Growing up in the Bronx as the son of a tailor, Carl Kaplan showed the dedication that would later lead him to a long career in medicine.
He was one of three children. His parents emigrated from a town near the Russia/Poland border in the early 1900s.
“He had two older sisters and didn’t have his own room. He slept in the living room/family room and took the subway to Stuyvesant High School,” said Richard Kaplan, one of his three sons. “I don’t know how much the subway cost then, but he used to say he’d always have 25 cents in his pocket.”
He graduated from the City College of New York in three years and later earned a masters degree in biochemistry from Boston University. He graduated from State University of New York Medical School in 1954.
Dr. Kaplan, 87, died Monday after succumbing to neck cancer — one of the cancers he treated in his work as a radiologist and radiation therapist at Mercy Hospital of Pittsburgh (now UPMC Mercy) for 31 years.
“Having done this for so long, he became a patient,” said Richard Kaplan, who practices emergency medicine at Allegheny General Hospital.
Dr. Kaplan retired as the director of radiation therapy in 1991 at Mercy. It was a roundabout journey to Pittsburgh. He served as chief radiologist and captain at the 4737th United Air Force Hospital in St John’s, Newfoundland. He completed his residency at the University of Pennsylvania, and he and his wife, Roslyn, decided to move to Pittsburgh.
They drove into the Steel City for the first time on October 13, 1960, the same day that the Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series, Richard Kaplan noted.
It was his quiet dedication to providing for his family and caring for his patients that illustrated his compassion.
“He didn’t have an attitude that he was trudging off to work. Instead, it was a sense of ‘I need to get in early because there are people waiting for me and their lives are on the line,’” said Jon Kaplan, an attorney who lives in Maryland. “If a patient was meeting with him, it was serious. We’re talking radiation and chemotherapy.
“His patients revered him,” Jon Kaplan said. “His colleagues loved him and his family loved him.”
That dedication meant long hours for Dr. Kaplan.
“He worked a good six days a week, and he worked very hard,” said Jeff Kaplan, a doctor who runs a family practice in Yakima, Wash. “We always knew we were loved and cared for.”
He remembered spending a day at work with his father.
“I recall how he knelt down beside the patient, looked them in the eye, and spoke with them in a very respectful manner about what they had and his suggestions for the next step. That resonated with me,” Jeff Kaplan said. “He cared about people, and in return, they cared about him.”
Dr. Kaplan lived with Jeff Kaplan and his family near the end of his life.
“He still wanted to be independent, even as he was quite ill,” Jeff Kaplan said. “He would be making his bed, doing dishes and laundry. One time I was helping him with laundry and while I was doing that, he slipped away and made his own bed. He was self-reliant.”
In addition to his three sons, Dr. Kaplan is survived by eight grandchildren; and his companion, Barbara Geenberg. He was proceeded by his wife, Roslyn, in 2004. A graveside service will be held at Mt. Lebanon Cemetery in Mt Lebanon on Sunday.
Stephanie Ritenbaugh: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-4910.