Liston Witherill

Liston A. Witherill
July 25, 1925 - April 4, 2013
First Director of County Health Services Liston A. Witherill, son of Lawrence L. and Dorothy C. Witherill, and long time hospital and health system administrator in California and throughout the USA, has died. Witherill died peacefully at home, on April 4, 2013 at the age of 87. During a 29 year career with Los Angeles County, Witherill rose from management trainee through the ranks to become Director of County- USC Medical Center (then called General Hospital) Director of the (then) eight County Hospitals, and finally the first Director of Health Care Services, from 1972-1977, in charge of the four formally separate departments of hospitals, public health, mental health, and the county veterinarian. Witherill established a unified health operation consisting of five Health Service Regions. At the time this was considered a radical but forward looking step for the then 3rd largest public health care system in the USA - exceeded only by the Federal Veterans Administration System and New York City's Health and Hospitals Corporation. Witherill retired from the County in 1977 and went on to a long career in the private sector with various national companies and, more recently, his own consulting firm. He directed successful large-scale management and consulting of public health service systems in need of financial and operational turnaround. Notable projects included three years managing the Cook County Hospital, in Chicago, IL, where he turned a deficit into a $50 million surplus without the necessity of a single layoff. He also spent 2-1/2 years in New York opening the 500-bed Woodhull Medical Center, in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and also worked in helping to alleviate licensing and accreditation problems at Harlem Hospital. In addition, he directed the management of University Hospital, in Louisville, KY, the John J. Kane hospital in Pittsburgh, PA, and University Hospital, in Las Vegas, NV. In California, he provided consulting services to many more health systems including San Francisco General Hospital, Contra Costa County health systems, and Los Angeles County heath systems. Witherill and his wife Carolyn (deceased 11/21/08) were married for 61 years and were well known for their large and unusually diverse family of 10 children, 8 of whom were adopted (together with 2 "add-ons", in need, and brought home by the Witherill children). Despite the diversity of backgrounds, ethnicity, and medical conditions of these seemingly unadoptable children, Liston and Carolyn created a family environment in which everyone thrived. This large and diverse family has so far produced many, many grandchildren and several great grandchildren. Throughout his life, Witherill was an avid jazz fan - collecting records (and later, CDs) playing jazz drums, visiting jazz clubs, and not infrequently sitting in with the jazz pros. For the past 33 years he had been the regular drummer with the Friday Jazz Group that jammed and rehearsed most every Friday afternoon. The Friday Jazz Group is well known throughout the Westside of LA, playing 10-15 gigs a year including private parties and public venues like the 3rd street Promenade, in Santa Monica. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Witherill graduated from Deerfield Academy in 1943, and Harvard University in 1947, with a degree in economics. During World War II he served in the Navy for 2-1/2 years, reaching the rank of Lt. JG. Witherill is survived by his younger sister, Linda A. Witherill, and his 10 children, 2 "add-on" children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.
A jazz musical party to celebrate the life of Liston Witherill will be held in the near future. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA) at 2701 Wilshire Blvd Suite 100, Los Angeles, CA 90057 or Barbara Morrison Preforming Arts Center 4305 Degnan Blvd Suite 101, Los Angeles, CA 90008.

Published in the Los Angeles Times on Apr. 14, 2013