Willis Manford Gooch III, MD

July 15, 1940 - April 28, 2021
Willis Manford Gooch III, MD
Service Date:
Monday, May 3, 2021 7:00 PM
Service Location:

Starks Funeral Parlor Chapel

On Wednesday, April 28th, 2021, Manford passed away peacefully at home with family by his side.

Manford lived a life full of adventures, the pursuit of knowledge, and love of family. He was born on July 15, 1940, in Jackson, Mississippi to Willis Manford Gooch II and Eleanor McNeill Grey. As a child growing up in the deep South, he spent his days in a variety of activities, including fishing with his dad (unsuccessfully), collecting coins, refurbishing old cars and building ham radios. He developed a love of jazz from an early age, and even set out on a solo journey by bus to New York City as a young boy to visit Jazz clubs.

A born entertainer, Manford had an incredible sense of comedy and a love of theater, singing, and acting. In high school he regaled classmates with his antics, was a radio DJ, and participated in numerous hijinks with his friends. At the same time, he excelled academically and joined in numerous extracurricular endeavors. After high school, Manford attended college at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he was a pre-med student. When not studying and working, he enjoyed the colorful nightlife, particularly the jazz music that New Orleans had to offer.

Manford went on to attend Baylor University College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. While in medical school, Manford met a fellow student, Martha Diane Elkins from Murray, Kentucky, whom he married on December 22, 1963, one month to the day after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. They had a son, Willis Manford Gooch IV, born on September 14, 1964.

Upon graduating from medical school, Manford completed an internship and residency in Pediatrics and Infectious Disease at Baylor University. During this time, Manford and Martha Diane welcomed their daughter, Rebekkah Lynn, on January 15, 1969. Manford then served a two-year tour of duty as a Captain and Pediatrician in the United States Air Force at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi.

After his service, Manford and his family moved to Dallas, Texas for his training in Clinical and Anatomic Pathology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. A man who truly loved to learn, Manford concurrently completed a Masters Degree in Microbiology at the University. Subsequent to his pathology training, Manford took an academic position at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and as pediatric pathologist at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

During their time in the south, Manford and his family took many road trips out west to ski and visit such beautiful places as Aspen, Colorado, Taos, New Mexico, and Yellowstone, Wyoming. It was during these trips that Manford fell in love with the Rocky Mountains. It was this love that led Dr. Gooch to accept a position as a pediatric pathologist at Primary Children’s Hospital and a faculty position at the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City, Utah.

On January 3rd, 1989, Manford married his second wife, Diane Marie Pruhs, and became a stepfather to Courtney Marie Young (7/28/1984). Over the next 7 years, Manford and Diane Marie welcomed four more children into their lives: Ariel Alexandra (11/8/1990), Alexis Anastasia (2/8/1994), and twins Antonia Arianna and Arikka Angelina (3/21/1996).

Manford was undoubtedly imbued with a strong work ethic and an entrepreneurial spirit. While at Primary Children’s Hospital, he founded the private company Biokinetics, Inc. With Biokinetics, Inc., Manford conquered a decades-long fear of flying and flew extensively around the world delivering hundreds of lectures on pediatric infectious disease. He also founded a clinical research company, Medical Research Associates, through which he conducted a number of clinical trials. He ultimately left Primary Children’s Hospital to work full-time on these endeavors.

In the latter part of Manford’s professional career, he went back to his love of working directly with children through positions with Wasatch Pediatrics in Salt Lake City, Utah, Dinosaurland Pediatrics in Vernal, Utah and the Indian Health Clinic in Fort Duchesne, Utah where he helped establish a pediatric service. He retired professionally in 2016, but never lost his love of learning.

While Manford worked tirelessly on his professional career, he was also a family man who loved his children fiercely. He shared with each member of his family his many interests and loves. He shared his love of science by helping with various science fair projects, his love of adventure through family trips to Cancun, Europe and Canada, and his love of the great outdoors through ski trips to the Rocky Mountains, hikes around Flaming Gorge and snorkeling in Hawaii.

Manford also made sure to spend special time with each of his children. He rode the bullet train in Japan with Willis, attended plays in England with Lynn, treated Courtney to a Salon Day in Mexico City, attended the Phantom of the Opera on Broadway with Ariel, took a limo to see The Lion King in Chicago with Alexis, rode a donkey at a dude ranch in Montana with Antonia, and rode Splash Mountain at Disneyworld a million times with Arikka. He attended numerous school plays, cheered his kids on at soccer games and tournaments, was present at many graduations and weddings, and was a doting grandfather. In addition, he not only devoted time to his children, he shared in each of their interests and did everything he could to support them in their own endeavors.

Manford reconnected with his former wife, Martha Diane, with whom he shared a long history and a love of family. She was his constant companion and provided love and support throughout his struggles with declining health. Many thanks go to Dr. Michelle Sorweid at the University of Utah, Geriatrics Division, and the hospice care team of Community Nursing Services for their outstanding care of Dr. Gooch.

Manford was a man of many talents and attributes. He had a fantastic sense of humor and a sharp wit and made up nicknames for people seemingly from out of nowhere. He had an adventurous spirit, one that even led him to seek out the eye of a tornado. He loved music and was always singing with his beautiful voice. And he was genuinely interested in people and their well-being. His family members will never forget these and his many other qualities, and will work to honor his memory and carry on his legacy.

Manford was preceded in death by his parents, his sister Margaret and his brother Neill. He is survived by his children Will (Anna) Gooch, Lynn (Larry) Healy and their mother Martha Diane; children Courtney, Ariel (Scott) Coccimiglio, Alexis, Arikka (Jordan), Antonia (Hunter) Smith, and their mother Diane Marie. He also leaves behind his six grandchildren, Ian, Elizabeth, and Matthew Gooch, Aidan and Olivia Healy and Arianna Smith.

Friends are invited to a memorial service on Monday, May 3, 2021 at 7:00pm at Starks Funeral Parlor, 3651 South 900 East, Salt Lake City, UT.  For those friends of Diane Marie and her daughters, a second memorial service will be held on Saturday, May 8, 2021 from 11:00am-1:00pm at the Cottonwood Stake Center, 1830 East 6400 South, Murray, UT.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Manford’s name to the University Hospital Foundation, Pediatrics Division, https://healthcare.utah.edu/foundation