In Memoriam: Dr. John Cody

John Cody portrait photoIt is with great sadness that we report the passing of one of the GNSI’s shining stars, Dr. John Cody. Dr. John passed away July 11, at the age of 91.

It was on a tree-lined street in his hometown of Brooklyn, New York, where John Cody first encountered a large and colorful moth from the saturniid family. He was five years old. He still recalls in detail that magical moment, which would launch a lifelong interest and ultimately become what he calls his true vocation: painting moths.

Dr. Cody began sketching scenes from nature when he was eight years old and later began a professional art career as a medical illustrator. He went on to medical school and became a renowned psychiatrist, practicing for more than twenty-five years, something he says he did, in part, so that he could afford to paint. A fellow psychiatrist called Dr. Cody "a rare avis, one of the most truly creative and original human beings I've ever met."

Ultimately, his fascination with moths and remarkable artistic talent came together to produce his celebrated paintings of moths. Indeed, John was a renaissance man, and he is now revered as "The Audubon of Moths."

Dr. Cody's numerous exhibitions have included one-man shows at such sites as the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. He holds top honors from a myriad of organizations and publications, from Audubon Magazine to the Association of Medical Illustrators. John received the Governor's Arts Award in 1997 for Individual Artist Lifetime Achievement Award in the State of Kansas.

An authority on the poet Emily Dickinson, he has written biographies of her and of Richard Wagner. He has also co-authored a biography of the famous medical artist Max Brodel, as well as published books on art anatomy. He has written dozens of articles and papers on subjects ranging from painting, medical illustration, psychiatry, and entomology. John Cody is survived by his wife, Dorothy and their three children: Loren, Andrea, and Graham.

Dr. John had been a member of the Guild since 1995.  GNSI members fortunate enough to have known Dr. John even more fortunate to have taken his watercolor workshops at many conferences came to know him as a sweet, kind, and very funny man, ever generous with his time and talents. He received the GNSI Special Service Award in 2012 [the Special Service Award is occasionally given for long-term dedication to the Guild through efforts of volunteerism, service, teaching, mentoring, or other ongoing and substantial support of our organization]. He will be sorely missed.

Gerald Hodge, Elaine Hodges and John Cody

Google “Dr. John Cody, Hays, KS” and you will find a number of fascinating articles about this complex and multifaceted man. 

We'd love to hear your stories and memories with John. Please share your stories, photos, (un)finished artwork from John's workshops and any messages to Dot and his family using the link below. We will compile them and share with John's family and friends and the GNSI membership. If you run into any questions or troubles with the link, please contact Ikumi [email protected].

Remembering John Cody (

View more Cody art here:

In memory of John Cody

Remembrances by John's son Graham

John Joseph Cody, a long-time resident of Hays, KS, died on July 11, 2016, at the age of 91. He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Dorothy Casto Cody, and their three children, Loren Shaiken and husband Mark of Denver, CO, Andrea Russell of Lake Oswego, OR, and Graham Cody and his wife Renee Lauber of Madison, WI. John also leaves behind 3 grandchildren, Zachary Shaiken, Ethan Russell, and Rowan Cody. John was born in Brooklyn, New York on May 6, 1925, to Joseph Edward Cody and Ellen Langstaff Cody. He was the oldest of 6 children. His brother, Edwin Cody, and his sister, Eileen Keeler pre-deceased him. Surviving siblings are Evelyn McLean of Bethpage, NY, Genevieve Cody, of Brooklyn, NY, and Ellen Butler of Twinsburg, OH.

After living at his parent’s home until graduating from St. John’s University in Brooklyn NY, John’s professional life swung between art and science. As he described it, he chose “the most scientific form of art” when he became a medical illustrator after attending Johns Hopkins University’s Art as Applied to Medicine program in Baltimore, MD. In 1951 he then worked as a staff artist on a scientific expedition in the jungle of Trinidad with the famed naturalist, William Beebe. There began John’s love of traveling, which continued throughout his life. Upon return to the states, he took a job as a medical illustrator in the Pathology Department at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, AR. While working there he met Dr. Dorothy Casto, who was completing a pediatric internship at the same hospital, and who became his wife in 1955. They had been married only months, when John, at age 30, decided that he wanted to go to medical school, and Dot agreed to support him to do so. He received an MD from the University of Arkansas Medical School in 1960. At that point, he decided to pursue what he considered “the most artistic form of medicine” and become a psychiatrist. John completed a residency at the Menninger School of Psychiatry in Topeka, KS, and became a psychiatrist in 1964. After a year at Larned State Hospital, John took a job as the first psychiatrist and medical director of the newly established High Plains Mental Health Clinic in Hays in 1965. Soon thereafter he became the executive director of the clinic. He only expected to remain in Hays for a couple of years and then move back to the east coast. That never happened because the family fell in love with Hays, and the family settled into the old limestone house built in 1867 that was the first house built in Hays. The Codys remodeled the house to incorporate an art studio above the garage, where John, an artist, and author, could pursue his creative outlets.

John Cody with one of his piecesJohn enjoyed many creative pursuits throughout his life. He wrote several books, including biographies of poet Emily Dickinson, composer Richard Wagner, and medical artist Max Broedel; art books on the topics of foreshortening, and anatomical drawing; and a coffee table book of his own paintings of the great silkmoths called “Wings of Paradise.” John loved working in his studio, painting his large, lovely, detailed, watercolor moth paintings that earned him the reputation as the “Audubon of moths,” referencing the bird artist, James Audubon who was an early influence in his artwork. Some of John’s paintings have been donated to Fort Hays State University and can be periodically viewed at the Sternberg Museum in Hays.

Cards may be sent to Dot Cody at CedarView Assisted Living, 2929 Sternberg, Hays, KS 67601. A memorial service will be scheduled at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Hays Arts Council, 112 E. 11th St, Hays, KS 67601 or the High Plains Mental Health Center, 208 E. 7th St., Hays, KS 67601.

John Cody watercolor piece

John Cody watercolor piece

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