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Central California doctor who delivered about 18,000 babies over 50 years dies

Dr. Harvey Palitz delivered three generations of the Richards family: Diana, Britney and Dyllan. They are shown in his office in Modesto, Calif. (Andy Alfaro/The Sacramento Bee/TNS)
September 02, 2023

Dr. Harvey Palitz has died at 80, a year after retiring from a Modesto practice that brought about 18,000 babies into the world.

His family noted his Aug. 23 death in an email to The Modesto Bee. The Pennsylvania native delivered babies as an Air Force doctor in New Mexico before moving here in 1974.

He worked at the obstetrics/gynecology office of the late Dr. Delmar Tonge before setting out on his own in 1977.

His family recalled Dr. Palitz’s love for marathon running and for Tootsie Pops, and his preference for jeans and sneakers while on the job.

Dr. Palitz’s first baby in Modesto was Diana Hauck Richards, who has another claim to local fame: She was one of three generations delivered by the doctor. She gave birth in 1994 to Britney Richards, who in turn had son Dylann in 2015.

“It’s really cool knowing I was his first delivery in Modesto,” Diana told Bee columnist Jeff Jardine eight years ago. “And now, Dyllan is his first third-generation baby.”

Medical studies at Temple

Dr. Palitz was born Sept. 22, 1942, in Oil City, Pa., and raised in Philadelphia. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Dickinson College and a medical degree at Temple University, both in Pennsylvania.

Dr. Palitz served in the military from 1972 to 1974, rising to major. He delivered babies for families stationed at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, N.M.

Most of the Modesto births were at Doctors Medical Center or Memorial Medical Center. The estimate of about 18,000 over nearly half a century came from Dr. Palitz’s recent office staff on McHenry Avenue.

“Once, I delivered seven in a 24-hour period,” he said in the 2015 piece. “I’ve had 15 in a busy week, but that doesn’t happen very often.”

Jardine’s column mentioned a few other area doctors who delivered babies well past normal retirement age. Dr. Carl Hornberger did it in Modesto, Dr. Ben Leonard in Gustine and Dr. Hill McGillis in Sonora.

More than a dozen marathons

Dr. Palitz’s family told of one of his passions: “Harvey was a prolific runner who would be seen running around Modesto over the years. (He survived being hit by a drunk driver while running in the 1980s.) He ran more than a dozen marathons all over the country, from Boston to Hawaii.”

At work, Dr. Palitz was know for his “big personality, prolific whistling, his bedside manner/tireless dedication/skill as a doctor, and his love of cats and candy (you’d often see him with a Tootsie Pop in his mouth in the office or at the hospital).”

He is survived by his wife, Lori Manon Palitz of Modesto; daughter, Meredith Howe of Elk Grove; son, Jeff Palitz of Chula Vista; four grandchildren, Elijah Howe, Jonah Howe, Meghan Palitz and Jackson Palitz; sister, Marsha Palitz of Deland, Fla.; and several other family members.

A private memorial service has already been held. Donations in Dr. Palitz’s memory can be made to Planned ParenthoodSierra Repertory Theatre, the Gallo Center for the Arts, or other causes.


© 2023 The Sacramento Bee

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