James M. ‘Jim’ Laster, 78, compassionate physician who was a staunch advocate for his patients

James M. 'Jim' Laster
James M. ‘Jim’ Laster

Dr. James M. “Jim” Laster, 78, passed away Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018. Dr. Laster was born March 30, 1940, in San Diego. The only child of Marine Corps Colonel Carl A. Laster and Jeanette Reese Laster, Jim enjoyed a bicoastal military childhood, excelling in math, tennis and football in school.

After graduating from Los Angeles High School, he went on to the U.S. Naval Academy, where he played collegiate tennis and met many longtime friends. Following in his father’s footsteps, Jim chose the Marine Corps after graduation, serving from 1961 through 1967. He had considered a career in medicine and completed Northwestern University Medical School in 1969. After a psychiatry residency at San Francisco Community Mental Health Services, he went on to complete a fellowship in social and community psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and a Master’s Degree in Public Health from Harvard University in 1978.

Arriving in Virginia Beach in 1978, he joined Dominion Psychiatric Associates in its Chesapeake office. He followed with a partnership in Laster & DeLapp P.C. in Virginia Beach. Jim served a one-year term as medical director for Tidewater Psychiatric Institute, 10 years as medical director for the Chesapeake Community Services Board and 23 years as medical director for City of Virginia Beach Mental Health Services. Jim also served as both assistant and associate professor at EVMS and supervisor of Portsmouth Naval Hospital psychiatry residents. Of his career achievements, he was most proud of twice receiving the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

Full of fun and amazement at the rest of the world, Jim was named “Pooh” by his closest friends. He loved laughter, tennis and his flashing red Christmas hat. With a twinkle in his eye and a bemused look on his face, “Pooh” enjoyed recounting stories about life’s ironies. He was a compassionate physician and a staunch advocate for his patients who were the poorest and most disabled among us. Nothing angered him more than the lack of needed services to help those with mental illness. Because of this, he was loved by his patients and their families who knew that he cared deeply about them.

When not working, his favorite place was the tennis court. He was quite proud of belonging to teams that won three national tennis championships and proudly displayed his trophies. He was known in tennis circles for his quickness and frequent lobs. Evenings could find him enjoying bridge or any other card games with friends. His USNA local classmates were close friends with whom he enjoyed many monthly luncheons, dinners and Army/Navy football games.

Jim is survived by his wife of 49 years, Judith Groves Laster; daughters, Tara Worth (Mike) of Burke, Beth Laster of Franklin, Massachusetts, Melinda Laster (Tim Mustard) of Roswell, Georgia; and grandchildren, Luke and Jordan Worth, Amelia, Charles and James Mustard. He is also survived by his cousin, Susan Laster of Richmond; and brother-in-law, James Groves (Carol) of South Bend, Indiana.

The family wishes to thank the wonderful nurses and staff at VBGH, the Memory Center and Tidewater Palliative and Hospice Care. Thank you to Newton from JFS Personal Care and to our wonderful friends who have provided so many hours of support and caring to Jim and our family.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 7, at H.D. Oliver Funeral Apts., 2002 Laskin Road, Virginia Beach.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the National Association for the Mentally Ill.

“We will miss our Pooh.”

Share online condolences with the family at hdoliver.com.

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