Dr. Helmut Buettner
November 21, 1940 - February 17, 2020

Dr. Helmut Buettner

Dr. Helmut Buettner
Nov 21, 1940 - Feb 17, 2020

Dr. Helmut Buettner
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Helmut Buettner, MD, 79, died peacefully at home on February 17, 2020.

Helmut was born in Cologne, Germany and raised in Waren, Germany. He obtained his medical degree at the University of Goettingen. He and his wife moved to Miami, FL, where he completed a residency and fellowship in Ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, specializing in vitreoretinal surgery. They moved to Rochester, MN, where he worked at the Mayo Clinic for 30 years from 1975-2005. While at Mayo, he served as the Residency Program Director from 1982-1991 and actively participated in Mayo Medical School committees. He was recognized as a world leader in his field, publishing and presenting extensively. He also helped develop the pars plana vitrectomy surgical technique still in use today. He provided significant service to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Board of Ophthalmology, several professional societies, and editorial boards.

In his personal life, Helmut travelled the world and was an avid photographer, chronicling his many adventures and sharing them with family and friends. Helmut was an outdoor enthusiast and enjoyed hiking, fishing, camping, cross-country skiing, and canoe trips to the BWCA. He cherished time at their lake home in northern Minnesota.

He is preceded in death by his sister Ursula (son Marcus). He is survived by his wife of nearly 51 years, Heide Hildegard Buettner, his son Dirk (wife Pam, grandchildren Megan Garner (Robby), Katarina, and Caleb), his daughter Kerstin (wife Kellene Hadrava, grandchildren Samuel and Sally), and his sister Ingrid (Guenther, two nephews and a niece).

Memorial donations may be to Mayo Medical School, Habitat for Humanity, or the charity of your choice.

Ranfranz and Vine Funeral Homes is honored to be serving the Buettner family. To leave a special memory or condolence please visit

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[email protected] on Jun 6, 2020

Ohh Dr. Buettner,
Being a little one at nine months old, having retinoblastoma and putting you through so much grief, I grew up to love you so very much. You saved my life and 23 years later I’m doing so much more in life than ever imagined because of you! I’m so so sad to hear of your passing. Thank you for all you’ve done for the world. You’re an incredible man, and the world was beyond lucky to have you.

Johannes Kotschi on Mar 19, 2020

Helmut Büttner was my cousin. I did not meet him often, as he lived in the US and I in Germany. But at any meeting I was very impressed by his sincerity, generousness and gentleness. As an elder cousin he has been exemplary. Lieber Helmut, ich wünsche Dir alles Gute auf deinem Weg. Johannes.

Barry Knapp on Mar 2, 2020

Dr Buettner saved my sight on an emergency surgery one December day in 1988. The emergency surgery was performed on Christmas eve and Dr Buettner was in to see me on Christmas day to assure all was going well. We crossed paths several times since with daughters on the same traveling soccer team and eye follow-ups. His kindness, gentleness, and surgical skills remain in my image of him. I feel so fortunate to have been a patient of Dr Buettner.

Paul Michel on Mar 2, 2020

I am one of many patients whose vision was preserved by Dr. Buettner's world-class surgery. As I wrote in a letter at the time of his retirement: "You, sir, will always be held in high regard in my eyes."

John Jarstad M.D. on Feb 27, 2020

Dr. Buettner was always one of my favorite professors when I was a resident at Mayo 1984-88. He was strict but extremely generous. One week as he was leaving on holiday he offered me the use of his personal office. As I opened his top drawer to look for a pen, I noticed a stack of “Thank you” cards. That made such an impression on me and I have followed his example to this day. He called me on match day to notify me of the news I had matched at Mayo. We spoke in German (my second language). I will always remember his kindness. Vielen Dank immer Professor Buettner. Aufweidersehn bis spater. John Jarstad, M.D. Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology University of Missouri & University of South Florida

Robert Baker MD on Feb 26, 2020

Dear Buettner Family,

Dr. Buettner was always kind and patient with me as my residency program director. His professionalism and medical achievements are lasting tribute of his service to humanity as a teacher and mentor of physicians.

My deepest condolence,

Rob Baker MD

Herb and Kathy Cantrill on Feb 24, 2020


Kathy and I were so saddened to hear of Helmut's passing. We hope to be at the memorial service in March. We will always have fond memories of Helmut. I loved to talk to him about all of his travels.

Herb and Kathy Cantrill

Lori Pasch on Feb 24, 2020

Some 23 years ago my son suffered a severe eye injury, on our frantic trip to Rochester my prayer was, please Lord send us the right doctor. Not please save his eye, but for the right doctor. God answered my prayer and then some!! So so so grateful for Dr. Buettner. Not just his medical knowledge, but his kindness and compassion to myself, and my then 15 year old son. So so sorry for your loss. Only wonderful thoughts of this man.

Ron and Marlene Jensen on Feb 22, 2020

So very saddened by this man’s passing... a wonderful family that we loved and felt such a great part of... your loss is also ours

Herta Matteson on Feb 21, 2020

Liebe Heide und Familie,
Unser herzlichstes Beileid zum Tod von Helmut. Er war ein großer Arzt und ein ein Weltreisender nach unserem Herzen.
Dir wünschen wir Kraft für kommende Zeit.
Liebe Grüße von
Herta und Eric Matteson

Robert C Ramsay MD on Feb 21, 2020

Dear Heidi, we were so sorry to learn of Helmut’s passing. We don’t need to tell you he was a remarkable physician and friend, with the highest personal integrity. Please know we are thinking of you and your family at this time. Best wishes, Norma and Robert Ramsay

Drs Bryan and Ingrid Neel on Feb 20, 2020

Helmut was a great colleague and friend. His honesty and good nature were incorruptible. He had lots of native intelligence, wisdom and courage. His professional aptitude was reflected by the fact that he was recognized as a world leader in his field. H Bryan Neel III, MD, PhD. My wife, Ingrid and I extend our deepest condolences to Heidi and the Buettner family, with Love

Weldon Hanson on Feb 20, 2020

Heide, Dirk & Kirsten,
Our family’s thoughts and prayers are with you today as we learned of Helmut ‘s passing last evening. I greatly appreciated Helmut’s and your friendship these many years. Helmut had a remarkable life as a eye doctor and be able to help so many patients with eye complications during his career at Mayo. I am happy in recalling thoughts of his telling me of the several travels aboard the container ships , enjoying the car races, and of your retirement to the Eli home which he enjoyed greatly. It was a privilege of mine to have each of you as friends these many years and to be able to visit and help out where I could from time to time as opportunity presented.
Love to you, 💕. - Weldon, Sarah, Hillary & Mitchell

Kathy Randall on Feb 19, 2020

Heide, you and the whole family are in my prayers.

Mylan Van Newkirk on Feb 18, 2020

Helmet was such a great observer and world traveler. Betty and I were lucky to have Helmet visit us in Teton Valley ID several times but also In Hong Kong and Australia. We first learned of Helmet's appreciation and knowledge of nature on Key Biscayne but never failed to learn more from him with every visit. He will be missed. Hugs and love to Heidi, Dirk, and Kirsten. Mylan

Anne on Feb 18, 2020

I have so many fond memories of Dr. Buettner, and I appreciate all that he did for my family. He will be greatly missed. My sincere condolences to the whole family. Sincerely, Anne (Karen's daughter)



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