Local doctor 'loved by his patients'

Dr. Eugene "Gene" Levin practiced medicine in Laguna Beach for 41 years, right up to the day before he died.

He spent his last day, Sept. 15, alongside his wife of 60 years, Vivian, sipping wine and snacking on cheese and crackers in their garden. He was 85.

"When I go, I want to go like Gene Levin," said Mayor Pro Tem Verna Rollinger, who announced the death of the highly regarded doctor at the Sept. 18 City Council meeting.

"He was a wonderful member of our community who was just loved by his patients and did great things for our community. He has been here forever and he will be missed very much," she added.

A memorial service will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 29 at Tivoli Too on the Art-a-Fair grounds, 777 Laguna Canyon Road. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Laguna Beach Rotary Club Foundation.

Levin was a familiar face in Laguna. He had lived with his family and practiced in Laguna since 1972. He was passionate about medicine and believed strongly that every patient deserved quality care, his family said.

Levin served as the South Coast Community Hospital, now known as Mission Hospital Laguna Beach, and was director of education in the 1970s. He also was on the Laguna Beach High School scholarship selection committee for students interested in pursuing a medical career, according to family records.

But his activities were not confined to medicine. He was a member of the Laguna Beach Rotary Club for more than 30 years.

A gregarious man with a sparkling smile, Levin enjoyed spending time at Victoria Beach, chatting with friends and neighbors, bodysurfing in his younger days, and watching the classic Victoria Beach two- and four-member team volleyball tournaments.

Levin also supported the arts, for which he had developed a love as a child listening to live performances of the renowned Philadelphia Orchestra.

In Laguna, he served on the boards of the Laguna Art Museum, the Laguna Playhouse and, most recently, the Laguna Dance Festival.

Levin was born May 6, 1927, in Philadelphia to Benjamin Levin and Mary Nechrich Levin, both immigrants to the United States.

She was a seamstress who worked to send her husband through pharmacy school, the closest he came to his dream of being a doctor.

Levin helped his father in the pharmacy, preparing prescriptions and jerking sodas — he was always proud of his chocolate sodas.

It was Levin's heritage of hardworking parents and the hardships and illnesses he saw suffered by people during the Depression that influenced his continual concern about social justice and peace, family members said.

To say the least, the Levins' offspring was a bright child. He had decided when he was six that he wanted to be a doctor when a surgeon operated on his knee and he cried because he wasn't allowed to sit up and watch the procedure. He never wavered from his goal, according to the family.

Levin graduated from Overbrook High School at 16, from Temple University at 18 in an accelerated program due to World War II, and from Temple University Medical School at 22, eventually becoming a board-certified internist and a fellow of the American College of Cardiology.

After medical school, Levin moved to Los Angeles in 1949 as an intern at Cedars-Sinai. He did his residency at the veterans hospital in Long Beach.

Levin joined the Army in 1953 and practiced at Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco.

He returned to Los Angeles in 1954, where he lived with his wife and three children until the family moved to Laguna Beach.

Always a sports fan, one of his favorite stories was about playing street basketball in Philadelphia and teaching Wilt Chamberlain's high school coach how to play the game. He became a lifelong Lakers fan when Chamberlain signed with Los Angeles.

Levin also followed the Dodgers and the Angels, but hockey captured his heart about 15 years ago.

It was a joy for him to watch his grandson, Gabe, grow into an accomplished hockey player who's currently on the University of Denver's team.

Levin himself played tennis in Los Angeles and Laguna Beach, but in his later years, he combined two of his passions: spending hours watching his favorite sports teams on television, while flipping through stacks of medical journals.

He is survived by his wife, Vivian; their children David, Ben and Carol; son-in-law Daniel White; and three grandchildren: Gabe, August and Spencer.


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