The COPD Foundation lost our beloved founder John W. Walsh on March 7, 2017 as a result of complications from an accident in 2016. John will be remembered not only for his pioneering work in the field of respiratory health but for his tireless efforts advocating for the millions worldwide with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

A veteran and successful businessman, when diagnosed along with his twin brother Fred with Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, a rare and at that time little known genetic from of COPD, John did what he always did throughout his life; he looked for answers. His search led him to walk away from his business and cofound the Alpha-1 Foundation and later AlphaNet. In John’s work with Alpha-1, he discovered a much bigger and largely unrecognized community; those with COPD. Before that time, COPD was misunderstood, misdiagnosed, mistreated, underfunded and lacking adequate research. In 2004, John formed the COPD Foundation. Gathering together a dedicated team of professionals and fellow patients, John soon expanded the reach of the Foundation to include the COPD Digest, the Mobile Spirometry unit, the C.O.P.D. Information Line, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases: Journal of the COPD Foundation, and the DRIVE4COPD campaign.

To increase funding for research and patient access, John established the COPD Advocacy program and the Congressional COPD Caucus. In an effort to bring new innovation to drug therapies, John established the Biomarkers Qualification Consortium, The COPDGene Study, The Patient-Powered Research Network and the Bronchiectasis Research Registry. With the popularity of social networks, John was the vision behind the COPD360 initiative in an effort to make the Foundation a “one stop shop” for everything COPD, resulting in the formation of COPD360social (an online COPD community), PRAXIS (a community allowing professionals to interact with each other and the patients they serve) along with a wealth of web-based information. At John’s encouragement, the COPD Foundation changed its mission statement to reflect an additional goal…a cure for COPD.

Through the years John has received many awards which he accepted but for which he never took the credit; he felt that the honors were recognition for the community he loved and the people in his life; especially his wife Diane whom he often described as the love of his life, conscience and right hand. Other than when with his family, John often said he was the happiest when he could spend time with others impacted by lung disease.

If it is true that “A person’s true wealth is the good he or she does in the world”, John was wealthy beyond words. In the coming days and years when we speak of John, we will remember happier times with a man we truly respected and loved and who challenged us to heights we thought we could never reach. In grief we will always miss him, but in thankfulness we will be grateful that he touched our lives and allowed us the gift of being a part of his amazing journey.

Our hearts go out to his wife Diane, daughter Linda, granddaughter Lily and extended family. John’s family has requested that donations in his memory be made to the JW Walsh Fund to Cure COPD, which will be administered by the Foundation.

Personal condolences may be sent to the Walsh Family by care of Randel Plant, COPD Foundation, 3300 Ponce de Leon Boulevard, Miami, FL 33134

We will continue to honor John by relentlessly pursuing his vision and continuing the work he so wholeheartedly embraced.


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A Community Remembers John W. Walsh

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