Dr. Calvin C. Chapman, known by many as “Doc,” died in Novato, California on February 23, 2014, after 86 years of adventure and making the world a better place. Reared in Berkeley, California by Cal & Jane Chapman, he attended Berkeley High, University of California at Berkeley for a semester, a scholarship summer session at Deep Springs College, California, and Yale University thanks to winning a scholarship competition from the 11 westernmost states and territories of Hawaii and Alaska. After graduation from Yale, he worked first as a lumberjack in southeast Alaska, then as an industrial engineer for Union Carbide and later for Boeing Aircraft Corporation.
In 1950 he met Imogene, a United Airlines stewardess and Denver native, on a blind date in Seattle, Washington. They married in 1956 and had five children. During their marriage, Doc graduated from University of Rochester with a Doctor of Medicine, became an Air Force lieutenant, and entered the School of Aerospace Medicine at Brooks Air Force Base, Texas. Over the next 20-plus years, he worked as an Air Force flight surgeon, hospital commander, and command surgeon for the Air Force Security Service. One of the most rewarding duty tours was a year at Bien Hoa, Viet Nam. Working as dispensary commander and leading a volunteer medical service effort for Vietnamese villagers, Doc Chapman earned another nickname, “Jungle Doctor.” He personally treated over 20,000 Vietnamese while in country, during his off hours. After retirement as a full colonel, Cal became a specialist in emergency medicine, becoming board-certified at age 60 and passing “the boards” again at 70. Working in emergency rooms (ER), and directing hospital-wide emergency medicine programs, he provided ER care to thousands more people until the age of 75. At that point, he moved into “locum tenens” family practice, no longer working 24 hours straight or more (!), on ER shifts. Towns in which he worked included San Antonio, Sterling City, Weimar, Coleman, Abilene, Monahans, and Tenaha, all in Texas, a couple in Oklahoma, and the Lafayette, Indiana area.
Doc’s and Imogene’s five children all survive their parents, along with nine wonderful grandchildren. Imogene, a professional musician, passed away in 2012. Cal went back to work one last time at a family practice job in Indiana, finishing that stint in late May 2013. By his estimate, Doc provided medical care to more than 110,000 individual patients in his 55-year career.
In June 2013, Cal returned to his native California, reuniting with his high school sweetheart Mary Ann. She had lost her husband in 2009, after a 61-year marriage. The mother of six, Mary Ann was a medical technologist and professional musician during her work career. From mid-summer through fall 2013, Cal and Mary Ann – each 85 years young – drove across the United States, logging almost 9,000 miles across 25 states. He and she met all of the other’s children, along with most of the grandkids, during these travels. As one grand-nephew of Cal’s was told by Mary Ann at a big New Jersey family event, “We’re just two senile teenagers traipsing across the nation together!” Their relationship, though it could not last for earthly decades as did their earlier marriages, brought together two terrific individuals and their extended families. The amazing and transformative nature of their rekindled love will live on forever. And the celebration of Doc’s life will do the same.
In lieu of flowers the family requests that people donate to the American Lung Association in memory of Dr. Chapman if they so choose. Donations page: http://www.lung.org/donate/memorial-honor-gifts/.