Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy Birthday Uncle Adolph

My uncle Adolph will be 99 on January 4. I figured why wait until he’s 100 to give him his due. Not that it won't happen, as he is as sharp as can be and in relatively good health.

Adolph and my father
Sept. 3, 1946

Adolph and my father were the sons of Isadore, a Romanian immigrant, and Helen, whose parents came to the U.S. from Germany in the 1880s. They lived in the Van Dorn Apartments at 6054 S. Michigan Avenue until moving to 7430 S. Bennett Avenue in the early 1920s. Adolph attended Hebrew school at South Side Hebrew Congregation on E. 59th Street before the move. He graduated from Bryn Mawr School (the alma mater of Michelle Obama) and Hyde Park High School. I thought he would have walked past the scene of the recent tragic fire on E. 75th Street on his way to and from the Stony Island streetcar and high school in the 1930s but he informed me the streetcar stopped at 73rd and Bennett before heading west to Stony Island. He then told me its entire route and that their neighbors, the Hirshmans, had owned the building for their Banner Cleaners business (it turned out to be the building next door). He enrolled in the University of Michigan and transferred after one year to the University of Chicago, where he also earned his medical degree. 

7430 S. Bennett Ave.

As youngsters on the South Side, the boys quickly became White Sox fans. Adolph attended his first Sox game in 1921 (sadly, the year after the eight members of the Black Sox were banned from baseball) and remembers that Red Faber pitched against Eddie Rommel and the Philadelphia Athletics. Because the family didn’t have a car, they took the Wentworth Avenue streetcar to the ballpark. He would wait 38 years to see a World Series on the South Side (thanks again for getting us tickets for Game 1), then another 46 to see his second. They also attended Chicago Black Hawks games at the Chicago Coliseum in the mid-1920s. 

The family (minus Jim) at the last game at Comiskey Park,
Sept. 30, 1990

Adolph received his physician’s license on July 31, 1936, which he retained for 53 years, and began practicing as a pediatrician affiliated with Michael Reese Hospital. He enlisted in the Army Medical Corps during World War II and served in the South Pacific. While there, he played an instrumental role in the rebuilding of the Jewish temple in Manila after the end of the war. Returning to the South Side, he resumed his medical practice at the corner of E. 71st Street and South Shore Drive, across the street from the entrance to South Shore Country Club (now the South Shore Cultural Center). He married Rosalind Munk in 1947, and they had three children – Jim, Bob and Cathy – and lived at 7411 S. Oglesby Avenue. After most of his patients’ families moved out of the neighborhood, the family pulled up stakes for the North Shore in 1963. He joined a group practice in Highland Park and worked at a clinic in Waukegan well into his eighties.

7411 S. Oglesby Ave.

I will always associate Uncle Adolph with the physician’s black bag, for his were the days of house calls. One such call was for me, when as a high-school freshman I was expecting the mumps after the gestation period from my brother was over. “This boy doesn’t have the mumps,” he said after a bedside examination.  “He has the German measles.” The German measles were gone in three days and the mumps arrived, resulting in two weeks of missed school. The children of White Sox, including the sons of shortstop Luis Aparicio (see my personally autographed picture below), were patients on the South Side. My cousin Jim also became a pediatrician and, at his father’s urging took up a specialty; he’s now one of the world’s foremost pediatric oncologists and has saved the lives of hundreds of children. Later, I found I was getting old when people asked if I were related to Dr. Nachman . . . Dr. Jim, not Dr. Adolph.

Luis Aparicio

Except for his years in the Medical Corps, Adolph saw the Sox play every year until 2007 and has made it out to a few games since, including a trip this past season. It was thus fitting that we were at the August 17, 2006, game vs. Kansas City, when the leadoff men for both teams hit home runs in the first and second innings. The scoreboard later posted this was a first in Major League Baseball history. I turned to my uncle and said, “See, all these years you’ve been coming to the ballpark and you still see something new.”

Ticket, Aug. 17, 2006

In fact, learning new things is an important part of Adolph’s life. He reads extensively, uses the computer to surf the Internet (I still have to give him a primer about blogs) and sponsors adult education programs at his synagogue. During the previous decade, after Rosalind passed away, he traveled extensively, including river cruises of the Amazon and Danube (a trip to the ancestral city of Iasi, Romania, turned out to be logistically impossible). When asked whether he dined at the same group table nightly on the Amazon trip, Adolph replied, “No, those are for old people.”  He still plays an excellent game of bridge and had a regular game, as well as a poker game, until a few years ago.

So Happy Birthday, Uncle Adolph, and best wishes for many more. May you stay hale and hearty and continue to amaze us. I still have many questions to ask you.


  1. Wow, so glad I came across this. I was a patient of Dr. Nachman as a little girl. I have such fond memories f him and Bernice and the lollipops I'd always get when I would see him. If you are passing along birthday wishes, please let him know that Jennifer Light sends her best. I lived on Broadview, just down the street from his HP office.

  2. I am also glad that I came across this and have similar memories of Bernice and the dum dum lollipops in the bottom file cabinet drawer. I don't know many other people who, when going back to school at age 36 and needing to show proof of childhood immunizations, could stop over at their pediatrician's house and get his signature on a form! Please pass along my best wishes.

    Alyssa Dickman

  3. Happy birthday Dr Nachman,
    I have vivid memories of Dr Nachman and my cheeks. Being a chubby kid he delighted in pinching my cheeks. I tried to avoid his loving gesture but I was always too late and too slow. I think I had him for every class in Sunday school at South Shore Temple. He was such a presence that I, to this day, clearly recall him standing outside of the assembly/sanctuary doors of the Temple waiting to pounce on my cheeks. When I think of my early Temple years he is always there with his wonderful smile and fingers poised. I rejoice in his birthday and the pride I feel when I speak his name.
    Rabbi Lester A Frazin