Memento Mori

It’s a sad day here at waka waka, where we’ve just heard that an old friend, Dr. Clive Sell of Phoenix, Arizona, has died unexpectedly of a heart attack.

I got to know Clive many years ago, and hadn’t seen him in a long time, but he was a fine man: a charming Southerner, exceptionally intelligent, tall and handsome, a gifted athlete, and one of the cheeriest, friendliest fellows you might ever hope to meet.

Our sympathy goes out in particular to our high-school chum, longtime commenter and regular sparring partner Peter, AKA ‘The One Eyed Man’. Clive and Peter had been best friends since they were roommates together at Amherst College in the early 1970s, and I am sure that Clive’s death is for Peter a grievous loss.

It was good to know you, Clive, and you should have been with us many a long year more. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

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  1. the one eyed man says

    Thank you, Malcolm. Much appreciated.

    Posted January 7, 2014 at 8:48 am | Permalink
  2. Essential Eugenia says

    The Ladies and I send our condolences to the OEM, noting there is no word for the loss of a friend so dear; some friendships last longer than marriages.

    Here’s to you, you men of Man Chat!

    Long may your love endure.

    Posted January 7, 2014 at 11:38 am | Permalink
  3. JK says



    Small world incidentally. I sent the obit for your friend to one of my friends I knew had received degrees at Vanderbilt. Same timeframe.

    My friend shares your sense of loss and asks I send his regards.

    Posted January 7, 2014 at 2:23 pm | Permalink
  4. the one eyed man says

    Thanks to all. Clive went to Vanderbilt Medical School – where his mother, who was on the team which invented Ampicillen, was on the faculty – after graduate work at Cambridge, where he continued the 400 year tradition of men in the Sell family of getting a degree from Saint Catherine’s College. He made his father proud by rowing in the Henley Regatta.

    Clive’s father – who was an RAF pilot in World War II – died in his late eighties, and his mother died in the last year at 99. The last think I ever thought I would do is say Kaddish for my best friend Clive.

    Clive was an avid skier, golfer, and runner until about nine months ago, when he was taking a yoga class and the instructor pushed him the wrong way. This caused him to suffer excruciating back pain, which led to a drug therapy of pain medication for his spinal column, and then further medication to repair the liver damage which the pain medication caused. Whether that resulted in his heart attack, I have no idea.

    Clive and I did lots of things together – roommates for three years, drove across country, went to Europe, and I took him skiing for the first time (where he put on skis and fell down in the parking lot) – but my fondest memory is this:

    One day in college, we saw a notice for a debating contest. None of us had ever debated before, and we competed against those who had. We were assigned positions we disagreed with – such as the criminalization of marijuana – and won through trickery and deceit. (“According to Dr. Quackenbush’s research” – when there was no Dr. Quackenbush) We took our $150 prize and spent most of it at a local bar on Jack Daniels. We renamed the prize (the Rogers Prize) and the Rogers Prize in Forensic Excellence. Aside from the birth of my child, I don’t know if I ever had a happier moment.

    Farewell, Clive. Nobody will ever have a better friend than you. Life will never be the same. God bless you now and always.

    Posted January 7, 2014 at 5:21 pm | Permalink
  5. Marianne says

    I just learned of Dr. Sell’s passing when calling to confirm my husband’s appointment this afternoon. We are both so saddened. Dr. Sell was one of the nicest men, your description is apt. He brought my husbands one good eye back from the brink of blindness and has maintained it for a few years now. The world is missing a kind and very skilled surgeon.

    Posted January 8, 2014 at 12:19 pm | Permalink
  6. Kevin Kim says

    Sincere condolences.

    Posted January 8, 2014 at 10:41 pm | Permalink
  7. I am shocked to know Clive passed away on last Monday. This is a premature and untimely death that can not be reasoned. Clive was smart and gentle.

    We became good friends over the past 10 years and always enjoyed each other’s company. We shared many jokes and reflected on our mundane problems and in dealing with difficult situations.

    Clive was a fantastic human being, perfect gentleman, great friend and a wonderful family man that loved his wife and kids. He was always very proud of his kids.

    We will miss this good man, Clive, who will always live in my memories. God bless your soul and rest in peace. Love you, my dear friend, Clive.

    Posted January 10, 2014 at 11:57 pm | Permalink
  8. Frank L Parker says

    Man, this was a shocker. I am an anesthesiologist in Phoenix, and spent many an evening into the night operating on the patients Clive had seen during the day’s ofice hours. FYI,this is the life of a retinal surgeon, start early, finish when the work is done, nine or ten if you are forfunate, but commonly after midnight. It was one of those nights when we’d both begun to plod, our faces drooping lower each time we’d realise that we were not yet done, I remarked to Clive, “You know if you ever let on to Miriam how much fun we’re having on these boy’s nights out, our relationship os probably over.” It was said in exhaustion and wasn’t even that funny, but he laughed hysterically for several minutes, catching the whole bunch of us weary travelers up in the moment, tears rolling down all our faces, till we finally slowed down to sporadic giggles, and managed to go see the last patient. You should have seen the look on that guy’s face. Clive at first tried to be professional, explain the situation, but started giggling, turned and shook his head, paused a moment, and started over. This time he got through his preop message, and the patient whose faith was certainly tested, agreed to proceed. All went well.

    I hope my memory is correct on this, but I believe I performed the epidural for Miriam during the labor which resulted in Ben’s birth. This would have been 1990. I found a gift of a magnum of Togni cabernet, which I still have, delivered to my office. I was always waiting for a spscial occasion to open it, large bottle that it is.. I guess this is the time.

    This post is already overly long, but Clive likely had no idea he had coronary disease given his overall acti e life, and no symptoms. I have had a cardiologist for longer than I knew Clive because of persistent high blood pressure. I have had all the benefits of modern cardiac intervention several times, and am still here. One stent in the right spot in Clive’s heart ,and we are not having this discussion. I feel a bit guilty, but God’s plans baffle me a lot of the time, and I find myself in a “That’s not fair” mode. Then I remember Job, and settle down in acceptance, which is where i’m left now. I categorically avow that Clive Sell was definitely a better man than I, and it was my great fortune that crossed our paths. Fp

    Posted January 12, 2014 at 6:52 am | Permalink
  9. Julie Welch says

    I started my career with Dr Sell. He gave me my fist job in retina surgery and taught me everything I know.
    He was patient while I was learning ( which cannot be said for MOST retina surgeons.) He was kind, funny, he had almost a child- like charm. He was an absolute genius, but also such a ” real” person. He treated us like we were his family. We were never ” just staff”.
    I would often catch him mumbling while he thought over a patient’s history… Often pondering could he have done something more. I liked to tease him and say” If you’re talking to Dr. Sell… Please tell him to go see the patient in room one.” He would look at me with that blank stare and laugh. I loved working with Dr. Sell. We spent many a late night working at Phoenix Baptist Hospital. It was a very small group back then . We were few and spent a lot of time working together. He loved his patients, and took everyone of them home with him in his mind every night. I teach student doctors now I will spend every day telling them about this man’s integrity and wonderful skills. Rest in peace Dr. Sell… You were a miracle worker. I’m sure you are on a golf course in Heaven … For a well deserved rest. God Bless Sir.

    Posted January 12, 2014 at 2:56 pm | Permalink
  10. Jim Vaught says

    Each year from the early 1990s to 2011, a highlight of the summer was when Clive and his family visited his mother-in-law in Bethesda Maryland in July. During those visits, along with a variety of local golfing buddies, we took 2-3 day golf road trips to the Delaware beaches, and played many great local Maryland courses. Those trips were filled not only with Clive’s great golf skills, but also his sense of humor and his interest in all of our careers and families. Speaking for Charlie, Stu, Mark, Joe, Mike R, Mike O who joined many of these trips, we’re very sorry to hear of his death and will miss him tremendously.

    Jim and Irene Vaught, and daughters Hilary and Andie (who spent many fun summers at day camp in Bethesda with Clive and Miriam’s children).

    Posted January 12, 2014 at 6:00 pm | Permalink
  11. Maureen says

    Clive Hamilton Sell M.D. | Visit Guest Book

    Clive Hamilton Sell, M.D.
    Clive Hamilton Sell, M.D. passed away peacefully surrounded by family January 5th, 2014 at the age of 59. Clive was a man dedicated to family, friends and to upholding the highest standards of the medical profession. A man from a bygone time, he cut a distinguished figure in his familiar dress clothes and ties. Integrity, personal responsibility and hard work guided him through his life and he encouraged all those around him to set high standards and to accomplish their personal best. This commitment to professionalism and excellence made him a well-known and much loved community member and Vitreoretinal surgeon, touching many lives in his Phoenix community and well beyond.
    Clive was born June 21st 1954 in New Orleans, Louisiana and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. There he grew up with big brother Charles Gordon Sell and graduated along with a close knit group of lifelong friends from Montgomery Bell Academy in 1972. Clive was the consummate scholar athlete. He rose to a national ranking in rowing at Amherst College as an undergraduate, continuing as the American ringer on the Cambridge University team while there as a Commager Fellow in graduate neurophysiology. Attending Cambridge continued a seven generation tradition of Sell men attending St. Catherine’s College. At a recent Amherst reunion the rowing team took to the water for old times wearing shirts which read “the older we get the faster we were”. It was with great pride Clive was able to watch his children Ben and Madeline aspire to varsity crew during their undergraduate tenures. He went on to receive his M.D. from Vanderbilt School of Medicine in 1980, and ultimately completed his Fellowship in Vitreoretinal Disease at Duke University in 1986. Along the way he was awarded the Pearson Fellowship in International Nutrition where he studied while living with the Masai of Kenya and Tanzania. This was amongst the first of many adventure stories he would regale with friends over the years. His love of life and living it to its fullest would take him on many far reaching adventures, with family and friends along for the ride he was often found climbing mountains from the Sierras to New Zealand, stopping to sail, backpack, ski and fish. As life became more settled his passion for the outdoors turned towards golf, his perfect activity allowing him to combine friends, sports and competiveness.
    Clive married the love of his life Miriam Latker Sell, M.D. May 24th, 1987. They met at Duke University, introduced by nurses, or ‘gifted’ to Miriam by the nurses as he liked to recall. Their relationship was hidden for a year, as he was faculty sporting a long white coat and she an intern in a short white coat, a forbidden fraternization. Clive moved to Phoenix in 1987 helping to found Associated Retina Consultants becoming Senior Partner until his passing. Clive took great pride in his Associated Retina Family and felt a tremendous responsibility to guide them professionally and personally.
    He and Miriam raised their three children in Phoenix. Renovating over many years a 1948 home in North Central Phoenix, with its big trees and grass it reminded them both of their origins back east, particularly his beloved Nashville. Clive was exceptionally proud of his children, Ben 23, who graduated from Skidmore College in exercise physiology and a Cornell postgraduate program, David 20, a senior applied physics major at Caltech and Madeline 18, a sophomore chemical engineering major at Tulane University. He traveled frequently with them and Miriam biking, rafting, scuba diving, skiing and even sky diving with David on his eighteenth birthday.
    Clive’s legacy is large, always attempting to not only maintain the highest standards of medical practice, but to pay it forward through teaching and research. He helped to create the sole vitreoretinal fellowship in Arizona. His work ethic and his clinical and surgical skills live on in his former fellows who practice around the United States. As important as his work was, however, Clive always reminded his colleagues and friends to spend time with their families!
    Clive was preceded in death by his parents Charles Gordon Rennick Sell, M.D. and Sarah Hamilton Sell, M.D., both prominent Nashville pediatricians. He is survived by his wife Miriam, and their three children, Ben, David and Madeline, his brother Charles, his wife Beth and his two nephews Charles and William, along with a wealth of extended family, friends and grateful patients around the world.
    Clive was a loving husband, dedicated father, respected surgeon, teacher, mentor and most of all a devoted friend. He was never without a shoulder, scalpel, golf club or joke as needed and will be very much missed by all who knew him.
    Please consider a donation on his behalf to honor him and support others to:
    The Arizona Retina Foundation
    1750 E. Glendale Ave
    Phoenix, AZ 85020
    Come join us for a celebration of the life of Clive H. Sell on Saturday, January 25, 2014 at 10:00 a.m.
    Christ Church of the Ascension located at 4015 E. Lincoln Drive (40th St. & Lincoln), Paradise Valley, AZ 85253

    Posted January 15, 2014 at 9:06 pm | Permalink
  12. Suzanne says

    Dr. Sell gave me back the sight in my left eye and prevented my right eye from following the same path. I owe him the past 8 years as a sighted person. I was quite upset when his office called to tell me I had to switch doctors for my appointment this coming week – who would have thought this gifted and kind man would pass so soon. My sympathy to Dr. Sell’s family and friends – he will be missed.

    Posted January 25, 2014 at 12:41 am | Permalink
  13. leon dehaven says

    I was merely a patient of Dr. Sell’s. All he did for me was to give me sight. Dr. Sell was not only a great doctor — he was a better man. He is missed.

    Posted April 18, 2014 at 6:56 pm | Permalink
  14. Right now it seems like Drupal is the preferred blogging platform out there right now.
    (from what I’ve read) Is that what you are using on your blog?

    Posted July 29, 2014 at 6:17 am | Permalink