Richard Lennihan, MD passed away peacefully at the age of 86 on June 12, 2013 in Christiana Care Hospital, to which he had devoted his professional life. He was the first physician in Delaware to practice vascular (blood vessel) surgery and most recently was a major advocate for Christiana Care's Center for Heart and Vascular Health. He and his wife Marge moved to Delaware from the Boston area in 1962, settling in Westminster where they raised five children and created a backyard nature-lover's paradise at the house they shared for 50 years.
Dr. Lennihan was not only a skilled and meticulous surgeon, he was also an old-time doctor, making house calls, delivering medications to shut-ins, taking plenty of time explaining things to his patients, and especially providing emotional support for his patients before and after surgery. He was known as a great teacher for the younger doctors at the hospital, eager to pass along his knowledge of surgery which was his great passion. He also took the foreign doctors under his wing, acting like a father to those who were far from home.
He began running marathons in 1976, completing many Marine Corps and Boston Marathons. He also participated in shorter races, including the Delaware Senior Olympics at which he set five age-group records for 80 and older.
An avid birdwatcher, Dr. Lennihan built birdhouses for his backyard and went on birdwatching vacations to places like the Galapagos Islands. His love of nature took him all over the world on adventures with his wife, including trips to Bhutan, the Amazon River, and Outer Mongolia. His photographs captured these varied landscapes as well as his beloved family and his wife's lush meadow garden.
On a trip to East Africa, Dr. Lennihan visited an orphanage which he "adopted", sending financial support for many years to the young Eritrean boys who referred to him as "father." To his great satisfaction, some of these boys went on to medical school and are now practicing as doctors in countries around the world.
Martha's Vineyard, where he spent summers sailing as a child, was like a second home to Dr. Lennihan. He continued vacationing there throughout his life, enjoying sailing, birdwatching, and picnicking as the sun set over the ocean. Mostly he loved opening his home to friends and sharing in their enjoyment of the island.
Dr. Lennihan had a special gift for making friends wherever he went. He was much loved, not only by his patients and by the generations of physicians whom he taught, but also by the people he met in every walk of life.
Born in Boston, Dr. Lennihan joined the Navy in 1944, subsequently graduating from Harvard in 1948. The following year he married his classmate Marjory Reynolds. After graduating from Cornell Medical School, he did his internship at the University of Virginia Hospital, then his surgical residency at Boston City Hospital.
Beyond all his professional and athletic accomplishments, Dr. Lennihan was perhaps proudest of his five children and their contributions through their varied careers: Marion Begabati Lennihan of Cambridge, Mass., author and holistic health care professional; Laura Lennihan Kerrich of Chappaqua, New York, neurologist; Mark Lennihan of Brooklyn, New York, photographer and photo editor for Associated Press; Lisa Lennihan of Chicago, Illinois, psychoanalyst; and Holly Lennihan Cox of Alexandria, Virginia, architect. He is survived by his wife, his children, and his eight grandchildren, who were his greatest joy. The eldest is now in medical school, following in her grandfather's illustrious footsteps.
Dr. Lennihan will be remembered for his enthusiasm, optimism and generosity. Through his own work and that of the doctors he taught and supported, he touched the lives of people around the world. A memorial service is planned for September at Christiana Care Hospital. Donations may be made online at www.christianacare.org/makeagift
, or by sending a check to the Center for Heart & Vascular Health, Christiana Care Health System, PO Box 1668, Wilmington, DE 19899, noting "in memory of Dr. Lennihan."
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