkman’s 40 years as a practicing physician came to an end when he retired in 2002, but he continued to serve his community until 2010. He especially enjoyed serving the elderly and area farm families.
Brinkman was a member of AMA, IMS, Cerro Gordo County Medical Society, and Alpha Omega Alpha. He served as a Board member for the Newman Foundation and North Iowa Fair Association, and was also a Boy Scout leader for the Hoover troop.
According to his loved ones, Brinkman enjoyed spending time with family, fishing, making homemade pickles and fudge, reading, and walking his beloved pug, Suzy.
Brinkman is survived by his brother, Harold; wife, Maxine; children, Paul, Sarah, and David; and four grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his sister, brother-in-law, and nephew.