Dr. David R. Funk
Dr. David R. Funk, 38, of Dunlap, Iowa, died the way he lived, putting the needs of his patients before his own.
A large animal veterinarian in rural Iowa, Dr. Funk spent his days and many of his nights tending to injured or sick livestock. Though his patients could be stubborn or even dangerous, he showed an uncommon compassion and patience, according to clients who called him "Dr. Dave."
His wife of 18 years, Ly-Lee, said she'd only seen him angry twice, once shearing sheep and once working with 50 head of cattle on his own. They met at Iowa State University where he received his DVM degree in 1988.
He was always willing to help out and go the extra mile, according to Mrs. Funk.
"He loved people in general, and got personal satisfaction out of helping," she said in a statement. "If you could read the hundreds and hundreds of cards that I have received, you would get to know David very quickly."
His efforts did not go unnoticed by his colleagues.
Dr. Funk was recognized Sept. 12 by the Iowa VMA, which named Dr. Funk Veterinarian of the Year at the association's annual meeting. Mrs. Funk accepted the award on his behalf.
Dr. David Wilgenbush, the president of the Iowa VMA, said that he was touched by Dr. Funk's story and thought it was a fitting tribute to a veterinarian who put the welfare of individual animals first, despite economic pressures on large animal veterinarians to focus on populations.
"I thought the way he lived life and practiced veterinary medicine was a tribute to the whole profession, especially large animal veterinarians," Dr. Wilgenbush said.
On July 10, Dr. Funk and a veterinary technician were treating calves with an eye infection. The Twin Valley Veterinary Clinic in Dunlap, Iowa, where he had been working for 14 years, was short a veterinarian and he was taking on extra work.
One of the calves, whose eyes had been sewn shut as part of the treatment, wandered into a pond on the farm and became disoriented. Concerned that the animal might drown, Dr. Funk waded into the water to herd the animal to shore. About 12 feet from the shore, Dr. Funk slipped beneath the water.
Rescue attempts by the technician and the local sheriff's deputies were hindered by weeds and silt. Divers found his body a few hours later.
"David died doing just exactly what David always did. The job wasn't done until everything had been finished," Mrs. Funk said. "A blind calf swimming in a pond unable to find shore could not be left out there. His job wasn't done that day until that calf was rescued from the pond and treated. That was David."