Obituary: James Kennedy Greenbaum / Longtime pediatrician, known as 'Dr. Jim,' devoted to children

April 2, 1921 - March 13, 2014

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James Kennedy Greenbaum, known as "Dr. Jim," was an advocate for children.

He was highly respected in the region and cared for children up until his last week of life. Today, there are 13 people doing the job he once did alone.

Dr. Greenbaum died at 92 on Thursday.

He was born on April 2, 1921, in Kittanning to Meyer and Emily Greenbaum. He attended Mercersburg Academy and later Princeton University to study history. After graduating, he joined the war effort with a secret operation managing an airline in Peru to keep the Panama Canal secure. He spent most of his 18 months of duty there chasing llamas from the runway before deciding there were better ways to serve his country. He came back to the United States and enlisted in the Army Air Forces.

After an honorable discharge, Dr. Greenbaum was inspired by the Army to help people and attended Harvard Medical School in 1944 on the GI Bill. It was around that time he met Mary Shannon while she was a student at Allegheny College. They married in 1948. She died in 1995.

Upon completing his education in 1951, he could have pursued anything and gone anywhere he wanted. Yet all he wanted was to go back to Kittanning.

In 1952, after a yearlong internship at Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh, he entered private practice at the Armstrong County Memorial Hospital in Kittanning. He cared for patients of all ages until 1958, when he was given a new opportunity upon meeting Edmund McClusky, the first pediatric chief at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. Dr. Greenbaum was offered and accepted a pediatric residency at the hospital.

In 1960, he was the first and only board-certified pediatrician in Armstrong County, assisting 250 childbirths his first year. He worked every day and was on call 24 hours a day. His day began at 7 a.m. with hospital rounds, then 12 hours of office appointments and would either end at midnight or when the calls stopped. Sleep was often interrupted.

On Wednesdays, he would be at his home office. Whenever he would find out about a sick elderly person, he would visit and comfort them.

"He was so busy with work, we all learned to drive taking him out on house calls," John Greenbaum, the youngest of his children, said. Mr. Greenbaum said his father spent individual time with all his children.

Dr. Greenbaum traveled a lot when he could, going to places such as Easter Island or Petra, Jordan, even at 87.

He retired in 2009. At the time, he was UPMC's oldest practicing doctor.

He was named Children's Hospital Pediatrician of the Year in 2002 and was a recipient of the 2012 Child Advocacy Award by the county's Multidisciplinary Child Protection Team. In 2006, Armstrong County Memorial Hospital named its nursery after him.

In addition to his son John of Carlisle, Pa., he is survived by five other children: Beth P. Lewis of Boothbay, Maine, Sarah S. Haniford of Carlisle, Lisa M. Coakley of Alexandria, Va., Ellen G. Barker of Jackman, Maine, and James K. Greenbaum Jr. of Mill Run, Pa.; 19 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will take place at 2 p.m. next Saturday at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 112 N. Water St., Kittanning.


Nikki Pena: npena@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1280.

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