K. Michael Hambidge – 2023
1932 – 2023
K. Michael Hambidge passed away peacefully on May 2nd at the age of 90. Michael was born in London, England on October 28th, 1932 to Grace Elizabeth Hambidge and John James Hambidge. He grew up in Leatherhead, England and attended St. John’s school. During World War II, he and his siblings were evacuated to the west coast of Wales. He had an adventurous and curious spirit and loved riding his bike for long distances all over the south of England. He performed two years of national military service in the North of England before attending Trinity College at Cambridge University, initially studying agriculture and then transferring to the medicine department and obtaining his medical degree from Westminister medical school in 1959. Michael spent many of his summers as a young adult working on farms, including his family’s farm, Waterland farm in Sussex. This work taught him the importance of micronutrients for crop health and would inform his later work in human nutrition.
He met his future wife, Carolyn Bates, at Leatherhead church; they were married on September 24th, 1960 and celebrated their 62nd anniversary last fall. During their courtship they frequented the lively jazz clubs in London, where they loved to dance, as well as concerts and art shows. They also loved going to the beaches on the south coast of England; Sandbanks and Studland beaches were places they returned to their entire lives.
In 1966, Michael was recruited to do a metabolic fellowship in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado Medical School. Part of the decision to move to Denver was Michael’s love of skiing. Although they were only planning to stay one year, one year became two and then Michael joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in 1968 (he became a full Professor by 1978). Michael and Carolyn moved to Denver with 3 young children and would have a fourth once here. On the faculty, Michael quickly developed a research program focused on micronutrients and human health. He was the first to identify zinc deficiency in children and how to treat it. His vision led to the founding of the Center for Human Nutrition (now the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center) and the first Colorado NIH-funded Clinical Nutrition Research Unit. He led the Pediatric Clinical Research Center for decades and established the Section of Nutrition in the Department of Pediatrics. This was all before he supposedly “retired” in 1998, when in fact he was re-tooling his research to focus on infant malnutrition around the world. With support from the NIH and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, he set up teams in countries around the world to study the impact of improving maternal nutrition to improve the health and growth of their children. Part of his vision was sustainability and training local doctors to carry on the work independently. Among other places, he traveled to Guatemala, Malawi, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, China, India, New Zealand, Australia, and Pakistan. Since “retiring” he has published over 170 articles and his work has led to the development of strategies for optimizing maternal nutrition to promote infant development.
Michael’s family was incredibly important to him. When he and Carolyn arrived in Denver, soccer was taking off as a youth sport, and people assumed he knew how to play since he was from England; he was actually a rugby player. But he jumped in and coached, including starting the first girls team in central Denver. He also built community by organizing large informal free-form soccer “games” at Cranmer park where 30-40 parents and children would get together and play for hours. Michael had a deep love of the outdoors, which he passed on to his children. When the first wooden cross-country skis from Norway were imported into Denver, he bought one of the first pairs. Our family spent many days in the winter either downhill or cross-country skiing and started going to Snow Mountain Ranch near Granby after it opened in 1969. Michael and Carolyn kept strong ties to England, and in 1982 bought an old farmhouse in the New Forest called The Little White House. They spent every summer there, including last summer, going to their old favorite beaches. Michael created magic for his children and grandchildren digging sandcastles on the beach, windsurfing on the ocean, and hiding gifts in the woods. He was generous and caring.
Michael was in good health until just before his 90th birthday. He is preceded in death by his parents and 3 siblings: John, Derek, and Jenny. His is survived by his wife Carolyn; children Simon (Elizabeth Bayliss), Joanna, Pippa (David Mellman), and Jonathan (Heidi Hambidge); as well as his nine grandchildren: Timothy, Peter, Andrew, Jonathan James (JJ), Anna, Emma, Kate, Jack, and Erin. Michael was passionate about living and making the world a better place.
There will be a celebration of life in England on Saturday, June 10th at the Boldre Church, followed by a reception at the Little White House in Hampshire, England; and in Denver on Saturday, July 22nd with a celebration of life at 2:30 P.M. in the St. Thomas Church Great Hall, followed by a reception at Pip and Dave’s House (2015 Forest St.) at 5:00p.m.
Donations in Michael’s memory may be made to Stanley British Primary School, Trust for Public Lands (Colorado Office), or Rocky Mountain PBS.
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