Richard Swillinger passed away in his home in Sonoma, on Feb. 28, 2014, at the age of 86. He is survived by Carol Swillinger, his loving wife of more than half a century.
Dr. Swillinger was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Aug. 11, 1927, along with a twin brother, Edwin, to Irwin and Fannie Swillinger. In his youth, Richard taught himself to play harmonica, accompanying his elder brother, Herb, on saxophone and Edwin on clarinet in a swinging outfit they called “Big Smoke and His Little Puffs.”
The twins enlisted in the U.S. Army together and joined the occupation forces in Japan following World War II – and then both attended medical school at the University of Cincinnati on the G.I. Bill, which earned the attention of the local newspaper.
Richard married Gloria Joseph and traveled across the country to intern at Los Angeles County Hospital. They had two daughters, Jennifer and Rene. After graduation, Richard drove up the Pacific coast, stopping in Salinas because it reminded him of the John Steinbeck novels he adored.
He began working at the county hospital there and helped set up a grassroots ambulance service that deployed a station wagon to bring in farm workers for emergency care. He operated a small general practice in Salinas before moving to San Francisco for specialty training in surgery and the field of urology.