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.
After Richard’s first marriage, he met Carol Modlin on a blind date. A lifelong romance soon blossomed, and they wed in 1962. They had a son, Adam, and a daughter, Cate.
Known among family and friends to be kind, generous, outgoing and quick-witted, Richard had a passion for daily hikes up San Francisco’s towering hills or among the groves and vistas of the Sonoma Valley. It was there that he tended a small plot of grapes, vegetables and lavender.
In his 40s, Richard entered the National Guard and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He later traveled to Alaska to conduct physical exams for soldiers. He also served as a licensing commissioner for the Medical Board of California from 1978 until 1986.
Richard was an insatiable reader and could often be found peering intently at a thick book. His myriad of interests included literature, history, science and politics. He prized education and passed on his love of learning to his children and by mentoring younger colleagues at local hospitals. After retiring, he volunteered as a teacher at public schools in San Francisco and as a private math tutor at Woodland Star Charter School in Sonoma.
Richard Swillinger will be remembered fondly by his wife, his son, his three daughters and his seven grandchildren. Donations in his memory can be made to Woodland Star Charter School. For more information, please contact the school’s principal, Sheila Reilly, at 996-3849.
Arrangements cared for under the direction of Duggan’s Mission Chapel, Mission Cremation Service. Inquiries can be made to them at (707) 996-3655 or by visiting their website at duggansmissionchapel.com.