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Thomas Richard Larwood


1925 - 2016 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Thomas Richard Larwood Obituary
Thomas Larwood, MD, born October 25, 1925, passed away quietly Tuesday evening September 6, 2016 at the age of 90. His beloved wife Pauline was at his side. He is survived by children David, Don, Dean, Debbie, and Diana Larwood, Mike and Scott Wracher, and eight grandchildren. Every child got to visit with him in his last month, three saw him on Sunday, and another on the day of his passing. He remained vital and interested in everything until his last few hours. As he liked to say, "I am just wearing out", and in the end he did just that.
He married Pauline Wracher in May 1972 and they were happily married for 44 years.
He was a devoted physician, caring deeply for a wide range of patients. His early plans to be a medical missionary in and near Seoul, Korea, were cut short after only a year when he and son David contracted polio. Tom continued in a practice much like a missionary, spending much of his time with patients of very limited resources.
He was inspired by his friend and partner Dr. Hans Einstein to pay particular attention to Valley Fever. Tom worked tirelessly on studying the disease, particularly in looking for a vaccine to prevent it, as well as any promising treatments. This became a family affair when his wife Pauline took a leading role for decades in a large vaccine development project with Rotary international and the Valley Fever Americas Foundation. Son David took up another torch, founding Valley Fever Solutions in 2007, working hard on developing a promising new and better drug to treat Valley Fever.
Tom retired from his medical group practice in 1991, but continued to work with the Kern County jails and various local nursing homes until about 2005 when he felt his vision problems called for him to stop practicing medicine. Even then he continued as an advisor to several nursing homes, retiring from that only recently.
He was active in East Bakersfield Rotary since the 1960s, continuing actively as one of the senior members of that group. He was an early member of Wesley United Methodist Church, and remained active as a leader. As an Eagle Scout himself, he worked closely with Troop 555 and his oldest three boys, and continued as a doctor at Camp Kern for decades, much of that as chief doctor for the Kern County Council. He was very active on many local medical boards for a wide range of diseases.
Affectionately known as "Doctor Tom" or just plain Tom, he was a man of the people. He chose a life of service very early, active in church leadership in his teens. At 18, talking with his father, Tom worked out that he liked "science and people." He explored pre-med. After two years, he was drafted in 1944 and became a Navy Pharmacist's Mate. Shortly before Navy discharge, he was deeply inspired by a talk by Dr. Day at a Methodist Youth Conference meeting. Dr. Day asked "Are you going to invest your life or just spend it?" That very night he felt he had been called to develop and share this gift, and he indeed gave and gave his entire life.
He spent a year at Cal Berkeley, then went straight to medical school at the University of Southern California. He reached Bakersfield in 1952, with his wife Pat and infant son David. In that year of residency, he spent considerable time with a young doctor, Hans Einstein, who became a lifetime friend and medical partner.
He and his young family moved to Seoul Korea in 1955, where he provided medical assistance while focusing on his main project of siting and building a new hospital in Wonju. Polio cut this short, but others continued the work on his site, and that hospital, Wonju Severance Christian Hospital is the biggest university hospital in central Korea, with 850 beds and 29 clinical departments.
After polio rehab in Fresno and a year in Los Angeles at Barlow Sanitarium so he could retrain with a more focused practice of Internal Medicine, he and his growing family returned to Bakersfield in 1957. There he became the first Chief of Internal Medicine at Kern County General Hospital (now Kern Medical), practiced for a time as a solo physician, then joined Hans Einstein and three others in what evolved over years to a group of some 25 doctors.
Tom's earliest years were spent in a boxcar, where his civil engineer father was laying out railroad in Northern Arizona for Santa Fe. His mother joined her large family in Fresno to have Tom, her first born, on October 31, 1925. They returned to the railroad site for two years. The family moved to San Pedro where his father taught school. In the depression, jobs were tough but his father found a position teaching in Fresno in the early 30s, eventually teaching math at Roosevelt High School. Tom helped his father construct the family home, near Fresno High, where Tom graduated. He continued at Fresno State, was drafted in 1944, and graduated from USC Medical School in 1951.
He was always fascinated by family. Family reunions of more than a hundred inspired him as a teenager to start mapping family trees. He was never impressed by grandees, but was proud of his great great grandparents Henry Harmon and Eliza Hart Spalding, missionaries in 1836 to the Nez Perce in Oregon Territory, founding the first school in what became Idaho. Eliza's crossing the continental divide, with Narcissa Whitman and her husband Marcus, M.D., demonstrated that families could make the journey, and the Oregon Trail migration began in earnest a few years later. A still earlier family pioneer, his 11th generation progenitor Edward Spalding, immigrated to Jamestown Virginia in 1619, moving by 1633 to Braintree, Massachusetts and establishing what became a quite large family with many prominent members. Tom never tired of helping to explore family history with his son David, niece Karen, and any others who shared their own family explorations.
Services will be held Sunday September 11, 2016, at 2 pm in Bakersfield at Wesley United Methodist Church, 1314 Oswell at Nile. Visitors and friends are welcome. Contributions can be made to the Valley Fever Americas Foundation, PO Box 2752, Bakersfield CA 93303 or info@valleyfever.com.
Published in Bakersfield Californian on Sept. 10, 2016
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