William Dwight Lenzi, MD
July 22, 1941 - October 6, 2013
Dr. William D. Lenzi, 72, passed away on Sunday, October 6, 2013 at a local hospital from pneumonia. He passed peacefully surrounded by his wife and three daughters. Bill was a devoted husband, father and grandfather; a gifted orthopedic hand surgeon; and a fifth-generation Idahoan with ties dating back to pre-statehood who generously gave leadership and insight to some of Idaho's top medical, educational, and botanical institutions.
Bill, or "Papa" as he was known to his girls, was born on July 22, 1941 in Idaho Falls to parents, William Dwight Lenzi and Virginia Kirtley Lenzi. Bill moved to Star before his first birthday and spent the first 4 years of his life being raised by his maternal grandparents, William T. and Hazel Kirtley. His parents were frequently transferred due to WWII. His grandparents both had a profound affect on him. Bill's memory of Grandma Kirtley's beautiful garden and her love of flowers inspired him to help start the Idaho Botanical Garden. Bill's grandfather helped teach him math, accountability, and the importance of providing good customer service through their work together at the family store. Bill credits his grandfather and dad for giving him his good business sense.
Bill attended the one-room Star schoolhouse, Eagle Jr. High, and graduated from Meridian High School in 1959, and the College of Idaho in 1963. Bill spent his after-school hours and summers from age 12 to age 21 working at his family's store, the Star Mercantile. His starting wage was one dollar a day. He was expected to work harder than the other employees so as to prove he was not receiving preferential treatment.
After college Bill was accepted into the University of Washington School of Medicine. In 1965, while a third-year medical student, he met Lois Ann Montgomery at a wedding in Salt Lake City. They quickly realized they were soul mates, or as Lois liked to quip, "He fell madly in love with me." Bill proposed to Lois three months later during her parents' New Year's Eve party in the laundry room because "it was the only quiet room in the house," Bill reminisced. They were married on July 9, 1966 in Boise and had a reception in Lois's parents' backyard. The couple returned to Seattle so that Bill could finish medical school while Lois worked as a social worker.
Bill graduated from the University of Washington School of Medicine in 1968. He completed his internship at Cambridge City Hospital and then entered a Harvard surgery residency at Boston City Hospital.
In 1970, as a result of the Vietnam War, Bill was drafted into the Navy and spent two years of military service at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Newport, R.I. Three days before Bill and Lois moved to Rhode Island, their first daughter, Sonya, was born. They welcomed a second daughter, Kendra, in 1972. Upon discharge from the Navy, Bill returned to Boston and spent four years in the Harvard Service/Tufts Orthopedics residency. He was chief resident at New England Baptist Hospital. During this residency Bill and Lois welcomed their third daughter, Nicole, in 1974. Bill was then accepted into the Harvard/Tufts Orthopedic Hand Fellowship with world-renowned orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Edward Nalebuff, who specialized in arthritis reconstruction.
Upon completing his fellowship in 1976, Dr. Lenzi moved his family back to Idaho, and into his wife's childhood home. He wanted to raise his family in the state that he loved. Dr. Lenzi was Idaho's first board-certified orthopedic hand surgeon, and brought arthroscopic orthopedic surgery to the state. He joined Boise Orthopedic Clinic in 1976, but left in 1981 to focus exclusively on hand surgery and to start his own private clinic, Intermountain Hand Clinic, located across from St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center. Dr. Lenzi was the first physician in the Treasure Valley to have a logo for his clinic, and having one caused quite a stir at the time.
Dr. Lenzi practiced orthopedics for 36 years in the Treasure Valley with an emphasis in joint reconstruction of the hand and arm from rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. He committed to treat the whole patient, not just the injury. Dr. Lenzi's combination of superb surgical skill and sense of humor helped put his patients at ease. These attributes, in addition to his wonderful wit and contagious laughter, endured him to so many patients, nurses, and fellow physicians. His laughter often could be heard in the waiting room as he examined a patient. Each child that he treated at his clinic in the 1980's received a smurf with a bandaged finger so as to make them more comfortable with their care.
Dr. Lenzi was recognized five times by his clinical peers as one of the Best Doctors in America during his career. Dr. Lenzi was chairman of the Orthopedic Institute at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center from 1996 to 1998, and served on the Orthopedic Institute's board of directors. Unfortunately, in 2006, Dr. Lenzi stopped performing surgery after complications from a shoulder surgery. He continued to evaluate and treat non-surgical issues of the arm and hand until he retired in June 2012.
Dr. Lenzi's medical knowledge and surgical skills were always in demand from the time he returned to Boise until his death. He was frequently peppered with medical questions from friends and family about all aspects of medicine. In one special case, his expertise was needed to fix the broken wrist of a Superman action figure that was beloved by one of his daughter's friends. He also amazed others with his profound knowledge of music, botany, animals, and birds.
In addition to his commitment to the health of the community, Dr. Lenzi was passionate about volunteering and supporting others. He gave bandage scissors to all the nurses on 4E at St. Alphonsus Medical Center. He quietly gave scholarships to numerous nurses and nursing staff so they could further their education. He was instrumental in getting the Orthopedic Institute to financially support the Children's Art Wall display at St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center. He donated old, rare hip and hand implants to the Orthopedic Institute's implant display case. From 1984 to 1996, Dr. Lenzi served on the College of Idaho Board of Trustees. He was a founding member of the Idaho Botanical Gardens and was an active member until his death. Dr. Lenzi was a member of the Boise Art Museum and its Collector's Forum, and the Idaho Water Garden and Koi Society.
Dr. Lenzi loved to play gin rummy with his friends and daughters; spend time with his wife and family in Hilton Head and Palm Desert; relax at his beloved cabin in McCall; watch the History Channel and play chess with his grandsons; watch his granddaughter learn to walk and play with his mustache; and receive back scratches from those whom he could bribe.
His family will miss his brilliant wit, contagious laugh, and wonderful smile. Dr. Lenzi fought through two life threatening events in 1986 and 1995. His family cherishes the extra time and memories that they had with him as a result of his exceptional resilience in life. Unfortunately, his body was unable to fight against his most recent bought of pneumonia.
Dr. Lenzi is survived by his wife of 47 years, Lois; his three daughters, Sonya Lenzi, Kendra Lenzi (Tad Arnt), and Nicole Lenzi Amideo (Bret Amideo); grandchildren Ben and Alex Arnt, and Anne Amideo; beloved aunt Bethea Lenzi; uncle William Kirtley; brother Michael Lenzi; cousins Jack (Jill) and Butch (Denise) Kirtley, and Jill Kirtley Smith (Bear); three brothers in-law; numerous nieces and nephews; and "adopted son" Steve Eichenberger.
He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Dr. Dwight Lenzi and Rebecca Lenzi, William T. Kirtley and Hazel Hughes Kirtley; his parents, William Dwight Lenzi and Virginia Kirtley Lenzi; Uncle Bob Lenzi; and close friends, John Hayden, Jim Nelson, Ron Yankee, and Dr. John Lundy; and his favorite German shepherds, Gunther I and Gunther II.
There will be a celebration of life to honor Dr. Bill Lenzi's memory on Saturday, October 12, 2013 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Idaho Botanical Gardens in Boise. The family encourages Bill's friends, fellow physicians, nurses, and patients from his 36 year history of practicing orthopedics in the Treasure Valley to please attend and share their stories and memories of this great man and physician who touched the lives of so many during his time with us on earth. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Idaho Botanical Garden.
The family would like to give heartfelt thanks to Dr. Austin Cushman, Dr. Shelly Jacks, Dr. Laurie Ashby, Dr. Vic Kadyan, Dr. Julie Foote, and the old staff at St. Als, for their care of him through the years. The family would like to thank the St. Luke's staff, especially Drs. Shananhan, McClaskey, Rich, and Akhtar for their care of him on his last visit. A special thanks to St. Luke's CCU nurses, Jaime and Jason for their outstanding care and kindness in his last 2 days. We are forever grateful that you all are in healthcare. Condolences may be made at www.bowmanfuneral.com .
Published in Idaho Statesman from Oct. 8 to Oct. 9, 2013