DURHAM - Dr. Ingvars J. Vittands, 83, died on Monday, November 20, 2017. Born in Riga, Latvia to Valters and Biruta Vittands, he and his family spent their early years commuting between the city and Jaun Piebalga in the country at his grandfather's mill. Forced to flee their home, the family lived in Germany for a time moving from Greifenheagen, Utersen, Weidel and finally Hamburg. Despite the challenging times, he never described them as difficult, but focused on his parents' persistence making certain the children were well-educated. He often reflected on his professors who bicycled from class to class, who demanded complete memorization of Goethe's poetry, while at the same time arranging the occasional overnight camping trips for field learning, which he described as one of the best times of his life.
In 1950, the family emigrated to Boston. Stories from his time working at Collins Box Factory and with Mezitts' Nursery became standard dinner table conversation. He would recount the week where the boss, the secretary, and the driver all were gone, leaving him alone to keep the factory going. When the boss returned, he was amazed to see that his business had not completely fallen apart and offered him a permanent position, but was told "No thank you. I'm going to become a doctor." Much to Mr. Collins amazement he did just that. All of these stories were designed to teach the lesson that whatever you do, do it well.
He attended Boston Latin High School, and went on across the river to Harvard College. His time in Cambridge was briefly interrupted to serve in the US Army. Initially he was stationed in Verdun, but subsequently was reassigned to Berlin to serve in a special unit which traveled freely in the Russian zone for purposes of diplomatic relations. Upon his return to the states, he completed his AB from Harvard and continued at the University of Rochester where he earned a doctor of medicine degree. He completed an internship and residency program at the Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital, followed by a residency at the Mayo School of Medicine.
In 1970, he moved once again to a city called Rochester, where he began a 38 year career as an orthopaedic surgeon. He practiced at Frisbie Memorial Hospital and Wentworth Douglass Hospital. He went on to establish orthopaedic floors at both hospitals and was the first to perform Total Joint replacement surgery in the state. In 1990, he became involved with the Intergovernmental Committee for Migration, providing humanitarian assistance to war-injured Afghans. The irony was that he used a Russian surgical technique (Ilizarov) to treat these soldiers.
He was a skilled surgeon-but more than that he took the time to listen to his patients and allowed them to share their stories. This kind of patient-centered care often led to interesting forms of treatment, such as using work boots in lieu of casts. Not always the most fashionable form of treatment but certainly more convenient. He had a special affinity with children and it was fascinating to watch him take a fearful, crying child and turn them into an active member of their own care team, demanding that he give them "one of those shots to numb it" and then "fix the problem!" A patient could easily put a smile on his face by demonstrating, in the midst of a store or a showroom, what a great job he had done.
He fit the definition of a Renaissance man in his love of reading, music, history and travel. There was no topic that he had not just read about and he could hold his own in any conversation. Music was a constant in his life, and he was particularly proud when the latest Boston Symphony conductor came directly from Riga. No day began without a cup of coffee and an hour or two on Bambi watch. On sailing trips, there was always a reward promised to whoever spotted the first whale and his greatest pleasure came when he was allowed to release "his" rehabilitated hawk back onto the property. His love of boats and sailing was well-known by his friends and family, and there was no better antidote for a long, difficult week at work than a day on the boat. It was never about the destination, only about floating along aimlessly with the wind at your back. He lived for those days and a two week vacation on the water was all it took to allow him to keep up with the demanding pace of life on land. It was a simple prescription--guaranteed to work-- and it did right up until his last day with us.
He leaves behind his wife of 35 years, Donna. He is survived by four children: Kaiya Hefele and her husband Bernd, Tammy Mandell, John Vittands and his wife Wendy, Anika Vittands as well as two siblings: Jake Vittands and Laila Prosser.
He is survived by six grandchildren: Andrea Mandell, Rachel Mandell, Wendy Mandell, Karl Hefele, Katrina Hefele, Celeen Hefele.
Each and every one of them held a special place in his heart and it was always his desire to teach them how to be a person of great strength and dignity, someone who contributed something to the world and who honored the age-old traditions which he carried with him throughout his lifetime.
SERVICES: A celebration of life will be held in the spring. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to a charity of your choice