Dr. Fritz Moser: Surgeon, artist, family man
Dr. Fritz Helmut Moser, surgeon, artist and longtime resident, died of natural causes early on the evening of October 19, 2015 at his Claremont home. He was 92 years old.
He was born on October 1, 1923 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, the youngest of four brothers in a German family that formed on both sides of the Atlantic. His parents had met and married in New York City, and their first son was born there in 1912 before they returned to Germany where their three younger sons were born.
Their father died when Fritz was only four years old, so he was raised in Frankfurt by his mother and his elder brothers and schooled at the Kaiser Wilhelm Schule. He showed a love of music as a boy and was given piano lessons, then switched to instruction in sculpting, a skill he refined throughout his life. He also received private lessons in English.
Fritz was 17 when he heard the radio broadcast announcing Germany’s declaration of war on the Soviet Union, and he and his friends were immediately confronted with the reality of their peril and the devastation this portended for Germany. He was conscripted into the German army in the Second World War, assigned to an infantry unit and sent toward the Russian front. He was fortunate to be wounded and to require toe amputation due to frostbite, for these stalled his progress toward the fighting at Stalingrad. He was also fortunate that his commanding officer surrendered, against orders, to American forces. Though his family’s home was destroyed during the Allied bombing of Frankfurt, his immediate family remained intact.
At the end of the war he returned to school, studying medicine first at the University of Heidelberg and then at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, receiving his doctorate in medicine in 1951. Following medical study, he was accepted into the first year’s cohort of the Read Program of the Ventnor Foundation, an internship program that placed foreign medical school graduates in community hospitals across the United States. This brought him to Paterson, New Jersey, a trans-Atlantic voyage that launched his American dream.
The young Dr. Moser lived in Paterson for his internship at St. Joseph’s Hospital, then in Rochester, Minnesota as a fellow at the Mayo Clinic, then in Modesto for surgical residency at Stanislaus County Hospital. In his time off, he explored the continent by automobile, traveling cross-country with friends. Together they visited North America’s landmarks, swam in its oceans and lakes, skied its mountains and hiked the National Parks, developing an abiding love for the American west—and California.
Close friends in Pomona encouraged him to set up practice here, and they invited him to stay at their home as he was getting started. He arrived in 1958 and a year later his mother moved to Claremont, where she resided until her death. In 1963 Fritz became a naturalized US citizen, and shortly thereafter at Pomona Valley Hospital he met his future bride, Mary Jane Binkley—“Janie”—an operating room nurse. He and Janie married on September 17, 1966 at the Kingman Chapel in Claremont, and they have lived in Claremont ever since, raising a family of three boys.
Dr. Moser established a practice of 25 years with Dr. Marc Leventhal, eventually to become Cosmetic Surgery Associates of Pomona. Early in his career he was a physician on call for the Claremont Colleges, and he also taught at UC Irvine and at the School of Osteopathic Medicine in Pomona. In 1980, he spent three months in Saudi Arabia to help set up the operating room at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre. He was chief of staff at Pomona Valley Community Hospital and chairman of both the Surgery Department and the Governing Board for Doctors’ Hospital of Montclair, and he also practiced at Park Avenue and San Dimas hospitals. He served as president of the Los Angeles County Medical Association District 14, and as president of the Tri-County Surgical Society of Southern California. Dr. Moser retired in 1998 after 40 years of practice.
Fritz was an active and involved member of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church for nearly 40 years. He designed the church’s pulpit, lectern, credence table and baptismal font when the present sanctuary was built in 1982, and he presided over the church council from 2000-2002, during the enlargement of the fellowship hall.
It is no exaggeration to say that Dr. Moser nearly always ensured he was within close reach of chocolate, and he frequently maintained that chocolate is a food group, or vegetable. He loved hosting friends and student guests from abroad, and enjoyed travel and friendships worldwide. He was a classical music devotee, most especially of Mozart, and regularly attended performances at the Hollywood Bowl and Los Angeles Philharmonic. He was a gifted sculptor and painter, whose work has been exhibited in Claremont at Wei Tuo Academy and at the Edward Jones offices.
Fritz always loved nature and the outdoors, and he was a strong hiker and expert skier. Particularly in retirement, he tended to the backyard pond he built and stocked with koi. Most recently last August, he traveled with extended family to Hawaii, a place of special significance from his adventures as a medical resident, honeymoon with Janie and later trips with family and grandchildren.
Dr. Moser was preceded in death by his brothers, Peter, Otto and Hans, and by his nephew Peter. He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Mary Jane, and by three sons and their respective spouses, Kurt Moser and Linda Kelly of Alexandria, Virginia, Rick Moser and Shawna Gale of Burbank and Chris and Andrea Moser of Santa Monica. He also leaves his grandchildren, Peter, Caroline and Olivia, and his nieces, Susan of Niles, Illinois and Marcela of Buenos Aires, Argentina and her family.