For over forty years he treated countless patients across the state, combining compassionate bedside care with rigorous medical research in leukemia and other blood disorders. He and his UNC colleagues, many of whom remained lifelong friends with John and his family, published over forty articles in major medical journals.
His devotion to compassionate patient care was given special recognition by two of his patients, who established a fund in his honor (the Rothrock Fund and the Mary Elizabeth Thomas professorship). He also served as chairman of UNC’s Institutional Review Board (now the Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Human Subjects), providing regulatory and ethical oversight of research involving human subjects and medical patients.
John was born Sept. 5, 1927, in Salisbury, N.C., the eldest child of John H. and Helen Seaford Herion. He grew up in a modest home in Mount Pleasant, N.C., and after high school enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving as a sergeant in the 17th Infantry stationed in Korea.
He graduated from Davidson College in 1949 with a BS in chemistry. Although he had signed a professional baseball contract to pitch for the Washington Senators, he chose instead to pursue a career in medicine. After completing UNC’s two-year medical program, he transferred to Harvard Medical School, earning an M.D. in 1953.
While in Boston he met and married Mary Macleod, a nurse from Nova Scotia, Canada. He returned to Chapel Hill where he joined the faculty of the UNC School of Medicine, specializing in hematology and oncology. He retired in 1996.
He is survived by his wife, Mary M. Herion of Chapel Hill; and their five children, Gary A. Herion of Durham, N.C., and his wife Carol Creath Herion and their children, Melissa, Sam and Daniel, John M. Herion of Wilmington, N.C., and his wife Robin Wynne Herion and their children, Caroline, John and Robert, Diane Herion Bell of Asheboro and her husband Clark and their daughters, Blakely and Rebekah, Carol Herion Buckner of Cary, N.C., and her husband Kenn and their children, Stephen and Mary, and David W. Herion of Chevy Chase, Md.
He is also survived by his brother, Charles G. Herion and wife Sherry of Charlotte, N.C.; by his sister, Elizabeth (“Libby”) Herion Deal and husband Claude V. Deal of Durham, N.C.; as well as by several cousins and numerous nieces and nephews.
Services will be held on Saturday, April 4, 2015, at 10 a.m. at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 300 E. Rosemary St., Chapel Hill, with reception to follow at the church.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made either to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church earmarked for the Renovation of the Ministries Center Fund, 300 E. Rosemary St., Chapel Hill 27514; to Lutheran Services for the Aging, P.O. Box 947, Salisbury, N.C. 28145-0947; or to UNC Hospice, https://www.unchealth care.org/site/hospice/donations.