Dr. R. Mario Abellera

Dr. R. Mario Abellera of Onalaska, formerly of The Philippines, passed from this world on Monday April 26, 2021 with his loving wife, Fe, at his side.

He was born Revelino (the “R”) Mario Abellera Quintillan in the town of Binalonan, Pangasinan in The Philippines on January 20, 1932 to Angelo and Brigida Abellera, parents whom he loved dearly and deeply throughout his life.

As a young child, adulthood would come fast. He lost his younger brother Rizal at age 11 to disease. During WWII, he and the rest of his family would endure 3 years of Japanese Military occupation of their home, relegating the Abellera Clan to living out the war in a structure on their property. Undoubtedly, the events of his youth would strengthen his determination for adulthood that by the time he was in High School, he was set on a profession as a doctor.

After graduating from Santo Tomas Faculty of Medicine and Surgery at 23, he arrived in the United States in 1955 to commence his ultimate 50+ year career in medicine. As an immigrant, he would become fascinated by what was waiting for him in Western Society. Shortly after a mind-blowing experience of flying across the ocean on an airplane to a new country, little things like his first taste of cold whole milk over cereal would prove equally astonishing. (“We would only use canned sweetened condensed milk in the Philippines because of its long shelf life that required no refrigeration!”) He would also recall his fascination with his first encounter with a white fluffy substance falling from the skies around the months of December and January called “snow.”

But these discoveries would be dwarfed in comparison to the event that would strike him next. At a Philippine Association of Southern Ohio July 4th Picnic, he would meet the love of his life, Fe Calapas, in 1960. His charm and wit were no match to Fe’s defenses, but legend has it that it was the dual fins on his brand new Impala that ultimately won her hand. A far cry from cold whole milk over cereal! They would marry a year later and begin a life and family together, fins and all.

Mario began to spread his wings and the added roles of dad, neighbor, friend and local “International Man of Mystery” would fit him well and last a lifetime. He grew sideburns, wore bell-bottom suits, made close friendships outside of work and could turn a crepe with one hand while holding a drink in the other.

As his family grew, so did the miles on his cars (by then, a finless automobile), and he would move from Cleveland to Onalaska where he would live for the rest of his life.

He acclimated himself to the quaintness of God’s Country, being a frequent sight on the waters of the Black River, the slopes of Mt. LaCrosse and in the lines of the Salad Bar at The Freight House. And if you listened closely, you may have even detected a slight midwest twang working its way through his dominant Filipino accent when ordering the “Engineers Cut” of Prime Rib.

He was active in the community, both professionally and societally. When music was provided for either, he’d be the first on the dance floor revealing his Chakira-like Salsa moves, powered by the thickness of his “Abellera Calves” which he passed on to his three children.

But it was his 35-year career as a pathologist at Gundersen Clinic that would make him most synonymous within the La Crosse community. There, he respected and gained the respect of his fellow physicians and staff by being “Mario” — quiet in his ways, roaring with his knowledge of and passion for medicine. By the time he retired from Gundersen in 2007, he would leave a legacy of caring, giving and leadership that is present to this day and was proud to be able to call himself a Gundersen physician. You can retire the doctor from the hospital, but not the hospital from the doctor.

Not much was insurmountable for Mario. No wall too high for his 5’ 4” frame to scale. Whether it was building a decorated career in a foreign land, taking on and conquering the game of golf at age 70 (and getting a hole-in-one at only years after picking up the game!) or mastering the use of his iPod and iPad at an even later age. Not even being diagnosed with cancer in 2014 would keep him from rising to the challenge and emerging victoriously.

His devotion to The Philippines would never subside the entire 66 years he lived in the States. If he wasn’t traveling there, he would often “go back for a visit” over a bowl of avocado, milk and sugar, a glass of Halo-Halo or plate of garlic fried rice, tomatoes and “SPAM.” But his devotion to his growing family always took precedent. In retirement, he effortlessly transitioned to his full time title as “Lolo” to his four granddaughters – doting over Abby and Sammy from his daughter Michelle and Laura and Becca from his son Michael.

In 2015, Mario and Fe would eventually settle in Emerald Valley in Onalaska. He quickly became accustomed to Country Club life, surrounded by the beauty of the valley and the proximity of great friends — not to mention Woodman’s Food Market, where he loved to find just the right mango.

Revelino Mario Abellera Quintillan would cherish everything and everyone he was able to have in his life — and he will be missed by those fortunate enough to have had him in theirs.

Mario is survived by his wife Fe of 61 years, his sons Michael and Mark of New York and his daughter Michelle of Minneapolis, his daughter-in-law Karla Abellera of New York, his son-in-law Scott Abellera-Wright of Minneapolis and granddaughters Abby and Sammy Abellera-Wright of Minneapolis, Laura Abellera of La Crosse and Becca Abellera of New York and many nieces and nephews around the globe.

He was preceded in death by his father Angelo, his mother Brigida, brothers Angelo Jr. and Rizalino and his sister Gloria.

A celebration of life will be held at a later date.

For anyone who would like to contribute a memory, photo, story, comment, thought or prayer that can be viewed by all, please visit the family’s “Remembering Dr. R. Mario Abellera” retrospective site https://bit.ly/3xE1ox9.