Sunday, January 10, 2021

Bethel's Family Doctor Has Died

Dr. Edward Volpintesta, family doctor to many in Bethel, Connecticut for almost half a century, has died of complications from Covid-19.

There's a lot else going on in the world right now, but among the forested cul-de-sacs of Bethel, Connecticut, many people are hearing the news, or will be hearing the news soon, that their family doctor has died, of complications from Covid-19.  At 8:56 am Eastern Time, Ed Volpintesta passed away.

Dr. Edward Volpintesta was many things to many people.  If you look him up on Google, you'll find his address right away.  For 45 years, he practiced family medicine on the main drag, Greenwood Avenue.  He fathered three children, all now well into adulthood, all living nearby, with a total of six grandchildren, several of whom are now young adults themselves.

The mother of those three now middle-aged kids, Christina, married my father, Howard, over three decades ago, and Ed married the woman who is now his widow, Nami, a long time ago as well.  In effect, this ultimately just meant a bigger extended family, on both ends of the generational spectrum, for all the grandchildren that soon came along.  Having somehow ended up far from any extended family, out here on the west coast, raising three children in Portland, I often look east towards Bethel with envy, wishing my children could know all of their many grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, all growing up together there.

I first met Ed when I was a child.  From then until the present, from my own vantage point as the son of the man who would marry Ed's ex-wife, Ed was always warm, kind, and supportive, always the definition of a gentleman, particularly when many people might expect something different.

For me and many others, he was always the doctor in the family, if ever there was need of one.  Which, for me, as a young itinerant hippie passing through or nominally living in Connecticut or somewhere nearby, meant regularly taking advantage of this relationship to help various girlfriends get refills on essential prescriptions like birth control pills, and to treat the various sorts of maladies that tended to accompany Grateful Dead concerts.

I'm going on memory here, but I'm pretty sure Ed was the first in his family line of poor Italian immigrants to become a doctor.  At the time he wanted to study medicine, there was the opportunity to go to medical school in Mexico more or less for free, in exchange for serving the public in Mexico after you graduate.  Unfortunately, the system for using the doctors who graduated to serve the public was such a bureaucratic mess that they had Ed sitting around most of the time instead of taking care of people, which drove him bonkers, but that's where he studied medicine, anyway, and where he and Christina began raising children together.

Ed started practicing medicine in Bethel in the 1970's, and stopped in 2020.  When he stopped practicing medicine, in February, 2020, he wrote in the local newspaper how he was just fed up with all the electronic record-keeping that was becoming more and more of a burden in the profession.  He participated actively in online forums on this and other subjects related to being a good doctor.  Snooping around on the web, I just learned he had a local cable show, answering questions people wanted to ask a doctor about.  No doubt there's a whole lot more I didn't know about Ed.  I didn't know him well, which is why I can write about him like this, so soon after his death.

Ed was very active until he got sick a couple of weeks ago.  We had, in fact, just become Facebook friends for the first time, only weeks before he went into the hospital.  In retirement, he seemed to be getting a bit more active on social media, which, of course, is where we go to look at pictures of children and grandchildren these days.

Although retired, he was very much the family doctor to the end.  My father had a minor stroke last summer.  Ed was the one who told him that the symptoms he was having sounded like a stroke, and that he should go to the hospital.  Ed arranged for Howard to go straight to where he needed to go, and by all accounts, my dad received the best care among Ed's former colleagues, and he has fully recovered.

When Ed went into the hospital on December 27th, his wife, Nami, assured family members that he was getting "all the same stuff that Trump got."  Which probably wasn't true, but in any case, no doubt he was receiving the best available care there at the hospital he knew well.  Covid led to pneumonia and blood clots, which led to multiple organ failure, and this morning, death.

Due to the pandemic and other factors, I hadn't seen Ed in a couple of years.  Usually, at least once every year or two, I might be part of an extended family dinner of some kind there in Bethel, or I might be doing a concert at a small venue somewhere in town.  Whenever I did concerts in town, even if there were only ten people in attendance, as I recall there being on one occasion, two of the folks in the audience would reliably be Ed and Nami.  They'd show up, donate twice whatever the door charge was, and sit through the whole show, paying enthusiastic attention throughout.

It's easy to recall the last words Ed said to me, whenever it was that I last saw him.  It was at the end of the last concert I did in Bethel, two or three years ago.  He was by then in his seventies, but still as tall as I recall him being when we were both much younger.  He was in a jovial mood, looking physically vibrant, standing his full height, beaming.  He dropped another bill into the donation basket as he and Nami walked out of the room, pausing to smile at me and say, "keep being an anarchist."

Will do, Ed.  Thanks for everything.

14 comments:

  1. Beautiful tribute to a good man.

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  2. Thank you for writing this beautiful tribute to one of the greatest people I knew.

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  3. God bless him
    He was the coziest Doctor who would make me feel.better just walking into his little.old fashioned office. It was like a time capsule
    He would call me.when I was sick to.check.up.on me . Just overall a great human being. I recall him talking about his son who was a musician. And he would always compare this for me when I was sick knowing how hard it was for singers to get sick . There were times he would stay open longer to make sure I was able to get seen if I was sick and needed immediate attention. He was our family doc for I want to say almost 40 years . RIP Dr. V. you will be greatly missed

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  4. No one better. Going to miss you Dr V.

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  5. What a beautiful tribute to an amazing man! Dr. V was our family physician for 45 years and to me, a friend that I will sorely miss...Rest in Peace..Bethel will surely miss you!!

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  6. I know Dr Volpintesta because I was his nurse for about 30 minutes the day he was admitted and also when he was hospitalized many many years ago. I remember him telling me all those years ago about his frustrations with wrangling insurance companies and other bureaucracies just to CARE FOR HIS PATIENTS. I am absolutely STUNNED to hear of his death. To my colleague the lovely Nami, and TO Rob (family) who is my husband’s friend and who taught my daughter Chella to rock a guitar, my deepest condolences to you all. I didn’t know him well, but I knew him to be a very compassionate and caring member of his community... HE WILL BE SORELY MISSED

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  7. My family and I had Dr.Volpintesta for a long time!! Such a great guy!! We arengoing to miss him! My condolences to his wife and family!! He always was caring person! I always had a good laugh when I visited...
    I never wanted to go see any doctor, but Dr.V. was the goto guy! The best!

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  8. My family and I had Dr.Volpintesta for a long time!! Such a great guy!! I'm going to miss him!! My condolences to his wife and family!!

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  9. Best family doctor ever! I would see him in Bethel Food Market or on the street and I tried to avoid talking medicine but he would always want to know how I was doing and specifically ask how my wife was doing, another patient of his. A truly wonderful and caring doctor and human being.

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  10. I have known Ed for over 50 years. He was a kind, thoughtful, creative, loving and wonderful person. He was never afraid to stand up for what he thought was right for his patients and society. He made a lasting impact on our society and will be missed by his family, patients, friends and the medical community.

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  11. This is a wonderful remembrance for a wonderful doctor and friend. He was the best and most caring doctor.

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  12. Dr. V was my grandfathers doctor (mine as well) and they both shared a passion for painting. My grandfathers paintings hung in his office for years and it honestly made me feel like I was with my grandpa every time I had to see him for a check up.

    I remember a long time ago we ran into each other and I was reading the Twilight series, next thing I know he’s giving me the book Dracula. Then I became a history teacher and he starts passing along history books to me.

    He always made connections. We need those kinds of connections more than ever now.

    When he decided to close his practice, he stopped in to my husbands work and dropped off my grandpas paintings so they could be with me. The night before I heard he was in the ICU, I hung them in my home and was thinking of his kindness. I will miss him dearly and carry on the best lesson he ever taught me... make connections with people. We are human.

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  13. Dr. V was my grandfathers doctor (mine as well) and they both shared a passion for painting. My grandfathers paintings hung in his office for years and it honestly made me feel like I was with my grandpa every time I had to see him for a check up.

    I remember a long time ago we ran into each other and I was reading the Twilight series, next thing I know he’s giving me the book Dracula. Then I became a history teacher and he starts passing along history books to me.

    He always made connections. We need those kinds of connections more than ever now.

    When he decided to close his practice, he stopped in to my husbands work and dropped off my grandpas paintings so they could be with me. The night before I heard he was in the ICU, I hung them in my home and was thinking of his kindness. I will miss him dearly and carry on the best lesson he ever taught me... make connections with people. We are human.

    ReplyDelete

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