Remembering Ed Pompeian — A Gift of Life to Many

Edward Pompeian first came to Rochester, Minnesota, for care at Mayo Clinic. He never forgot his experience as a transplant patient, nor of the concerns shared with him by other patients about the financial and emotional strain of transplantation.

Longtime Rochester businessman and friend of Mayo Clinic Edward Pompeian passed away unexpectedly on July 6 at Mayo Clinic Hospital — Rochester at the age of 67.

As the Rochester Post-Bulletin and other media outlets have noted, Ed's Mayo Clinic story began in 1964 when a misdiagnosed illness brought him and his family to Rochester from their home in Gross Pointe, Michigan. Nine years later, Ed would go on to become Mayo Clinic Kidney Transplant Patient No. 176 after his mother, Helen, donated one of her kidneys to him. It was a gift of life that would last more than 30 years before failing, at which point Ed underwent a second life-saving kidney transplant at Mayo Clinic in 2004. This time his son Aaron was his donor, Ed shares in his book "The Gift of Life."

In the years between, Rochester became home to Ed and his family, where "supported by his family and new friends," Ed built a successful business and real estate career that eventually grew into the commercial brokerage firm, Realty Growth Incorporated. But he never lost memory of his experience as a transplant patient, nor of the concerns shared with him by other patients about the financial and emotional strain of transplantation. That strain, Ed knew, extended to donors, families and caregivers as well.

In the early 1980s with the help of friends, Ed decided to do something about that by turning an existing home into "a home away from home for other transplant patients to help relieve some of the stress and turmoil he had experienced first-hand."

The first attempt didn't go so well. "The bank loan was turned down," long-time friend and Mayo Clinic nephrologist Thomas Schwab, M.D., tells us. Not one to give up, Ed and three Mayo Clinic staff — Mary Davie, Sylvester Sterioff, M.D., and Greg Warner — worked to raise funds for a down payment on a home they'd purchase by contract-for-deed. And in December 1984, that home officially opened its doors as the first Gift of Life Transplant House. "Their first house was the sheriff's old house in town," Dr. Schwab says. "There was a jail in the basement where the sheriff would bring guys home late at night. It had eight rooms."

Now celebrating its 35th anniversary, the Gift of Life Transplant House has grown into the largest transplant house in the nation, hosting 4,100 guests during 2018 alone. "There are currently 84 rooms and we have plans to add another 36," Dr. Schwab, who sat alongside Ed on the Gift of Life's Board of Directors for many years, tells us.

Ed's goodwill and philanthropy toward other transplant patients wasn't confined to Rochester. It extended to Mayo Clinic's campuses in Arizona and Florida as well. "If it wasn't for Ed there wouldn't be a Gift of Life Transplant House in Rochester, and there wouldn't be a Gabriel House of Care in Florida or The Village at Mayo Clinic Transplant House in Arizona," Dr. Schwab says. "There might not also be some additional hospitality homes in Wisconsin that we've helped get going. None of that would have happened without Ed."

Charles Rosen, M.D., director of Mayo Clinic's Transplant Center in Rochester, tells us Ed and his family have supported the Gift of Life Transplant House since its inception. Ed's son Nick has served as the chair of the Board of Directors and his daughter Adrienne is a nurse practitioner in Mayo's Transplant Center. The Pompeian family, Dr. Rosen tells us, has been a "strong advocate" for transplant patients, organ donation and Mayo Clinic's Transplant Center.

Or, as Dr. Schwab said while delivering Ed's eulogy last week, "The success of transplant at Mayo Clinic is built on the shoulders of giants. Among them: Ed Pompeian."

You can read more about Ed's life and impact on organ transplantation at Mayo Clinic here, as well as in his book, "The Gift of Life." The proceeds of the book go directly back to help further the work and legacy of his Gift of Life Transplant House. Help further our work by sharing your comments below before using the social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.