Leslie Lamar Wilkes, Jr., MD died peacefully at home surrounded by his family on Saturday, April 4, 2020.
He was born in Quitman, Georgia, October 2 nd , 1940. He attended Quitman public schools, the University of Georgia, and the Medical College of Georgia, and received his MD degree in 1965.
Dr. Wilkes completed an internship and year of surgery residency at Charlotte Memorial Hospital. In 1967 he received a commission in the US Navy, and spent a year at sea as Ship’s Surgeon aboard the aircraft carrier USS Randolph. In 1968 he served as Ward Medical Officer at the US Naval Hospital in Charleston, S.C.
After release from active duty, he finished his residency in orthopedic surgery at Wake Forest University and did a fellowship year in arthritis surgery at the University of Edinburgh (Scotland). In 1972 Dr. Wilkes began his orthopedic surgery practice in Savannah, GA. He practiced in Savannah for over 40 years, and was the first surgeon in Savannah to perform a modern hip replacement. He was one of the first surgeons in Georgia to perform arthroscopic knee surgery. In all, he performed about 15,000 operations.
He was certified by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery, and was active in the following organizations: The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the British Orthopaedic Association, The Society of Hip and Knee Surgeons, the Arthroscopic Surgery Society of North America, and numerous state societies. He was active in the Saint Andrew’s Society of Savannah (Past President), Past President of the Scottish Games, Society of Colonial Wars, Sons of the Revolution, the Military Order of the Stars
and Bars, and the Rotary Club of Savannah. He was a member of the Cotillion Club, Chatham Club and the Oglethorpe Club of Savannah. He was a man of great humility, kindness and deep faith - always reaching out to others. He was a devoted member of Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church, where he served in many capacities for over 40 years; he cherished his Wesley family.
Dr. Wilkes continued a lifelong interest in medical education. He served on the adjunct faculty of the Medical College of Georgia for many years, and he organized a group of former American Edinburgh Fellows into the Edinburgh Orthopaedic Club – the purpose of which was to sponsor a Scottish registrar to visit the USA each year and to attend the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons Annual Meeting. For many years, Dr. Wilkes hosted several medical students from the University of Glasgow (Scotland) to come and study in Savannah. Saint Joseph’s/Candler Hospital graciously supported this program.
He was active in the Medical College of Georgia Alumni Society and served on the Board of Directors for many years and as President in 1996. He received the Savannah’s “Best Doctor” award numerous times, and the Georgia Medical Society awarded him the Health Care Hero Award in 2010 as well as the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. He served on the board of the Georgia Medical Care Foundation (now Alliant Health Solutions) for over 30 years and was President 1997-1999. In 2014, he was elected Volunteer of the Year for Arts and Culture by the United Way of Savannah. He was also honored in 2019 with theSenior Citizens, Inc “Leader, Legends, and A Life Well Lived” Award. For several years, he enjoyed his work as a photographer with our Veterans for Honor Flight Savannah.
He was an avid photographer beginning in high school and continuing throughout his life. He had numerous exhibitions and publications. He was very active as a volunteer photographer for Hospice Savannah, Inc. and volunteered as their photographer for their Family Photography Program and also their Veterans Program. It became a big part of his life - he considered his work a “Mission.”
Above all, his family was the joy of his life. He and his wife Ge-Juan were inseparable. He loved her with all his heart. He cherished his grandsons, and enjoyed spending time with them and attended countless soccer games, school functions, and chorus concerts.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Leslie Lamar Wilkes and Rachel Blackwell Wilkes. He is survived by his loving wife of 56 years, Ge-Juan Hood Wilkes and their son Leslie Lamar Wilkes III (Lisa), and two grandsons, Connor Albright Wilkes, and Davidson Edward Wilkes. Brother in law, Gordon Palmer Hood and Charles Wayne Hood (Sandra); niece Natalie Hood Stone (Kyle); Nephew Justin Hood (Logan). All of Basalt, Colorado. Sister in law, Marcelle Hood Fulcher of Thomson, Georgia; Niece Mary Dawn Street (Bob); Great nieces Oliva and Laurel Street and Great nephew Sterling Street.
A private family burial is planned with a Celebration of Life at a later date.
The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church, 429 Abercorn Street, Savannah, GA, 31401 or Hospice Savannah, Inc., 1352 Eisenhower Drive, Savannah, GA, 31406.
Keeping you all in our prayers. We were so very saddened to hear this news, but I know Dr. Wilkes is finally at peace and with his Lord and Savior.
- Kelly and Alex Hunt, Savannah, Georgia
I will miss seeing you & sitting beside one another on Wednesday Bible study. You took our first family picture when we joined Wesley Monumental. You were the kindest, most sincere gentleman and will be sorely missed by so many. To Ge-Juan, Lee & Lisa, please accept my heart-felt condolences for the loss of Les. Such a true southern gentleman and Christian.
- Jan Sailors, Savannah, GA
Ge-Juan, Les, Lisa anf Family, I am so very sorry to learn of Les' passing. There was no kinder, more caring man with a passion for helping others than Les. My thoughts are prayers are with all of you. Lisa
- Lisa Dean, Tybee Island, GA
My thoughts and prayers are with the family. Dr. Wilkes was a wonderfully kind and caring physician and person. The world will certainly miss the the love he shared.
- Jay Haynes, Savannah, GA
Dear Wilkes family. Less will be missed for many great accomplishments. I have missed his spirit in Rotary and seeing you out and about town. I am so sad and am praying for peace and great memories for all of you.
- Diana MOrrison, Savannah, Georgia
Sonny told me about Les’ passing, and I am so sorry. He was the nicest, most genteel gentleman, and I know you will miss him dearly. Please know you’ll be in my thoughts and prayers!
- Susan McGrath Mason, Savannah, GA
I was so sorry to hear of the passing of Dr. Wilkes. I worked with him for many years at St. Joseph's Hospital to coordinate bringing the U of Glasgow medical students to Savannah. He was truly passionate about this project and I enjoyed helping him with it. He was a friend. I'll be praying for his family.
- Lisa Beth Smith, Richmond Hill, Georgia
We wanted to take this time to send our thoughts and prayers to the entire Wilkes family. Dr. Wilkes will be sorely missed and I enjoyed every moment that I had the pleasure of working with him. With love, Semhar
- Araya , Guyton, GA
My thoughts and prayers are with your family. Dr.Wilkes will be truly missed.
- Khadijah Hunter, Savannah, Georgia
- Khadijah Hunter, savannah, ga
Every person who knew Dr. Wilkes loved him. What a kind, thoughtful southern gentleman. Our prayers and thoughts go to his family. Jennifer and John Davis
- Jennifer Davis, Savannah, GA
- Sue, Miami, FL
Prayers for all family and friends. All of us who knew Leslie growing up know how special he was, how kind, talented, and loving. Rest in peace dear friend. I loved going to Epworth by the Sea in the same group from UMC in Quitman.
- Sue McGowan, Miami, FL
Les Wilkes is, and always will be, the best friend I ever had. I was his best man when he and Ge-Juan married, and my grandfather was his grandfather's best man. Les was also our oldest son's godfather. His passing has left a huge void in our family's lives. Godspeed, my good friend.
- The Coopers, Quitman, GA
My thoughts and prayers are with you on the loss of Les. May the peace of the Lord be with you....he loved his family....We will miss him..
- Richard M Geriner Sr, Savannah, GA
Dear Ge-Juan, Please accept my sincere condolences in your and your family’s loss of dear Les. I always looked up to Les. He was kind, thoughtful, humble, and a very gifted, caring physician. I take comfort in knowing that his long and difficult struggle is over and he is finally at peace. We all mourn his loss. Rest in Peace and Rise in Glory, my friend, David Carson
- David Carson, Savannah, GA
- David Carson, Savannah, GA
Sad news today.Serving on Medical Board for so many years ,he was admired and respected colleague. He will be missed. My prayers are for dr Wilkes and his beautiful family. He is graduated to higher place. Rose Briglevich Smyrna,Ga
- Rose, Smyrna, Ga
I am so saddened by his passing We loved him so much He never said a bad word about anyone Going to miss you at Starbucks! Lots of love and prayers Gail Stoltzman
- Gail I Stoltzman, Savannah, GA
Dr. Wilkes was a great friend and a father figure to me. He will be greatly missed and will always stay in my heart and mind. Farewell, shipmate.
- Bryan Fulton, Savannah, Georgia
We are so sadden about the loss of Dr. Wilkes at Alliant Health Services. I have only known him for about 10 years, but he was one of my mentors and I and my fellow Board members hope for the comfort and peace for the family.
- FRED a. WATSON, FAYETTEVILLE, GA
I will truly miss seeing Les. He always had time to talk. Such a kind man. I will remember him through his photography. Pat McIntosh, Hospice Savannah
- Patricia McIntosh, Savannah, GA
- Patricia McIntosh, Savannah, GA
GeJuan, We are so saddened to hear about Les' passing. Our hearts are heavy but we know he's with our Lord. I will never forget his kindness to me and our family. He lived an exemplary life and had great love for all he lives he touched. Rest in peace our dear friend. Love & prayers, Catherine & Gary Cooper
- Catherine F Cooper, Savannah, GA
- Catherine F Cooper, Savannah, GA
May God bless and comfort the Wilkes Family during this difficult time. I was so saddened to hear this news. As an orthopaedic, OR nurse, I had the honor and pleasure of working with Dr. Wilkes for almost thirty years. Any day that I was assigned to his cases, I knew it was going to be a great day. Without a doubt, a fantastic surgeon. He was always kind, pleasant and fun to work with. Both of us, being Navy veterans, enjoyed swapping “sea stories” on many occasions. He was a true gentleman, in every sense of the word. He was loved by all and will be missed by so many. May we all be comforted by the fact that we will see him again one day. Until then my friend, I lift an “adult malt beverage” to you.
- Bill Lee, Savannah, GA
When I read Psalm 26, that describes Les Wilkes. I am better today for having Les cross my path. I consider him to be one of God's "good and perfect gifts" in my life. I look forward to that eternal day when our paths don't cross...but become one forever.
- Rick Monroe, Savannah, GA
Dr. Wilkes will be missed. He served his community, his family and his church in a true and loving manner. As a retired OR nurse I spent many hours working in the OR with Dr. Wilkes. I am also a former patient of Dr. Wilkes. He was a man of heartfelt compassion and love. I pray that his family will find peace and comfort in this time of their loss.
- Jo Ann Spofford, Savannah, Ga.
What a lovely man, what a wonderful life! It was a pleasure to have know Leslie. My heart is with you in your time of loss.
- Ardis Ann H. Wood, Savannah, GA
I worked with Dr. Wilkes in the Operating Room at Candler General Hospital after Candler, Telfair and Central merged into one in 1980. I was a Scrub and circulating Nurse. Tremendous knowledge and skill but always kind and caring. Loved this man! Always admired his photography and giving, always giving to others. RIP my friend.
- Anita Roberts Cannon, Savannah, GA
My condolences to the Wilkes family. I had the pleasure to know Dr Wilkes for a long time, working as a nurse at St Joseph's Hospital. He was always so cheerful, and kind. Never a harsh word came from him. After his retirement, I'd run into him while out shopping. One day he told me that since he had retired, I could now call him Les. I told him no Dr Wilkes, I have too much respect for you. You will always be Dr Wilkes. I miss that smile. You were truly unique. Rest in peace.
- Penny Swindell, Savannah, GA
Wilkes family, I am praying for you. I think Les shone so brightly in our community because he had the best friends and supporters as family. He loved telling me about each of you.
- Lily McCormick, Savannah, GA
To say that we have lost a Renaissance man, who graced us with his many gifts, is no exaggeration. Les was a scientist, a healer, a painter, a photographer, a writer, a storyteller, a seer & futurist, and most of all, a servant leader. His gentle, quiet manner belied his intense passion for life and people. If your life’s path happened to cross his, you were indeed blessed. I know many of you have your “Les” stories to tell. I have so many that it is difficult to share only one! In 1985 I served on the administrative staff of what is now Memorial Health University Medical Center. I was working on developing business entities within the Provident Health Services corporate sister of the hospital with the goal of providing financial relief for medical education and charity care. Les had a vision of a center for women that would provide women with screening for osteoporosis ( I added mammography screening), and counseling/ health education on a wide range of subjects ranging from family nutrition, parenting, preventative healthcare, to exercise and fitness. We held aerobics classes and even had a 12 Nautilus machines workout program designed for bone strengthening as well as overall muscle toning in a 9 weeks regimen. The Women’s Center had open public forums on numerous topics with recognized experts as speakers. I will always remember the initial 1986 kick off forum attended by nearly 900 women of all ages. My job was to introduce Dr. Les Wilkes who was to speak on “Advancement in the Prevention and Treatment of Osteoporosis”. Sitting “backstage” with him, he began to tell me the story of his college “alias” or alter ego, Lance Sterling. He described a dashing, daring, superhero type of man and confessed he had even had a fake ID made that pictured this dark haired rake of a fellow. He expounded on the fact that not one of the many authority figures, when shown the ID, seemed to notice that the height, weight, eye or hair color of this Lance Sterling was any different than the Les Wilkes standing before them. It was time to introduce the good doctor. I rattled off his many degrees, publications, honors and list of letters following his name and it just came out: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Dr. Lance Sterling!! He has always remained that superhero in my eyes. His service after retiring from medical practice is legion. As our Rotary photographer, he captured the soul of our club. His work with Savannah Hospice was a great passion which he continued until he could no longer. He and his beautiful wife GeJuan fought valiantly to get him well enough to get back to our meetings as that was so important to him. It was not to be. As we say goodbye during this horrific pandemic, I like to remember that just this past year the movie, “Spies in Disguise” was released, starring an animated & daring “Lance Sterling” voiced by Will Smith. It was a big hit, grossing $175 million worldwide I like to think that Les deserves credit for creating the character! He was certainly a superhero in disguise as a Rotarian. Or is it the other way around? Whichever, we are blessed to have known you Les, and honored that you were our fellow colleague in the Rotary Club of Savannah. - Ellen B. Bolch, Rotary Club of Savannah President
- Ellen B. Bolch , Savannah, GA
What a true honor it was for us to know Les and to observe what a wonderful Christian man he was. We will miss him as a neighbor but know that he is now in the presence of our Lord.
- Sula and Wayne Altman, Savannah, GA
He was one of the most wonderful human beings. Great mentor for me. John Sefter
- John Sefter , Gettysburg, Pa
Dear Ge-Juan, I was so upset the other day when follow photographer and friend, Jonas Jordan, call me and told me someone had told him that Les had passed away. I said that could not be true,I had not seen it in the paper! We both waited a day or two and still did not see it. I went on line and saw it on Fox and Weeks web site. I called Jonas and told him. We both did not want believe it. We talked about the last time we had met and had coffee and how you were responsible for organizing the get together. It was great fun being with Jonas and Les. It had been way too long since we three had seen each other. We discussed the time they had in the darkroom at Armstrong, before I retired, all the friends they had made in photography classes at Armstrong and all of the shows and Exhibitions Les had at Hospice Savannah as a volunteer photographer for their Family Photography Program and their Veterans Program. Year after year, as these wonderful photographers: Les, Jonas, Diane, Bob, Margarete and more signed up for the 62 plus program at Armstrong, they would would ask me, "Why do you do this, when it is not part of your teaching load?" I said it semester after semester and year after year, "I do it because I learn so much from each of them!" It was an absolute joy to get to know Les and spent so much time with him . Thank you, Les and Ge-Jaun. We love you, Linda and John
- Linda Jensen, Savannah, GA
I was married to James Russell Hollingsworth who Dr Wilkes treated for years. I was also one of his patients. Dr Wilkes was the kind of thoughtful and caring doctor everyone would want. I know you will miss him Wilkes family. God bless your family
- Linda Schrum, Savannah, GA
A great teacher and mentor who will be fondly remembered by myself and other Glasgow medical students lucky enough to have been taught by him. My thoughts are with you at this difficult time. Best wishes, Rod (Med student in 1995)
- Rod Hamilton, Glasgow, UK
Dr. Wilkes, Les to his friends, was a true gentleman and a scholar, laid back and loyal to his friends, always positive and encouraging to others. He was a family man, a great physician, a superb photographer, a true Scotsman, and a down-to earth friend to many. Our Saturday mornings at the coffee shop were always a special occasion where his words of wisdom and his ever-present sense of humor dearly touched our group of regulars. My thoughts are with his beloved family and the many people he touched as he passed through this earth. He left it a better place.
- Ze' Santa-Rita, Savannah, GA
Dr. Wilkes was a wonderful man and his passing is a true loss to all who knew him.
- Lisa Holmes, Adairsville, GA
I offer my deepest condolences to the family of Dr. Wilkes. During a period of time when I lived in Savannah in the 70s and 80s, I was the Administrator of the Rheumatology Clinic at Memorial Medical Center. Dr. Wilkes was one of the staff doctors who generously provided his expertise at a monthly meeting as a teaching clinic where the interns and residents would present cases from the Outpatient Clinic. He was so kind, so gracious, so helpful to me and so many others. I have never forgotten his gentle face and manner and how comforting and enlightening he was to all of us staff, medical personnel, and patients. He was the epitome of a Southern gentleman with a keen intellect and a kind spirit. He will forever be remembered by those he touched far and wide. May you take comfort in your grief knowing how all of us remember him and are glad that his legacy lives on in his descendants. Ann Hutcherson
- Ann Hutcherson , Atlanta, GA
Dear Ge-Jaun I was so sorry to hear of Les’s passing. I know he had not been well for the past few years. When I returned to Savannah a few years ago with knee trouble my brother Ned said “you’ve got to see Les Wilkes!” He was a wonderful physician and man and will be sorely missed. All the best to you and your family in this time of rememberance. Charles Gay
- Charles Gay, Savannah, GA
Sorry to hear about Leslie he was a great man and I know he was loved by his family. I think about your family often, I will be praying for his family, please let me know if there is anything I can do for you. Eugene Lancaster.
- Eugene and Lisa Lancaster , Rincon , Ga
I worked as a nurse in the Operating Room at Candler with Dr. Wilkes in the 90’s.He was such a great surgeon, the kind you looked forward to working with every week and you truly felt appreciated. I was so sad when all ortho left and went totally to St. Joseph. I remember, he did not want to leave Candler and he kept saying that it was not going to happen, and then it did. He was absolutely the best, nice, true gentleman I have ever had the pleasure to work with. I heard that he had been sick. Condolences to his wife and family. He will be missed by many. Heaven has gained a very special soul.
- Sandra Cubbedge, Savannah, Ga.
I will miss my old friend from surgery!!
- Annette Stookey, Hiawassee, GA
Such a great doctor and person.
- Karen Donell, Savannah, GA
My daughter, Sarah, was born prematurely at Candler 38 years ago with a condition I don’t think anyone there had seen before. The standard procedure was to amputate her leg. Several well-known orthopedists came to examine her and just shook their heads. Nothing to do but amputate, too risky, she’s too small, an infection could kill her. My OB, Dr. Dekle, suggested he call a very smart guy he knew from medical school. Well, he didn’t look that impressive at first (not like a fancy TV doctor) but he said he thought he could save her leg. I asked him if he was good (not knowing what else to ask) and he said, “I’m the best.” And he was. He operated on her twice in her first 4 days of life. They had transferred her to Memorial for surgery and even though he didn’t even have privileges at Candler, he came to see me every night after he was through with rounds to tell me about her. He performed other surgeries on her as she grew and when that great day came when she took her first steps, he was as proud as any parent. We kept in fairly regular touch until Sarah was about 10, although we had moved away, we saw him every time we came to visit. I’m writing this through tears, I’m sorry to hear his health declined at the end. He was smart, talented, kind and too many adjectives to count. My daughter kept her leg and walks normally which would never have happened if Dr. Wilkes hadn’t come to see her that day. We loved him and hope he had an easy pass. One of a kind.
- Linda Alley - Sarah Gresham, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Please know that you continue in my thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time. I actually began serving on the GMCF (Alliant) Board during Dr. Wilkes term as board chair. At the time I was one of only two non-physician board members. He certainly made me seem like a valued addition to the board. Over the last 20+ years he continued to be a friend and mentor to all things board related. He was a strong and effective leader and always bringing a calming effect when most needed. He will be missed.
- Lucy Rogers, Greensboro, Ga
- Allison and Joel Gerber , Savannah, Ga
Services under the direction of:
Fox & Weeks Funeral Directors, Hodgson Chapel
- A Celebration of Life Will Be held at a later date