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Published: Saturday, 12/18/2010

DR. CARL HERKIMER, 1934-2010: Ex-chief of staff at St. Luke's kept local practice

Dr. Carl Herkimer, 76, an orthopedic surgeon and a former chief of staff and trustee at St. Luke's Hospital who maintained a local practice, died of a brain aneurysm Dec. 7 at his Rancho Mirage, Calif., home.

Dr. Herkimer, who played tennis regularly, was hanging Christmas lights on his house when he was stricken.

He and his wife, Diana, moved to Rancho Mirage 10 years ago. He was no longer a surgeon, but "he still flew back and forth every month to work office orthopedics for seven to 10 days," his wife said. He didn't have a California medical license and didn't want one.

"This was his vacation; that was his work," his wife said.

His son Craig said, "He was one of those old-school guys. He wasn't going to quit."

Dr. Herkimer remained on the St. Luke's medical staff. He was chief of staff from 1982-84. He was on the hospital board of trustees, though, until 1996.

"He brought [to the board] a physician's perspective, a patient-care perspective, and the caring attitude he showed when he took care of patients," Frank J. Bartell III, retired St. Luke's president and chief executive, said.

He was respected at all levels, Mr. Bartell said. Other physicians knew his skill as an orthopedic surgeon. Hospital staff members knew him as personable -- asking how they were; asking after their families.

For his service to St. Luke's, he was given the hospital's Clair F. Martig Award, an annual honor -- when someone deserving is identified.

"He was a quality guy," Mr. Bartell said.

Dr. Herkimer was born May 14, 1934, in Monroe. A childhood emergency room visit for a broken bone landed him in the care of a doctor who made such an impression that "he decided at that time, probably 12 years old, he was going to be a doctor, and he never wavered from that," his wife said.

"He also was very mechanically minded. He could fix most anything, and orthopedists fix things. They're people carpenters."

He was a 1952 graduate of Monroe High School. He received bachelor's and medical degrees from the University of Michigan. He had internships and residencies in orthopedics at what is now Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center and at the former Maumee Valley Hospital in Toledo.

From 1965-67, he was an orthopedic surgeon in the Navy stationed at Corpus Christi, Texas.

He returned to Toledo afterward and joined the orthopedics practice of Dr. James Pollex and Dr. Richard Peoples. The practice later became West Side Orthopedic Group.

As a father, he had an openness, his son said.

"He knew a lot. Nothing was out of bounds to talk about. He always had a lot to offer and share," his son said. His humor could be wicked -- observational, dry, expressed in quips or one-liners.

He also was even-tempered and not easily upset, his wife said.

"He was a doll," his wife said. "I had my grief, but my primary emotion is thankfulness for the 39 years we had together. We have a beautiful family and wonderful friends."

In Rancho Mirage, he was president of his country club and of his homeowners association board.

His first marriage ended in divorce, and his former wife, Suzanne Tarjanyi, died in 2009.

Surviving are his wife, Diana, whom he married Sept. 10, 1971; daughters, Kimberly Kaczmarek and Cristy Kec; sons, Carl II and Craig Herkimer; brother, Harry Herkimer; five granddaughters, and three great-grandchildren.

A celebration of life will be held at 4 p.m. Jan. 19 in the St. Luke's Hospital auditorium.

The family suggests tributes to a charity of the donor's choice.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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