Harold Witherbee MD

Harold Rhody Witherbee MD

1924 - 2006

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Obituary of Harold Rhody Witherbee MD

Longtime physician and resident of Claremont, California, Harold (Hal) R. Witherbee passed away on June 4, 2006, in his home at Vaughn Bay, Washington. Please click on the link below to view video tribute: http://videos.lifetributes.com/?id=4211 Hal was born on May 11, 1924 in Los Angeles, California. He graduated from the Harvard School in 1942 and enrolled at Pomona College. He played football with classmates with whom he became life long friends: George Clark, Chet Jaeger, Gil Livingston, and Jim Steere. Both Hal and Jim brought their horses to college. A story that is still remembered on campus is the stunt Jim played on Hal. One evening Hal came home from a date and found his horse in his dorm room. While it may have been easy for Jim to lead the horse up the stairs, getting the horse down the stairs was an all night task. Hal, on drums, and Chet, on coronet, performed together at a freshman class assembly. Hal played drums for 25 years with Chet and his band at the Fourth of July Parade. Chet and his Night Blooming Jazzmen will be a part of Hal's memorial service. Hal enlisted in the Army in the fall of 1942, and after completing his first year at Pomona College, he was sent to Camp Roberts. He was selected for the Army Specialized Training Program ("ASTP"), and sent to City College of New York to study engineering. Due to the impending invasion of Normandy and the need for manpower in its ground forces, the Army disbanded the program and assigned most of the ASTP soldiers to the infantry. Hal, however, volunteered for the paratroopers. He was awarded the parachutists badge, but the Army determined infantrymen were needed more than parachutists and he was assigned to the 309th Infantry, 78th "Lightening" Division. On the day of his arrival in the European Theater, May 8, 1945, he raced with his K Company to the Ludendorf Bridge at Remagen, crossing the last major natural barrier, the Rhine. Hal was a technical sergeant and served as a noncommissioned officer in charge of a light weapons unit. In later years, he traveled to Europe with the 78th Division Battlefield Group. He enjoyed renewing friendships and making new friends of those with whom he served in combat and during the occupation of Berlin after the victory in Europe. Hal returned to Pomona College to complete his undergraduate work and then entered Stanford University School of Medicine. He received his medical degree, and after residency at the Veterans Hospital in Los Angeles, began his practice in internal medicine and neurology in Claremont. He was affiliated with the Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center since July 24, 1958, and served on numerous committees. He was a member of the American College of Physicians until he retired in 1993. Hal was the 4th generation of Witherbees to practice medicine. His father was a surgeon in Los Angeles; his grandfather was a surgeon who become the first administrator of the Los Angeles County Hospital (now USC Medical Hospital); and his great grandfather was a family doctor in Illinois. An avid reader, Hal's noteworthy collection of books included classic medicine, and English, Civil War, and World War II history. He loved the outdoors and was an expert skier. He seemed to be connected with the rhythms of the natural world as wove down the slopes. He enjoyed traveling and searching out historical sites and ancestral connections. An ancestor was a drummer boy in the American Revoluntary War. He admitted to "Scottish instincts" and loved to wear Scottish clan ties. Hal was a member of the Claremont Rotary Club for 48 years and served as president in 1982-1983. Hal served his country honestly and faithfully. He was devoted to his profession and family, and he was a man of intelligence, integrity, curiosity, and courage. Family members include his wife, Gail Sparks; his children, Bonny Omara, Dianne Witherbee (Robert Wickenden), Tom Witherbee (Cathy), Jim Witherbee, and Jennie Peters (Frank); his stepchildren, Stevenson Sparks (Cassandra), and Jay Sparks (Lorraine); his sister, Ann Seibert; his stepbrother in-law, Donald Olson (Shirley), and his stepsister in-law, Joyce Neimann; his grandchildren, Kenneth Witherbee, Brian and Stephanie Peters, and Robert and Kita Wickenden; his stepgrandchildren, Stephanie, Alexandra, Olivia, Melissa and Andrew Sparks; and his nieces and nephews. The memorial service will take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday, August 12, 2006, at the Garrison Theater, Scripps College, 10th and Dartmouth, Claremont, California. An informal gathering with light buffet lunch will take place in the foyer following the service. Memorials may be made to Rotary Club of Claremont, P.O. Box 357, Claremont, CA 91711; Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, 1500 North College Ave., Claremont, CA 91711; or Pomona Valley Habitat for Humanity, 2111 Bonita Ave., La Verne, CA 91750. Arrangements by Edwards Memorial Center. Please sign the online memorial at www.edwardsmemorial.com
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