Saccomanno, wife of pathology pioneer, dies in Grand Junction at age 92
Virginia Saccomanno, the wife of a nationally known Grand Junction pathologist who paved the way in cancer research, died Thursday at St. Mary’s Hospital. She was 92.
“She was such a wonderful mother,” said Lenna Watson, a Grand Junction resident and one of three Saccomanno daughters. “She was an outstanding mother as well as a mentor of life. Just wonderful.”
Watson said her parents met in Utah when the two were still in their teens. Her mother supported her father as he attended college in Salt Lake City and St. Louis.
The couple moved to Grand Junction in 1948, when Watson’s father, Dr. Geno Saccomanno, became the first pathologist at St. Mary’s Hospital, which at the time was located in the 1100 block of Colorado Avenue. The hospital’s Saccomanno Research Institute continues his work to this day.
During his early years there, the doctor began to notice a correlation between cancer and uranium and coal mining, and began to work on treatments, some of which are still used today.
“His first method of cell separation to detect mutation utilized his wife Ginny’s blender and a few medical tools,” former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis said while giving Dr. Saccomanno a tribute in Congress in 1998, according to the Congressional Record.
“Through the years, his techniques have grown and developed with the aid of technology so much that his research methods are widely praised and world renowned.”
Dr. Saccomanno died a year later at the age of 84.
Through the years, the couple were also known for their philanthropic efforts, including establishing the Saccomanno Higher Education Foundation.
In the 16 years since the foundation was created, it has awarded more than 4,000 scholarships totaling nearly $7 million.
Last year, a new laboratory at Mesa State College was named in their honor. It’s called the Geno and Virginia Saccomanno Nursing Laboratory.
Each year, St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation honors the doctor with its Saccomanno Physician Lifetime Achievement Award.
There also is a lecture hall at Mesa State College named after him.
In addition to Lenna, the couple had two other daughters, Carol Murphy of Grand Junction and Linda Siedow of Lakewood. Together, they gave the couple five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.