Don Loos finished every email with: “Keep writing! Your friend, Don Loos.”
The word saint comes to mind. You have to be careful with “saint,” but Loos, who died Saturday at age 88, was as good as some people are bad.
Loos was the partner of Shep Palitz, my best friend’s father. Loos was Jan Siechert’s dad, our kids’ second-grade teacher at Franklin. Loos was a lot of things to a lot of people.
Jan emailed a couple of days ago.
“You may have heard through the Bakersfield grapevine that my father, Donald Loos, died Saturday morning. We lost an amazing, generous, and genuinely godly brother, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, uncle, godfather, missionary, philanthropist, surgeon, employer, fruit farmer, and friend.”
That about covers it. That about doesn’t cover it. Loos needs two obituaries.
Six years ago, I wrote about Loos’ retirement. He was 82 and had stopped seeing patients so he could care for his late wife, Colleen, who had Alzheimer’s. I tried to write a balanced profile, but failed. The worst thing anybody could say was that his patients had to wait for their appointments.
"He took time with patients," said Renee Brazeal, his office manager of 37 years. "If he was running late, I told people, 'When you get there, he will take as much of his time with you as you need.'"
He practiced on G Street. In a plain, simple office. No fancy digs. No God complex there although he was a man of faith.
He was also the office fix-it man. He repaired his own toilets, fixed the leaky sinks and climbed the ladder and patched the flat roof after it rained. When office lamps quit, he rewired them.
His office was pro-family before the phrase became popular. When two of his staff became pregnant at the same time, Palitz and Loos (he and his wife had six children of their own), encouraged them to bring their babies to work. Loos and his fellow doctors set up a nursery in the office and, for several years, the doctors practiced medicine while the women worked and mothered.
The staff loved him and so did his fellow doctors.
"Don became a cherished colleague, a friend and a gift to Bakersfield," said Palitz. "I have benefitted from his infinite patience and kindness."
Loos was born in Menomonie, Wis., attended San Diego State and USC Medical School, and met Colleen — a nurse who had vowed never to marry a doctor — at L.A. County Hospital.
Devout Baptists, the Looses moved to Assam, India, where Loos operated on thousands of patients for six years. He would have remained a medical missionary if not for the political trouble in northeast India.
Surgeons can be a headstrong group. Stubborn with egos as big as all outdoors. Not Loos. Not only did he remember where he came from but where he was going.
Loos was a listener and had a legendary bedside manner.
"The first day I worked for him, a patient came in for a follow up after her mastectomy," said Ada Torres, his medical assistant.
"She was scared. She asked Dr. Loos if it would hurt when he removed the drains and dressings. Dr. Loos smiled and said, 'You know, I've never felt pain.' The look on her face was priceless.
"None of his children went into medicine. They were either too scared by his devotion to it or too impressed by his medical prowess.
His legacy spans decades and crosses borders.
“He did spine surgery on a boy who was carried down from the mountains of Tibet into India and enabled that little boy to walk again, have a full life, and eventually move to the U.S. and write a memoir of his life from Tibet to the U.S.," Siechert wrote.
“He read about a classmate of my younger sister who was scheduled for surgery,” Siechert said. “He talked to her doctors, looked at her leg and was allowed to try a new procedure. Ten years later her parents told her the surgery she was scheduled for was an amputation.”
Loos was gracious to the end. Positive, supportive and complimentary. Like many people, count me lucky to have him refer to me as his friend.