Robert S. Seipel, M.D.
June 20, 1926 - July 29, 2018
Robert "Bob" Spalding Seipel, M.D., beloved husband, father, grandfather and retired South Bay general surgeon, died peacefully July 29 at his home in Saratoga after a long illness.
He was 92.
The second child of Harry and Henrietta Seipel, Bob was born in Palo Alto on June 20, 1926. He spent his formative years growing up in Burlingame, deciding medicine was his destiny after meeting the doctor who removed his appendix.
Bob graduated from Burlingame High School, where he was student body president, then started at Stanford University in the summer of 1944. But it was wartime, and by fall he had enrolled in the U.S. Merchant Marine Cadet Basic School at Coyote Point.
He proudly served his country twice, the first time during World War II, when he was a Deck Cadet-Midshipman in the U.S. Merchant Marine Cadet Corps on the cargo supply ship SS Clarksdale Victory. Its freight included 7,000 tons of ammunition that supported the American troops at the Battle of Okinawa that began on April 1, 1945.
Bob returned to Stanford in 1946, and graduated with a bachelor's degree in biological sciences in 1950. He subsequently attended UC San Francisco School of Medicine, where he earned his M.D. in 1955. For the rest of his life, he would count among his closest friends several fellow classmates.
A seminal period occurred during the summer between his junior and senior years at UCSF when he worked with Dr. Avery Sturm at the then-Lewis Memorial Hospital in Yosemite National Park. Bob always viewed those months as 'one of best learning experiences' of his life, while instilling in him an everlasting passion and support for the park.
Bob elected to return to active military duty with the Medical Corps of the U.S. Navy from 1956-1958 in Okinawa and Japan. He served as a battalion surgeon and then regimental surgeon with the 9th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. He was honorably discharged as a Lieutenant Commander. He often remarked that his military experience made him a better, more well-rounded doctor.
Bob met the love of his life, Joan Vieira, a nursing school student, after returning to UCSF in 1958 to begin his surgical residency, later becoming a chief resident. The couple married in 1959.
He joined well-known general surgeon Dr. Allen Johnson in 1963 in private practice in San Jose; they later added a third partner, Dr. Harvey Knoernschild. Bob retired in 1992.
Widely respected and well-liked by doctors and nurses at San Jose Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital and then-Santa Teresa Community Hospital, Bob was beloved by his many patients.
He was a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and had been an active member of the Naffziger Surgical Society, the Pacific Coast Surgical Association, and the San Jose Surgical Society.
Together with Joan and their four children, Bob enjoyed the company of a vibrant group of Saratoga neighbors, as well as many other friends, with whom they shared a love of family and entertaining. He was a voracious reader and a reliable source of clever jokes. An avid golf spectator, Bob constantly bemoaned the fact that stories about the game were regularly buried in the back of the sports section.
Bob is survived by his loving wife, Joan Seipel; son Craig Seipel (Nicole) and grandson Connor Robert Louis Seipel, all of Oak Park, Calif.; daughter Tracy Seipel of Saratoga; son Dr. Peter Seipel (Lisa) of Scottsdale, Ariz.; daughter Sarah Seipel-Dalton (Mike) of Redwood City; brother-in-law Peter Vieira and his wife Rosemary, of Dedham, Mass., and their four children, Peter Jr., Tom, Suzanne and Tim, and their families. Bob was pre-deceased by his sister, Harriet March.
Funeral services will be private; in lieu of flowers, the family asks that any donations in Bob's memory be made to the UCSF General Surgery Residency Training Program, UCSF Department of Surgery, Surgery Education Office, 513 Parnassus Ave., Room S-321, San Francisco, Calif., 94143.