Jack S. Wahba, physician of 60 years, passed away at the age of 96. Moderation and tolerance were Dad’s mottos for health and for peace. He led an exemplary life of dignified work, commitment to family, world citizenship and, always, humor. Born in Alexandria, Egypt at a time of English colonial rule, he benefited from excellent Catholic schools, a sophisticated, multicultural community and the proximity of his extended family.
He went on to become a doctor and treated many life threatening illnesses before antibiotics, sulfa drugs and other miracle drugs were available. In this time he met the love of his life and they were married in a great synagogue with the blessing of Egypt’s chief rabbi. Throughout his life, dad looked back to his childhood and early career days with great fondness for the relaxed lifestyle and for the graciousness of the even the poorest Egyptians.
Unfortunately, in 1956, he, my mom and their first child were expelled for political reasons (read: being Jewish) and took refuge in the United Kingdom. There he needed to recertify as a physician and worked in various hospitals for five years. What a shift from tropical Egypt where folks linger and laugh easily to uptight Britain with cold and dreary weather! After five years and with a second child, lured by all the amazing richness of America, my parents moved to the United States. Here, again, Dad needed to prove his medical credentials with another residency and exams.
He worked at VA hospitals, nursing homes and eventually private practice. He served mostly in poorer neighborhoods, accepted Medicaid and Medicare and ministered not only to his patients’ physical health but to their emotional health as well, always taking time to visit and inquire about the bigger picture of their lives.
Dad was home for nearly every dinner throughout my childhood and quizzed us regularly over geography, science, world events, etc. He enjoyed listening to the classical radio station every morning and would sometimes shush us during an especially exquisite passage. He also had a very refined palate for good food, tailored clothing and well made tools yet, with few exceptions, he lived frugally; always preferring to do it himself than hire out, eat at home than be disappointed at a restaurant, create his own travel itineraries than use a service, etc.
Dad managed to live independently his whole life and had little need for medicines. He supported our mom through her long time illness. He was fiercely proud of his children and grandchildren. He died in our childhood home, surrounded by family. He is survived by his son, Simon Wahba of NYC, his daughter Gigi Wahba (and Stan Hildebrand) of Memphis, MO, his daughter Monique Wahba of Albany, NY, grandchildren: Renay Friendshuh (and her father, James Friendshuh), Naomi Roter, Lauren Roter and Sasha Roter. His memory will always be engraved on our hearts.