Doctor made patients feel special

He was the Newport-Mesa doctor known for his old-fashioned flair, a hometown feel to his craft, compassion for his patients and a twinkle in his eye.

Dr. Dudley A. Pfaff, a longtime Newport Beach resident, 41-year physician and team doctor to local sports teams — including for Costa Mesa, Estancia, Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar high schools — died Nov. 21. He was 86.

Pfaff, aka "Dr. Dud" and the "jock doc," was born and raised in Indianapolis and served two years as a flight engineer in the U.S. Army Air Forces — the predecessor to the Air Force — during World War II. After his service, Pfaff earned his bachelor's and medical degrees from Indiana University.

In 1954, he headed to Southern California for his residency, where he would stay for the rest of his life.

Pfaff's general practice started in 1955 in Costa Mesa. It had a humble beginning: his garage at Placentia Avenue and Center Street, the present-day site of a Wahoo's Fish Taco. There were three months during that time when he delivered more babies than any other doctor in Orange County, said his wife of 43 years, Fran Carpenter Pfaff.

He later moved to an office across from Hoag Hospital, where he was on staff for 39 years. At the time of his retirement in 1996, Pfaff was Hoag's longest-serving active staff member.

His research in sports medicine gave him status as a pioneer and local legend, as well as a spot in the Daily Pilot's Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.

"At the football banquets, you're considered part of the team when you're the doctor, and [the coaches] always had great things to say about the kids," Pfaff said at the time. "And I felt like they were all mine."

Pfaff was the team doctor at CdM while Dave Holland was the coach there, winning back-to-back CIF Southern Section Division VI titles in 1988 and '89.

"He was really great, very calm and very great with the kids," said Holland. "I also had him as a doctor for myself. I trusted him to be a good doctor. The biggest thing about him was no matter the injury, he was really calm about it.

"He was a really good man. I consider him a good friend."

Fran said her husband, whom she met through a Kiwanis bridge game, considered himself a life coach, not an athletic one.

"He just made each person feel very special, whether he was with them for five minutes or five hours," Fran said.

But for all the games he attended, it wasn't the score he cared about most; it was the kids.

"He could care less about the game," Fran said. "He watched it from a different perspective, because he would watch the interactions and watch for injuries."

The doctor even took house calls to another level: Some patients came to his.

"He'd put stitches in or check them out," Fran said.

Fran's sister, Annie Rohrbach, said he had a soft strength and gentle power about him. He was also a wonderful listener.

"There's so many lives that he doesn't even know he touched, but then he also really kept track of all his athletes all through the years," Rohrbach said.

DiAnna Pfaff-Martin, a "Pet of the Week" contributor to the Pilot and one of Pfaff's daughters, said he was always accepting of her "frivolousness of fashion and passion for animals."

She remembers when the three ducks she brought home from the Back Bay multiplied to 32. Her father let them stay, as well as her other animals.

Pfaff is survived by his wife, Fran Carpenter Pfaff; their seven children and stepchildren: DiAnna Pfaff-Martin, Donald Pfaff, Dawn Pfaff-Conavay, Ken Carpenter, Bruce Carpenter, Frank Carpenter and Scott Carpenter; 14 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Pfaff's first wife, Alyce Davidge, predeceased him.

A public service is planned for 1 p.m. Dec. 22 at Liberty Baptist Church, 1000 Bison Ave., Newport Beach.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Pfaff-Martin's Community Animal Network, P.O. Box 8662, Newport Beach, CA 92658, tax ID 33-0971560; or to the Grace Fellowship Church, 3170 Red Hill Ave., Costa Mesa.

—Daily Pilot Sports Editor Steve Virgen also contributed to this report.

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