Dr. Leonard John Cerullo, a world-renowned neurosurgeon who pioneered the use of lasers in neurosurgery, passed away on Tuesday, January 16, 2024, at the age of 79.
Dr. Cerullo was born in Hazleton, Pennsylvania on June 8, 1944. He was the middle child of Leonard F. and Marion Cerullo (Yori), the brother of John Cerullo and Carol Cauley. He attended local public schools, graduating from Hazleton High School where he was elected class president in June 1962. He then attended Georgetown University where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature in June 1966. He spent the following summer studying Japanese Literature in Tokyo.

He began his medical career at the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia where he graduated with a medical doctorate in 1970. He served a mixed medical internship at Chicago Wesley Memorial Hospital (now Northwestern Memorial), then returned to Philadelphia to serve an internship in General Surgery under the guidance of his mentor Dr. R. K. Jones. There he met, courted, and married Cheryl Lee Weir, his wife of 52 years. They returned to Chicago and Northwestern where he continued his neurosurgical training under Dr. Paul Bucy and Dr. Anthony Raimondi among others. In July 1972 he continued his residency in Neurological Surgery, serving fellowships in skull-based surgery at the University of Paris and in interventional neuroradiology at Columbia University in New York. In 1977 he was awarded an MS in surgery at Northwestern, and in 1979 he completed his neurosurgical training.

He returned from the U.S. Army Reserves at the rank of Captain in 1979, having served for eight years. He and Cheryl were blessed with three children; twin girls in 1979 (Katherine “Katie” and Lauren) and another daughter in 1981 (Whitney). Katie passed away in 2007 and is greatly missed by all. Lauren is a dermatologist in Northwest Indiana, where she lives with her husband Dr. Mohammed Farhat and their two children Leo (10) and Zoe (8). Whitney has her master’s degree in yoga studies from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and currently resides in Buda, TX with her husband Danny Atkinson and their two dogs.

Dr. Cerullo served on the faculty at Northwestern University Medical School, later becoming Acting Chief of Neurosurgery from 1984 -1986. In 1987 he founded the Chicago Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch (CINN) which would become an internationally renowned center of excellence. A visionary and pioneer in the use of lasers in neurosurgery, Dr. Cerullo’s hospital was the second hospital in the United States to acquire a gamma knife. In the late 1990’s he became chairman of neurosurgery at Rush Medical Center. In 2003 he founded the Neurological and Orthopedic Institute in Chicago, following the model of CINN. Dr. Cerullo was a member of several neurosurgical organizations, a fellow of the American Society of Surgery, and past president of the American Society of Laser Medicine and Surgery.
Dr. Cerullo’s gentle demeanor, profound intelligence, and exemplary surgical skills have touched the lives of patients from all over the world. He was an avid equestrian, a self-taught gourmet chef, and a connoisseur of food and wine. He will be greatly missed.

A private memorial service will be held. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the American Brain Tumor Association in Dr. Cerullo’s honor.

GUESTBOOK

Although I only knew you for a couple of years personally, I knew of you professionally for many years. While working at Laporte, I had the occasion to transfer a young girl with a head injury to you! Your group was wonderful to us and to her family! Personally, I knew you well enough to know you liked to cook, you were a kind loving husband and you liked my carmels! Rest in peace Dr Len.. your work on earth is appreciated and remembered! -Reita Wendt 

I will always remember his huge smile and booming laugh. His brilliance and warmth. The lucky nights of my childhood surrounded by wonderful friends and wonderful food. His huge generosity. His huge hugs. This weird inside joke where I called him Uncle George. His plastic brain filled with M and Ms next to the computer. The amazing way he made everyone feel like family. At my fifth birthday party it started to rain and Katie said, “Don’t worry I’ll call my dad and he will make it stop.” I miss them both. Love to you Mrs Cerullo, Whitney, and Lauren Love, -Marin Mannix 

Dear Cheryl, Lauren, Whitney, and family, I am profoundly saddened by the news of Len’s passing. Our family’s memories of him are filled with joy, laughter, great feasts and mostly abundant love. As he was well aware, you were the wind beneath his wings . May the love of all your friends help you with your loss. -Mary Mannix 

Our deepest sympathy for your family. Len was an accomplished legend unsurpassed by none, in the field of Neuroscience. Most memorable; however, is Len’s humble personality, warm soul and kind heart. May your family find comfort in the happy memories and love that Len brought to your lives. May God be with you during this difficult time. -Connie Dec 

I am so sorry to hear about the passing of Len. I’m an ensemble member of Shattered Globe Theatre. Dr. Len was so kind, supportive and generous to us for many, many years. We were also fortunate to know Katie. We are so very grateful for his kindness. My deepest condolences to the family. He was absolutely wonderful. Sincerely, -Eileen Niccolai

So sorry for your loss. He took me out of pain and made my life a better one Prayers for the family, Heaven is getting a Angel. -Marlene Vanco 

I had the honor of working with Lenny on 4 West Passavant as an RN. He was the reason I worked in Neurosurgery. He was a brilliant surgeon and treated everyone he met like they were a family member. He was so kind and fun to work with. I always noticed that he treated everyone from the nursing assistants, secretaries, kitchen workers, to the custodians as part of his Northwestern family as he joked around and flashed that beautiful smile. His patients were the recipients of his unequalled skill as a surgeon. He was able to treat so many of them that others had deemed inoperable. Blessings to the Cerullo family and hope you find comfort in how much he was loved. -Julie Gough 

We extend our deepest condolences to you, Cheryl, and your family. We have enjoyed being your neighbors for the past few years. We are always close should you need anything. Much love, -Keith and Charlotte Friedlund  

Deepest condolences to the Cerullo family. May prayers and love bring you strength and peace in this difficult time. I did not know Dr.Cerullo, only of him----I had no idea what an incredible person he was. Rest in peace Doctor. -Elizabeth Sczurko 

Our deepest sympathy for your family. Len was an accomplished legend unsurpassed by none, in the field of Neuroscience. Most memorable; however, is Len’s humble personality, warm soul and kind heart. May your family find comfort in the happy memories and love that Len brought to your lives. May God be with you during this difficult time. -Connie Dec 

Losing Dr Cerullo is a major loss for mankind and even more for his family. We will miss you so much and cannot thank you for the countless help you have given to so many members of my family and dear friends. You were always there for us, willing to help. We loved you as a friend and as the most impressive doctor in your field. May you rest in peace Dr Cerullo and we send our deepest sympathy to your family, close friends, and colleagues. You will be so very missed by so many. -Linda Day Harrison and Family 

Dear Cheryl, Lauren and Whitney, I am so sorry for your loss. I will always remember working at CINN and how everyone just loved him. He was a wonderful man and influence in my life, and a blessing to so many. Just his presence gave people hope and comfort, not to mention his surgical skill. On a personal note, I want to thank you for the memorable holidays and dinners, lively discussions and laughter. He taught me how to make risotto and gave the best hugs. Please accept my sincerest condolences Cheryl, Lauren and Whitney and may you find comfort in all the wonderful memories of so many people whose lives he touched. -Colleen Mannix

On behalf of the Muerdler’s I want to send our condolences. I have rarely met someone so brilliant that could also be so easy to talk with. We all followed Len’s career and bragged on him often. Still we are so impressed with his accomplishments. As others have already posted, he had the respect of everyone. We are so sorry for your loss. Our best to the girls. Love, Jack, Gary, Rob and Mom

I worked at NOIC for several years and was fortunate to get to know Dr Cerullo during that time. Len always - always! - had a smile on his face. He talked to me as if I were another neurosurgeon, not just a young man starting his career in healthcare quality improvement - he treated everyone with respect and kindness. He saved lives by treating the whole person and taught others to do the same. My wife taught him Italian for a few years and he was an eager learner. My sincere condolences to the family. Rest easy, Len. -Michael R Butz 

I want to send my condolences to your family. My family were not only patients of CINN, but i had the pleasure to know Dr. Cerullo as an Associate of their CINN Foundation until it was disbanded when they went to North Shore Health. He, certainly, was one of the nicest person's ive met in my life, but also always had time to chat. And the stories of how CINN made such a BIG impact on others. I want to thank his family for sharing him with us. As the son of an artist, i truly know that the time he gave to others was only possible by the time you allow him to take from you. May you find peace and comfort in knowing that his time spent on Earth was of great value. My thoughts and prayers are with you. -Scott Rosen 

My heart grieves with you over your loss. I’m praying that you’re surrounded by loving family, friends and neighbors as I was when Tim died. It isn’t easy and memories of the adventures throughout your marriage are a blessing. May God make his presence known through all the people around you! Cheryl, you are in my prayers! -Nancy Jorgensen 

I am deeply saddened by the loss of Dr. Cerullo, so young and so kind. We all knew him in the ER on the Northshore as the best! Condolences to the family, Michelle Myers Glower, RN

Dear Cheryl, Lauren and Whitney Our deepest sympathies on the passing of Len. We still remember his infectious laugh and his gracious spirit. We hope memories of your times together can bring some small measure of solace to you and your entire family. -Lynn Butler, Burk Schmitt and Family

I remember Lennie fondly as class president of HHS class of 1962. How far flung life takes us from those youthful days. We are so proud of him and his chosen profession. Deepest condolences to his family. -Karin Ruggiero Huyett 

Cheryl I'm very sorry to have learned of Len's passing. Don and I are praying for your peace and comfort in this sad time. -Paulette Duvall 

Dr. C, you saved my oldest sister in 1983 Aneurysm Old time clips. Then Dr.C came out or retirement to assist in 1 of my 5 Brain SURGERIES. He told Dr. Heffez to remove the clips and do Dr. C's approach. Our family's HERO. We used to drive the family with our Limousine company. Great Family and THE BEST DOCTOR. YOU are now with your precious daughter. Your our Hero I donated my Brain to him, now Dr. Lopes will have it. THANK YOU SIR, -Sandra George-Maxwell 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email