Frederick Warren Schaerf, M.D., Ph.D., our beloved husband and father passed away on July 14, 2018 after a courageous and very public battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Fred was born February 10, 1951 in Basel, Switzerland to Herman Hersch Schaerf, M.D. and Gabriella Elsa von Pidoll Schaerf. His father, Herman, had escaped the holocaust through Basel, ultimately graduating with an M.D. from the University of Basel, eventually working as a chest physician at a Jewish hospital. It was there that he hired Gabriella, a nurse, who not being Jewish, was able to work on Friday night and Saturdays. In 1953, they boarded the Queen Mary with young Frederick immigrating to America in hopes of finding a better and safer life. They eventually settled in Baltimore, Maryland, where Fred was raised. He was the oldest of three children, two sons and one daughter.
Although growing up was difficult at times, due in part to the lingering emotional effects of the war that plagued his father, he was nevertheless proud of his Swiss heritage, all the while keeping the nobility and family history of his mother’s family, a well-guarded secret. Graduating high school in 1969, at the height of the Vietnam war, with a very low draft lottery number, he enlisted in the Maryland Army National Guard, eventually serving a total of nearly 10 years, providing medical care to an attack helicopter company, discharged as a Captain in the United States Army Medical Corps. As well, after graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University with a B.S. in Science in 1974, he obtained a NIH Predoctoral Fellowship with internationally known Dr. Cornelia Channing, studying Reproductive Endocrinology at the University of Maryland
School of Medicine, receiving a Ph.D. in 1980, followed by an M.D. in 1983. Fred then had what he described as being given the greatest educational gift in his life, an internship and residency at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, under Chairman Dr. Paul McHugh. At Johns Hopkins he was Chief Resident in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences before being appointed as an Assistant Professor in the same department in 1987. This was the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and Fred was instrumental in starting a psychiatric service at Johns Hopkins dedicated to the care and treatment of those infected with the HIV virus. He also worked with Dr. Fred Berlin, evaluating and treating men with sexual disorders. Fred was Board Certified in Adult, Forensic and Geriatric Psychiatry and was a Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.
In 1989, Fred moved to Fort Myers, Florida and established Neuropsychiatric Associates of Southwest Florida, providing state of the art psychiatric care to well over 28,000 patients for over 28 years. Additionally, in 2001, Fred founded the Neuropsychiatric Research Center of Southwest Florida, which has become a nationally and internationally recognized clinical research site, specializing in Alzheimer’s disease and related memory disorders.
Fred always took a strong leadership role and was a tireless advocate, educating the leadership of Southwest Florida in psychiatric principles and promoting improvements in the psychiatric care of the citizens of Southwest Florida. A few of his many positions of leadership included Medical Director of the Ruth Cooper Center (now Salus Care and obtaining JCAHO
accreditation for the first and only time during his tenure in the 1990’s), Assistant Medical Director of Charter Glade Hospital, member of Governor Appointed Local Advocacy Council and Board Member of the Ed and Ethel Moore Alzheimer’s Disease Research Program.
The year 1994 was the highlight of Fred’s life, when he met and fell in love with Melissa, always describing her as the blessing that saved his life. They married in 1998 and welcomed with great love, their first daughter, Alexandra in 1999, followed by a son, Frederick II in 2002. Of all of Fred’s accomplishments, none has brought him more happiness and fulfillment than his loving wife, Melissa, his incredible daughter, Alexandra and his beloved son, Frederick II. Family time was spent boating, snow skiing, working on collector cars and traveling.
While we are heartbroken and can’t imagine life without Fred, we are overwhelmed by the love, support, friendship and affection by family, friends, colleagues and patients.
Fred is survived by his wife and life preserver, Melissa, his loving, caring daughter Alexandra and his beloved son, Frederick as well as his brother Daniel, sister Heidi, father in law William (and Doris Ann) Chaires, brother in law Billy (and Christie) Chaires, cousin Doris (Steven) Field as well as nieces and nephews.
A memorial service and celebration of Fred’s life will be held Sunday, July 22, 2018 at 2 P.M. at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 2439 McGregor Boulevard, Fort Myers. In lieu of flowers, it was Fred’s wish that contributions in his name be made to either the Alzheimers Association Florida Gulf Coast Chapter or the Frederick W. Schaerf M.D., Ph.D. Neuroscience Scholarship at Bishop Verot High School.