Dr. John Robert Ohlfest, age 35 of Roseville, died January 21, 2013 of melanoma.
John was born August 25, 1977 in Sioux City, Iowa and grew up in Lawton, Iowa. He loved fishing and traveled each summer to fish with his extended family in Ontario, Canada. John achieved a black belt in tae kwan do as a teen and held weight lifting records at his high school for years after graduating in 1996. John attended Iowa State University, completing a bachelor’s degree in Biology in 2001. He earned a Ph.D. in 2004 in Molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology and Genetics at the University of Minnesota, finishing the program in record time. In 2005, he joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota in the departments of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics. In 2010, John was awarded a McKnight Land-Grant Professorship, and in 2012 was named as the inaugural holder of the Hedberg Family/Children's Cancer Research Fund Chair in Brain Tumor Research. He was also awarded the John V. Atanasoff Research and Discovery Award for distinguished alumni by Iowa State University in 2012. Known for his endless ambition and creative thinking, John designed new treatments for human and canine brain cancers, employing over 15 lab staff in the Ohlfest Brain Tumor Lab and collaborating with numerous colleagues. John’s passion, influence and contributions to brain cancer research and treatment will be remembered and carried on by many. John met his wife, Karen (nee Himmel), while both were attending graduate school at the University of Minnesota. They were married in 2008.
John is survived by his wife, Karen; daughter, Grace; son, Lucas; his parents, Doug and Carolyn Ohlfest of Sioux City, IA; sister, Dr. Jennifer (Dr. Justin) Sands of Ankeny, IA; extended family; and his pit bull terrier, Tillie. John was a devoted father, delighting in family time and fishing. The family is especially grateful to Dr. Arek Dudek, Dr. David Largaespada and Dr. John Wagner at the University of Minnesota for their support and mentorship. Funeral Service 11:00 AM Friday, Jan. 25, 2013 (visitation beginning at 9:30 AM) at CALVARY CHURCH, 2120 N. Lexington Ave., Roseville.
Memorials may be made to the family to support the children’s education.