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Harry Caldwell Briggs, MD

d. March 30, 2023

Winsted, Connecticut

Dr. Harry C. Briggs, 94, distinguished physician, dedicated teacher and loving patriarch of the Briggs family, passed away peacefully at home in Winsted on Thursday, March 30. Dr. Briggs lived a very long and fulfilling life of selfless devotion to his family and the community.

Harry Caldwell Briggs was born in Hartford, Connecticut on January 31, 1929. He was the seventh child of Charles Dwight Briggs and Miriam Elizabeth Greene. The family moved frequently in Briggs’ early years and struggled with poverty. As he wrote much later in life: “Both my parents were college graduates hit very hard by the Depression and were forced to live on a farm for survival.”

Briggs worked on the family’s dairy farm in the West Tatnuck section of Worcester, Massachusetts throughout high school while his four older brothers served in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. He graduated from Classical High School in Worcester in 1946 and continued to work on the farm for another three years.

Briggs enrolled at Clark University in 1949. He excelled in Biology, was a member of the senior honor society Gryphon and was elected President of the Student Body. He graduated with a BA degree in 1953. That summer he worked on crews cleaning up from the devastating tornado that hit Worcester in June 1953. Later in life he would serve as a member on the Board of Trustees at Clark from 1980 to 1989.

Briggs began his life long association with Yale in the fall of 1953 as a medical student. He met Josephine Ann Tietje, a Nursing student at Yale from Montclair, New Jersey in the fall of 1954 and they were married in September 1956. Both graduated the same day from Yale in 1957 – Harry with the MD degree and JoAnn with a Master’s in Nursing.

The young Dr. Briggs did his Surgical Residency at Yale from 1957 to 1965 – interrupted for two years by a US Public Health Service commission as a general practitioner among the Navajo in Shiprock, New Mexico from July 1959 to June 1961. After completing his residency, he stayed on at Yale as an Assistant Professor of Surgery from 1965 to 1968 with a special focus on Pediatric Surgery.

Dr. Briggs moved his ever-growing family to Winsted in 1968 and went into private practice in General Surgery at Winsted Memorial Hospital. In between Yale and Winsted, he went on a six week medical mission in the spring of 1968 to Ile de la Tortue, Haiti under the direction of the Catholic Medical Missionary Board.

Dr. Briggs was a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and served as President of the Connecticut Society of the American Board of Surgeons in 1977. He became a member of the New England Surgical Society in 1985.

Dr. Briggs retired from surgical practice in 1987 and returned to Yale. He worked as an Instructor in Anatomy for the next 30 years, finally retiring in 2017 at the age of 88. He was awarded the Yale Medical Alumni Distinguished Service Award in June 2012. A passionate history buff, he also delivered lectures on the history of Surgery and the medical history of the US Presidents.

Dr. Briggs was a pillar of the Winsted community for over 50 years. He became a member of the Winsted Rotary Club in 1968 remained active for the rest of his life. He served as co-chairman of a capital fund drive in the 1970’s to refurbish the interior of St. Joseph’s Church in Winsted. He chaired the Project Extend fundraising drive for the expansion of the Winsted Area YMCA and new pool in 1981. He was recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary International in 1991.

An avid outdoorsman, Dr. Briggs was a member of the Blooming Grove Hunting & Fishing Club in Pennsylvania from 1975 to 2020. He served as the Club Secretary for 24 years. He was awarded Honorary Membership in 2020.

Harry had many hobbies – most notably restoring old cars (including two Rolls Royces), making furniture for his many offspring and researching genealogy – tracing back to his ancestors of the Great Migration from England to the New England (1620-1640). He approached every task with discipline, wit, charm, innovation and good humor. He always got the job done – and done right.

Harry and JoAnn had nine children – Charlie, Miriam, Johanna, Harry Jr., Lawrence, Cathy, David, Jonathan and Marion – all of whom graduated from the Gilbert School in Winsted.

Harry is pre-deceased by his eight siblings. He is survived by his wife, JoAnn, nine children, eighteen grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, hundreds of extended family and the many friends and colleagues he touched during his long life of service.

There are no calling hours. A Funeral Mass will be held on Wednesday, April 5 at 11:00 AM at Immaculate Conception Church (Our Lady of Hope Parish) in New Hartford, Connecticut. A reception will follow the Mass. The burial will be private at the convenience of the family.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation, 33 East Main Street (PO Box 1144); Torrington, CT 06790.

To send flowers to the family in memory of Harry Caldwell Briggs, MD, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Mass of Christian Burial

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)

Immaculate Conception Church (Our Lady of Hope Parish)

3 Church Street North, New Hartford, CT 06057

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