Moorestown resident and gifted trauma surgeon Major John Paul Pryor, M.D., was killed on December 25, 2008, in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul when a round of mortar fire exploded near his living quarters. Pryor, 42, was a member of the U.S. Army Reserves, and was serving his second tour of duty as a battlefield surgeon as a member of the First Medical Detachment Forward Surgical Team, based out of Fort Totten, New York. He had left for what was to be his second tour of duty in the war-torn country the week after Thanksgiving, and had been in Iraq for only a week prior to his death.
Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City, Pryor, a native of New York state, had packed up his medical equipment and drove from Philadelphia into the city, spending the day and evening treating victims directly at Ground Zero. Realizing the value of his skills as a surgeon under these conditions, Pryor then joined the U.S. Army Reserves Medical Corps., serving his first three-month tour of duty in Iraq in 2006.
Pryor and his wife, pediatrician Dr. Carmela Calvo, had moved from Cherry Hill, New Jersey to the Laurel Creek community of Moorestown five years ago, and are the parents of three young children: Danielle, 10, Frankie, 8, and John-John, 4 1/2. Calvo had sustained serious injuries as a result of an automobile accident last year, and had only recently returned to her medical practice at St. Christopher’s Hospital in Philadelphia on a part-time basis.
Moorestown councilman and incoming Mayor Dan Roccato knew the family very well. “I’d been friends with John for at least five years through political stuff; he was a member of the Moorestown Republican Club”, Roccato said. “He and Carmela were also clients of my financial consulting firm, Quaker Wealth Management, so I did personal financial work for them as well. We were also fellow parishioners at Our Lady of Good Counsel Roman Catholic Church, where the Pryor children attended Religious Education classes.”
“I have spoken with Carmela, who is totally devastated, as one can well imagine”, Roccato said shortly after the tragedy. “We will be working in the future to set up educational funds for each of the children. We are also looking for ways in the future to memorialize John, and will be reaching out to the family at an appropriate time for their input on a memorial. All of Moorestown should do that. We will be working with his family and his friends through town council to honor his service.”
At the request of former Mayor Kevin Aberant, Major Pryor was honored with a moment of silence during the last town council meeting of Aberant’s term and the calendar year on Tuesday, December 30, 2008.
Funeral arrangements were held at a local Moorestown funeral home, with the Funeral Mass held in Philadelphia and conducted by Father Damian McElroy, Pryor’s pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel church in Moorestown. (Services were moved to Philadelphia to accomodate the large number of citizens who wished to pay their respects to Dr. Pryor.) Pryor was buried with full military honors on Monday, January 5, 2009 and is interred in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, following a private burial service for close friends and family members only.
“He was just an incredible human being”, a grieving Roccato said.