Jerry Kaufman
'Old School' Doctor 1914-2012
The big heart that had touched so many over it's almost 98 years has finally been stilled. Though Dr. Jerry Kaufman's body fought to continue, his heart just couldn't drive it anymore. It was used up, having given so much to so many over the years.
Jerry had entered many nursing homes in his day, but as a popular Berkeley physician, caring for patients during a long medical career spanning 60 years. Now he was on the other end, being well cared for by nurses and staff as they said their goodbyes to one of their own.
As Jerry's doctor noted earlier in the day, Jerry's passing would mark the end of an era of the 'old school doctors,' before there were hospitalists - when doctors still visited their own patients in hospitals. Some, like Kaufman, still even made house calls. It was also the end of a series of courageous life battles that won Jerry another half dozen years of good living, going against the medical grain of those encouraging hospice. And finally, Dr. Kaufman got to live out his life on HIS terms. Even in his last days, He was always able to make his own decisions which were gladly honored by family and medical staff.
Jerry became a doctor quite serendipitously. After World War II called Jerry away from his father's jewelry business, Jerry became an air medic in the Army. He was able to begin the study of medicine in the service and eventually changed careers, ending up at the University of Minnesota, where we went on to become Phi Beta Kappa.
Kaufman married Pauline Marchick and they came to California around 1950 to practice medicine when he got a position with Kaiser, Permanente, first in Los Angeles and then Oakland. It was in Oakland that the Kaufmans started a family with Joan, Burt and then Don.
Despite his successes, he was always a humble, modest man, according to his son. You would never see plaques or awards on his walls and he would rarely call on even his closest friends or colleagues when he could have used their help ' so as not to bother them.'
Though Kaufman was able to achieve nearly 98 years it wasn't without tragedy. He lost his wife and two of three children within a five year span, 1999-2003. Though he sometimes would ask 'why?' he 'sailored on' as he often told his kids to do. He somehow remained strong living up to what he taught his patients, eating well and living moderately, even with the grief.
Dr. Kaufman was one of the most popular doctors in Berkeley and Alta Bates Hospital with an estimated 1,500 patients at any one time in his own private practice over 60 years, according to his son. He worked long hours, rarely took vacations and continued making late house calls long after most doctors stopped the practice. He could be found attending patients long after his younger partners had gone home from work.
Ceremonial plans were for Friday 9:15 am at Mountain View Cemetery.

Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Oct. 19, 2012