Carmel heart surgeon-turned-land developer dies at 81

Pioneering heart surgeon John N. Pittman, a Carmel resident who helped establish the cardiovascular program at Indianapolis’ Methodist Hospital, died on Christmas Day. He was 81.

A native of Princeton, Indiana, Pittman graduated from Indiana University School of Medicine in 1957 and served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps before completing residencies at Methodist and the University of Michigan.

He co-founded Methodist’s heart surgery unit in 1965 and was on the team that performed the first open-heart procedure in Indiana that same year. Pittman later developed a retractor system used in bypass surgeries and in 1982 participated in the state’s first heart transplant operation.

Pittman retired in 1999. The following year, he was named a Sagamore of the Wabash by then-Gov. Frank O’Bannon.

In addition to his medical practice—including appointments at both Methodist and IU School of Medicine—Pittman was active in farming and land development in Hamilton and Boone counties.

The Pittman family patriarch was famously patient when it came to development.

He owned property at 116th Street and Springmill Road in Carmel for decades before family-owned Pittman Partners and commercial specialist Gershman Brown Crowley Inc. won a controversial rezoning battle in 2011, for example. The land is coming to life now as The Bridges, a 62-acre mixed-use project anchored by a high-end Giant Eagle grocery store.

Son Steve Pittman confirmed an often-told story about the property during a site tour last year: Planning officials turned down a rezoning request soon after Dr. Pittman acquired the promising parcel, saying it would remain farmland until a developer was ready to fulfill their vision of single-family estate homes there. He responded to their show of muscle by setting up a working hog farm on the site.

In 2013, Pittman Partners unveiled plans for a commercial-and-residential hub on 62 acres of high-profile land at 116th and Michigan Road, on the eastern edge of tony Zionsville. That property has been in the family more than 30 years.

Married for 53 years to the late Euna Rose Williams, a registered nurse he met during a residency at Methodist, Pittman is survived by five children—including Steve, the veteran local real estate developer; John Scott, a Carmel physician; and Chad, a Zionsville resident hired last month to lead Purdue University’s Office of Technology Commercialization—as well as 20 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A “celebration of life” service is set for Jan. 3 at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, according to an online obituary.

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