Respected pathologist Dr Thomas Lynch remembered as uncompromising Catholic

December, 2020

By Emilie Ng

Respected pathologist: Dr Thomas Brendan Lynchis survived by one sister, his six children, 28 grandchildren – acknowledging one still-born grandson he cherished –  and his second wife Maria.

RESPECTED Rockhampton pathologist , Dr Thomas Brendan Lynch, who helped cure amoebic meningitis, is being remembered as a deeply Catholic man who fought for life from conception to natural death.

Dr Lynch was a scientist and pro-life Catholic doctor who spent most of his professional life in central Queensland.

He died on November 28, 2020, aged 83, of pneumonia at the Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane shortly after entering palliative care.

He is survived by one sister, his six children, 28 grandchildren – acknowledging one still-born grandson he cherished –  and his second wife Maria.

Daughter Bernadette Jee said the people of Rockhampton would remember her father as an “extraordinarily brilliant man” who established the largest privately-owned pathology practice in Australia. 

He was said to have taken on four million patients and employed more than 400 people.

“He was a humble, extraordinarily brilliant man, so brilliant that it was beyond human comprehension how someone could retain such accurate knowledge of diagnoses, and such dedication,” Mrs Jee said.

As a practicing pathologist, Dr Lynch was also staunchly pro-life, and proud to be named a patron of the Australian Family Association.

He wrote numerous letters to parliament opposing abortion, in vitro fertilisation of humans, and euthanasia.

“He was a man that protected life from its natural conception to its natural end,” Mrs Jee said.

Mrs Jee said financial gain as a doctor never interested him.

“He never charged over Medicare, never chased the poor people’s bills,” she said.

“It was more about medicine and doing it right and getting the right answer.”
Mrs Jee said death was “a common conversation at our dining table” and on his deathbed “he was watching the clock”.

“He would often say, ‘If you woke up, you had to keep living’, and ‘You had to die to go to heaven’,” Mrs Jee said.

Finding happiness in Bega

Dr Thomas Lynch was born in Melbourne, Victoria, but his family eventually moved to Bega because he suffered from asthma.

He went to school with his first wife, Patricia, but the pair did not become officially acquainted until the ordination of a fellow classmate, Fr Joseph Rheinberger.

Mrs Jee said in January 1962 he expressed to a friend that he was lonely; shortly after in February 1962 he married her mother “in a quiet weekend and brought his new bride back to Brisbane where he lived in Vulture Street”.

The pair had 10 children together – three ended in miscarriage, and one was stillborn.

In a text message sent to his daughter 60 years after meeting his wife, Dr Lynch described how the pair met.

“Today is the 60th anniversary of that winter’s evening, when I met your mother, after a gap of 7 years, and she invited me to her farm, Belmont Numbugga, for the rest of the week,” Dr Lynch wrote.

“It was outside the Bega Library, where she had been a perfect Regional Librarian for a decade. “She had just been sacked for hiding the filthy books. 

“She is a Saint.”

Breakthrough scientist practised in central Queensland

When Dr Lynch was not supporting care doctors and their patients, he was making breakthrough scientific discoveries.

In 1971, while treating an Aboriginal boy in Mount Morgan, he discovered the cure for amoebic meningitis, one of the seventy fatal infectious diseases known to man.

He also twice made the Scientific Breakthrough of the Year awarded by the Science journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, once in 1996 for discovering the first mutated Chemokine Receptor which develops natural immunity to HIV, and again in 2000 for discovering the first gene in the human genome.

In 1994 he received the Medal of the Order of Australia for his contribution to medicine.

But apart from his medical brilliance, Mrs Jee said her father only had two ultimate goals in life – to save your soul, and to have people pray for him.
His favourite saint was St Thomas More, and he lived by his quote: “I am the King’s good servant – but God’s first.”

Mrs Jee said his only request while dying was to not be abandoned, but the Queensland border restrictions almost kept some of his family from being with him in Brisbane.

“Four children were in Sydney, and each had to face the daunting task of overcoming the Queensland border regulations to see a dying man,” Mrs Jee said.

“As my sister said, ‘Do we leave our dying people to die by themselves?’”

Former Rockhampton priest spends “marvellous” moments with old friend

While in hospital, Dr Lynch received an anointing from seminary rector Monsignor John Grace, who has known the Lynch family through the Rockhampton Cathedral parish for more than 40 years.

Msgr Grace presided at the funeral of Dr Lynch’s first wife, Patricia Lynch, in 1996.

He said as a pathologist, Dr Lynch was “just first-class”, but it was his Catholic faith that brought the two back together in Brisbane.

“He was unmistakably Catholic,” Msgr Grace said.

“He had a very regular practice of the faith, he would have worn the faith on his sleeves as it were, and never made any attempt to hide it, to step away from his beliefs, or to compromise on his beliefs.”
Dr Lynch expressed his faith “in very practical ways”, Msgr Grace said, including the “endless energy and pain-staking accuracy” he put into his work, and how his pro-life beliefs led to raising a large family.

He was also “extraordinarily generous”.

“If you preached on missions, you’d get a big cheque from Tom,” Msgr Grace said.

He grew up in the days before the Second Vatican Council, but Msgr Grace said he was a “traditionalist in the very best sense of that word”.

“I would say that in many ways (the Aggiornamento of the Second Vatican Council) passed him by,” Msgr Grace said.

“He loved the Latin, but there was no pretence about that, there was nothing fanciful about that, because he understood it…he knew what he was talking about,” Msgr Grace said.

“In a sense you’ve got to be very respectful of that.

“There was nothing delusional or emotional about his traditional approach. He understood what he was talking about.”

Dr Lynch’s funeral was held on December 11, 2020, at 10am at his family parish, St Joseph’s Cathedral, Rockhampton (live-streamed).