Dr Herbert A. LintsJanuary 26, 1918 ~ December 6, 2017 (age 99)
The Wonderful Life of Dr. Herbert A. Lints, M.D.
Herbert Arthur Lints was born in Detroit, Michigan on January 26, 1918, and passed away peacefully on December 6, 2017, a few weeks short of his 100th birthday. Herbert married Dorothy Josephine del Siena (aka Delsi) in August, 1945. Herb and Delsi had three children; Craig Olin Lints, Leslie Jo Lints (aka Helena Lints Lengel), and Kenton Herbert Lints (aka Rasjad). Delsi passed away in 1998, and Rasjad passed away from ALS in 2016. Since 2002, Herb shared his life with his dear friend, Juanita Robinson, who passed away in 2016. Known as Grampy, he is survived by six grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. He lived a long and happy life with a great family, many friends, and no regrets.
Raised in Michigan, today we would hardly recognize his childhood. Horses were common and cars were rare. “Ice cutters” worked the lakes in winter and the iceman delivered all summer. When Herb was three, his father purchased a drug store in Capac, a small town in the “thumb” of Michigan. For many years the family lived in the apartment above the store and both Herb and his brother Bill grew up working in the business. The store served as the local soda shop, smoke shop, branch library, and mail express. One evening the town drunk walked his horse into the store and said “Gracie, I want to ship this horse to Imlay City.” Grace replied, “Well Pat, you’ll have to put him in a box.” Needless to say, Pat returned the next day to thank her for her wisdom.
Eventually tragedy struck the family when their beloved younger sister “Honeygirl” died from an episode of appendicitis and poor health care. “When I was a boy, medicine was a little bit science and a lot of superstition. Death was a not uncommon side effect of visiting the doctor.” This disappointment drove him to become a ‘Devout Atheist’, and to strive to make a difference by becoming a doctor. Thereafter, Herb witnessed miracle after miracle in his lifetime. Starting with sulfa drugs in the 30s and penicillin in the 40s, year after year, decade after decade, Herb witnessed the miraculous conquest of tuberculosis, diabetes, heart disease, measles, whooping cough, malaria (which was common in parts of the U.S.) and polio; polio, a disease which, until the introduction of the Salk vaccine in the 50s, left thousands of small children across this country crippled or miserably imprisoned in an iron lung. And small pox, a disease which had wiped out more than 75% of the indigenous population of North America; small pox was wiped off the face of the earth! “How much prayer would it take to wipe out small pox?” Dad would ask indignantly.
Herb graduated from Alma College in 1941 and University of Michigan in 1945. Herb applied for medical school through the Navy but failed his physical due to flat feet. His uncle, Dr. Will Lovering pulled strings and got a second physician’s opinion, which he passed. “He may walk like a duck,” the second doctor said, “but by the time he is a doctor, the Navy won’t give a damn.” The Navy had an accelerated program and Herb graduated medical school in three years. The day he was supposed to ship off to the Pacific, the Japanese surrendered and the war was over. He had married Delsi only a few days earlier, a relationship which would last 53 years. The Navy then sent him to Texas where he coordinated the research for the first human study of the then-new anti-malarial drug chloroquine by the National Institute of Health. After he finished his residency in Internal medicine at the University of Chicago, he moved to Escondido, California in 1951. There, with a growing family, he started his own private practice near Palomar Hospital, where he was the only internist for 30 miles around.
In 1958 he was appointed to the California State Board of Health by Governor Pat Brown Sr. and continued that service until 1966 when then-Governor Ronald Reagan disbanded the Board. On the Board of Health, he was instrumental in implementing health regulations that required car manufacturers to install seat belts in new cars. This was long before any requirement to actually WEAR a seat belt, but the auto industry bitterly fought the rule, calling it “bureaucratic overreach.” The Board sent an investigative team to Sweden to review the evidence for seat belts. Before going on this trip, Herb believed that all cars needed to have heavily padded dashboards and side doors for protection. When he returned, he said the evidence spoke for itself and he became a prolific seat belt advocate! Governor Brown Sr. backed the Board of Health and for the first time, cars sold in California had ‘lap belts’ installed by law.
In 1962 the family moved to Berkeley, where he joined Kaiser Permanente. There he worked throughout Kaiser’s sprawling bay area industrial complex as an Industrial Medical Specialist, and also serviced Henry J. Kaiser as his personal physician. In 1969 Delsi & Herb moved to Philadelphia where Herb became an Associate Professor at Temple University. He established and oversaw a neighborhood health clinic in a poverty stricken area that was funded by President Johnson’s anti-poverty program. Many of the patients at the clinic came to see a doctor for the first time in their lives. His co-workers at the hospital thought him peculiar because he addressed everyone by their last name. The nurse was “Miss Johnson,” the janitor was “Mr. Brown.” Being a doctor put him in a position where people treated him with respect and he believed that everyone deserved that same respect. Passing a beggar he knew on the street, he would say, “Here is five dollars Mr. Wilson. You have a wonderful day.” Raised in the depression, he had watched train after train go by with men on the roof traveling in search of work. He knew it was only a roll of the cosmic dice that put a roof over his head and food on his family's table.
When they moved back to California in 1973 Herb returned to his love of public health, becoming a Communicable Disease Specialist for the Alameda County Public Health Department. His devotion to personal and public safety was a hallmark of his life which even spilled into his family. When he offered to pay his granddaughter to mow the lawn, he required her to buy steel-toed shoes, work gloves, and safety glasses. It didn’t take long for her to decide she was too busy to mow the lawn, but nevertheless she thanked him for her new boots.
In the final stage of his career he retook his board exams and developed a focus on geriatrics. He spent the last 25 years of his career in private practice, specializing in nursing home care. At one point he was Medical Director of over twenty facilities across Alameda County. In one instance he had to defend his actions before a state Medicaid hearing officer for seeing patients in nursing homes too frequently. In his defense, he told of seeing patients who had such severe bedsores that when he touched them for examination his hands would lift off the body with sheets of loose skin attached. He said the frequency of his visits prevented this occurrence, and the hearing officer quickly granted his appeal and reversed all charges. Many people fondly remember him for his deep commitment to his patients and their families.
Well paid as a doctor, but never really “rich,” Herb was probably the most generous man you have ever heard of. A believer in the power of education, he paid to put many kids through college, some of whom he hardly knew. He would loan you money and never even think to ask for a payment. In his 80s, he proceeded to give away over half of his life's savings. “Why do I need all this money?” he would ask. “There are other people who need it more than me.”
His final years were spent at Bayside Park Assisted Living Center. Although his memory became impaired as he aged, he brought joy to everyone around him. To the end, he loved to dance and sing and tell jokes: “With this cane, I am able”; “My wife once cooked something I didn’t like, but I can’t remember what it was”; “Although the common cold usually lasts two weeks, I have learned from my many years as a doctor, that if you take lots of vitamin C, drink lots of fluids and get plenty of rest, it will only last fourteen days.”
There will be a Celebration of Life for Dr. Herbert Lints, M.D. on President’s Day Weekend, Sunday February 18, 2018, 2-5pm, at the Grand View Pavilion, 300 Island Drive, Alameda California.
Donations in Herb's Memory may be made to the San Francisco Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund https://seasonofsharing.org