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Peters Funeral Home - Shafter
844 E Lerdo Highway
Shafter, CA 93263
(661)746-6314

Harold C. Freedman M.D.


1914 - 2013 Obituary Condolences
Harold C. Freedman M.D. Obituary
Harold C. Freedman, M.D. March 6, 1914 - February 14, 2013 Harold Freedman was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Rose Weithorn Freedman and Eli Freedman. He attended PS 87 in Brooklyn and Franklin K. Lane High School. At age sixteen he passed the New York State Board of Regents Test and was admitted to New York University where he was elected to the Pre-Medical Honor Society and was graduated cum laude. He decided at age six to become a doctor; his model was his own family's doctor - Doctor Otis - who made his house calls first with a horse and buggy and later in a Model T Ford. Harold remembered seeing Dr. Otis in winter always put a blanket over the horse when they stopped for a housecall. Harold was the oldest grandson on both sides of the family and was doted on by four grandparents. His brother Mervin was born also on March 6 in 1920. His paternal grandmother - Annie Freedman - never knew her last name. As a very small girl she was found wandering after a pogrom in Vilna and was adopted by the Freedman family. The Freedman's already had a son - Asher - when they adopted Annie, and Asher and Annie later married and emigrated to Somerville, Massachusetts where their son - Harold's father - was born. Harold and his brother celebrated Shabbat every Friday with the Freedman grandparents until the boys left for medical school and the army. Harold described the most influential person in his life as his maternal grandmother, Charlotte Weithorn, with whom Harold, Mervin, and their father went to live after the boys' mother died when they were children. She stressed the value of education frequently saying, "You don't want to be a donkey." Her husband, Max, had a trucking company which started with horses and wagons which Harold remembered riding on and being told by a longshoreman at the docks not to help load; union members did that. Trucks replaced the wagons; the stables in Brooklyn became the garage. After graduation from New York University Harold started medical school at the University of Minnesota. All members of the family put money together every month to send to him for tuition and room and board. There were no scholarships then. Families valued having a member in college. Harold was in medical school from 1933 - 1937 and became an M.D. when he was twenty-three years old. Then he had his internship and surgical residency. The surgical residency was an honor and was the most coveted residency at the fine medical schools. When the chief of surgery selected Harold he told him, "You are our first Jewish resident. If you do all right there will more." Harold did the residency over three years and was graduated with a certificate of superiority. In 1937 Harold married Opal Jensen, a fellow student at the University of Minnesota. She worked in the accounting department of Sears & Roebuck as Harold finished medical school. Daughter Margaret Rose was born in 1941, and Harold was suddenly serving his country after a recruiting officer from Fort Schnelling invited him to volunteer and come into the U.S. Army Air Corps as an officer or be drafted and enter the army as a buck private. Harold enlisted and was responsible for physical exams of several thousand recruits as our forces built up; he then provided care for the troops. He bought literally the last new car - an Oldsmobile - available in Minneapolis (the dealer closed up shop the next day) so Opal and Margaret could follow him to bases in Amarillo, Texas and Sacramento. Pearl Harbor Day found him stationed at Gardner Field in Taft. He was next stationed at Minter Field in Shafter. He recalled doing surgery on German prisoners of war there as a German officer oversaw to make sure he did no harm. He also recalled a court martial where he was a judge. The commanding officer told him ahead of the trial how to rule. Harold was honorably discharged in 1946 with the rank of major after fifty-seven months in the Army Air Corps. At this time a group of Shafter businessmen asked him to set up a medical practice in Shafter, and he and Opal agreed to. His brother Mervin - who had served in the U.S. Army in Italy and North Africa (with General Patton) and saved his army pay - loaned them the start-up money which Harold was able to repay in three months. And he and Opal welcomed another daughter, Charlotte Anne, in 1947. Thus began a long and storied career of delivering babies, "operating," training Shafter High graduates (employees) how to give injections and take x-rays, examining every incoming freshman at Shafter High, sitting on the bench for every home football game, volunteering at the Shafter Farm Labor Camp every harvest season, serving as president of the Kern Medical Society where he organized three weekends of Sabin polio vaccination in county public parks which virtually eradicated polio in Kern County, making housecalls, caring for his patients, and making friends far and wide - many in his profession. Harold had a long and successful career and family life in Shafter where he and his partners Jake Jacobus and Russ Kodet practiced medicine together for many years. Harold did decide to retrain in physiatry at U.C. Davis and went back to medical school at age fifty-five. He subsequently returned to Shafter and worked at the Kern Medical Center for several years, serving as the Chief of Staff there and being complimented as the funniest M.C. they ever had for staff holiday parties. He enjoyed traveling, jazz, gin martinis, dining in restaurants, reading, Stars Dinner Theater, news and current events, walking the dogs he shared his life with, and democratic politics. He moved seamlessly into retirement and kept as active as he could for as long as he could. He could discuss medical topics flawlessly well into his nineties. He truly made the most possible of his ninety-nine years. Harold leaves his daughter Margaret Freedman Lemucchi (Timothy) and daughter Charlotte Freedman Spear, sister-in-law Marjorie Freedman, devoted cousin David Bloom (Amy), seven beloved nieces and nephews, amazing caregiver and friend Shirley Moreno, adopted daughter Kay Bann, dear friend, Doris Unruh, stepsister Hortense Margolis, and many admirers and dear friends who will miss him greatly. He was pre-deceased by his wife Opal, his brother Mervin, and his son-in-law John Spear. Burial was private at Shafter Memorial Park. A memorial service was held at Peters Funeral Home Thursday, February 21 at 11:00 a.m. The family welcomes contributions to the Harold C. Freedman Scholarship Fund at CSUB which awards annually to a Shafter High graduate attending CSUB. Checks may be made out to CSUB Foundation/Freedman, c/o David Melendez, 9001 Stockdale Highway, Bakersfield, CA 93311. Or a contribution to the Kern County SPCA or your favorite animal charity is most welcome also. The family thanks Dr. Memen and Glenwood Gardens for their level of medical care and respectful, thoughtful personal care. We cannot praise and thank them enough. Hoffman Hospice did a wonderful job within Glenwood Gardens for Harold's last days. You are invited to sign the guest book and share remembrances with the family at www.GoldenValleyMemorialCare.com Peters Funeral Home, Shafter www.bakersfield.com/obits
Published in Bakersfield Californian from Feb. 20 to Feb. 23, 2013
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