Marc Abrams dies at 58; walking doctor was a Silver Lake fixture

Marc Abrams, a physician whose epic (and shirtless) daily walks through Silver Lake inspired documentaries, murals and magazine profiles, died Wednesday. He was 58.

His wife, Cindy, found him dead in their backyard hot tub. Police initially determined that it was a suicide, although the official cause of death is pending.

Abrams traversed 20 to 30 miles of pavement each day and wore out four pairs of shoes each year. He walked swiftly — often hunched over a newspaper — slowing only to shout hellos to friends or give medical advice to those who asked for it.

On warm days, he wore brightly colored running shorts and nothing else. His bronzed chest and well-muscled shoulders occasionally drew honks from passing cars.

"He had the greatest tan of anyone in town," said City Councilman Tom LaBonge, who lives a few blocks from the quiet hillside home Abrams shared with his wife. Whenever LaBonge spotted Abrams striding down the sidewalk he would stop to shout, "What up, Doc?"

Abrams had many nicknames: the Walking Man, Dr. Walk and Read, Doc Walker. He was baffled by the attention, his wife said.

"He didn't see himself as interesting," she said. "He didn't understand why people were so interested in his habits."

Perhaps it was the extraordinary nature of those habits.

Aside from the walking, Abrams swam two miles every day in the lap pool behind his house, his wife said. He also performed a punishing number of push-ups, although friends say reports that he did 4,000 each day may have been exaggerated.

Although he was a lifelong exercise nut — growing up he ran track and played tennis and football — he was not equally committed to nutrition.

His freezer was packed with muffins and coffee cake, and he liked to joke that his six basic food groups were chocolate, milkshakes, coffee, pizza, cookies and cake. (His wife said he supplemented the sweets with protein shakes and a multivitamin each morning).

Abrams was born Aug. 19, 1951, and grew up in a small apartment in South Philadelphia, where his father worked at a textile factory. He studied history and music at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania and attended medical school at Stanford University.

In 1980, Abrams moved to Silver Lake with his first wife, Patricia Hishiki Abrams. She died of cancer in 1991.

The next year, a patient at Abrams' medical office in North Hollywood introduced him to Cindy, a teacher who was visiting from out of town.

Cindy was impressed by the doctor's intellect. Abrams was a history buff and a classical music lover who, Cindy said, knew "every note of every Gustav Mahler symphony."

"We met and fell and love and got married," Cindy said. "Then I found out who I married."

She said that before moving to Silver Lake, she hadn't known that he was such a neighborhood fixture — or that he was so set in his ways.

"He lived according to his own rules," she said. "He used to say that people become more like themselves when they get old."

Abrams closed his medical practice last year, giving him "more time to read, more time to walk," she said.

His wife and a brother are Abrams' only survivors.

Around Silver Lake on Thursday, neighbors built makeshift memorials.

On the dirt path near the Silver Lake Reservoir that Abrams circled every day, someone had placed a bouquet of lilacs and a poster-sized notice of his death. Outside Local restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, the site of a massive mural dedicated to Abrams, someone left flowers and a pair of old running shoes.

A memorial walk in his honor is planned for Sunday at noon. It begins at the intersection of Moreno Drive and West Silver Lake Drive.

kate.linthicum@latimes.com

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