Remembering a Champion for Children
To many people, Dr. John E. Pless was a world-renowned forensic pathologist whose expertise helped crack countless death investigations throughout the state. But to The Villages, he was a supporter of child abuse prevention and instrumental in brining The Villages to Indiana!
Dr. Pless was the associate chairman of the Indiana University Department of Pathology. His specialty was forensic pathology documenting and analyzing factors relating to death and injury. For much of his time as director of the division of forensic pathology, Pless served as the chief forensic pathologist for Marion County. By the time he retired in August 2003, Pless had performed more than 7,000 autopsies and testified at about 1,000 criminal trials. Although he worked on almost every kind of case, he took the death of children very seriously and worked hard to educate the public on matters relating to that.
That passion for the safety of children is what motivated Pless to bring The Villages to Indiana. And in 1980, the agency opened its first family model group home on a parcel of land that Pless donated. “He actually just spoke to 400 foster parents statewide at an event last September,” said Sharon Pierce, President and CEO of The Villages. “He was such a visionary. We are an organization that has kind of reinvented ourselves many times, and I credit much of that to Dr. Pless.” Pierce said what stood out about Pless the most is that no matter how much he had accomplished, he always made time for the children served by The Villages. And once he made a connection with someone, Pless was in it for the long haul. “I still remember one of the first young men in our group home. … Years later, Dr. Pless was sitting at his wedding,” Pierce said.
Dr. Pless was a true champion for children. He will be deeply missed by everyone whose life he touched.