The following was read at the funeral service for Dr. Harry Swartz by his son, Dr. Steve Swartz:
51 years ago, I stood on this very same Beema with Mom and Dad sitting as congregants, waiting for my Bar Mitzva. Today I stand before you with a heavy heart! To tell you that I personally feel such a great loss would be selfish. My dad has touched so many people’s lives in so many different ways, mine pales in comparison.
He had a 6th sense in clinical diagnosis and was a brilliant diagnostician before the invention of most routine tests we use today. He loved his patients and they loved him back like one gigantic family. To Dr Harry , each day was an adventure, to work hard, but enjoy and make everyone’s life easier and better. He set a very powerful example for us. My mom and dad made an incredible team – encouraging us to “reach beyond our grasp, and just do the very best that we possibly could, every day.
Growing up, he would take me on house calls, some in the middle of the night ,in blinding snow storms-there were no 4 wheeled SUVs at that time. He worked 7 days a week for 30 years until I joined him,then he worked 8 days a week so that I could have some time off. He ran the office single handedly and managed to put 3 kids through college and graduate school with all the fixings, and managed marriage to an incredible wife. Vacations were when we really spent time together.
Harry was loved by everyone. Seeing him always brought a smile and usually a good natured hug and joke. He could easily disarm a cavalry with his charm.
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Nurses loved and respected him. Not only was he a great physician, but also a renaissance man who loved his wife and family. He would sit us down and sing and play show tunes or ragtime by memory, on our piano. He was like the old fashioned piano player you would see in a spaghetti western. He loved opera,and would sing arias in the shower. When we went to operas, he would explain the stories in detail, but we still had no clue what was going on.
Memories from growing up at the office are really funny . He helped set up our 5cent lemonade stands in the parking lot for thirsty patients who sometimes waited hours to be seen . This was great for business. He stopped the whole office in the middle of his crazy hours to splint an injured bird I brought in from the yard. We made igloos when it snowed and flew kites with keys on them just like Ben Franklin. He taught me how to cut the lawn with a Volkswagen Bug and gang mowers. We brought cookies to all the nursing floors in the hospital for the Holidays and laughed when he gave out discount perfume to his elderly patients.
Dad joined the Red Bank New Jersey National Guard as a physician with rank as Captain, He moved up to Major, then Colonel but had to turn that down since it required a commute to Trenton. Although he was physician for the whole platoon and ran a tight ship, he had a tremendous amount of fun; he never went to summer camp working as a soda jerk in his family’s variety store in Highlands , so this was pretty close to it.
One summer when I was 10, he dressed me up in tiny army fatigues and hat, and hid me in back of an Army Jeep and snuck me into Camp Drum in New York State for Tank battalion practice battle maneuvers. The commanding officer , a General, asked him how I was enjoying the exercise and laughed. This obviously was grounds for court marshal, but Harry and the whole battalion had, as dad would say, one hell of a good laugh. Riding in a tank was quite an experience.
Dad took me on rounds at the hospital, lunch in the hospital soda shop, the basement for autopsies, and introduced me to pretty nurses.
As I got older, we would sail a small boat out in the ocean and talk about life.
In college I read the classic “The Song of Roland “ and learned about dedication and devotion of a king and knight, allowing them to tackle insurmountable odds.
When I joined dad’s practice in 1987, this same philosophy helped us plug through, as dad would put it- thick and thin!!!
From hospital medicine to office practice Dr Harry was a master.
There is no other person I would rather have worked with for over 35 years. My dad taught me how to be empathetic , and professional , how to interact with patients and staff and still enjoy learning while truly helping people.
Once when we were sailing a number of years ago , I asked him about the universe and how we fit in. He replied,” we are like a small flea on a large dog”; I think he was right.
I lost my partner, colleague ,best friend and father. Someone that can never be replaced. He taught me how to live a meaningful life. I hope to live up to his legacy.
I want to thank my Mom, all of our family, all the nurses and doctors, Rabbi Cy, and all those who helped me take care of my dad and family. And Thank you, Dad, I love you. I will always miss you.