Physician, activist, poet
Myron Grover Chapman, a longtime Claremont resident and physician, died on January 18, 2013 at Mt. San Antonio Gardens, where he had lived for the past 7 years. He was 87.
Dr. Chapman was born on November 23, 1925 in Methuen, Massachusetts to Grover and Eva Chapman. His father was a Methodist minister, and his family moved often to serve different parishes in the northeast and Midwest. In his senior year of high school, Dr. Chapman’s family moved to Florida but he stayed by himself in Ashtabula, Ohio. He lived at the parsonage on weekends and at the YMCA during the week, working at the front desk at night to pay the rent, in order to finish the school year there. He graduated as valedictorian of his high school class in 1943, and then went on to undergraduate and medical school at the University of Chicago.
Dr. Chapman’s college education was interrupted when, as he put it, he was “selected” to join the US Army and sent to Newfoundland during World War II. After the war, Dr. Chapman returned to the University of Chicago and in 1948, he met a student nurse, Lois Matz, at a square dance there. They were married in 1949, and Dr. Chapman received his MD in 1951.
The family, then including children Jennifer and Carol, moved to Los Angeles for Dr. Chapman’s residency in internal medicine in 1952. Two more children, Laura and Mark, were born in Los Angeles, and the family settled in Claremont in 1958. Dr. Chapman had a private practice in Claremont for 4 years and then was the director of Student Health Services at the Claremont Colleges for 18 years, during which time he oversaw a significant expansion and development of the services offered. He later worked as staff physician at Casa Colina Hospital for 8 years, including a year as chief of staff.
Dr. Chapman’s passionate interests in peace and social justice were expressed as early as his high school valedictory address, in which he spoke of the ending of all war and of “the battle to keep democracy vital and progressive—the unsung and perpetual battle to make living decent and human dignity universal.” He lived these beliefs through his volunteer involvement in many groups and events. His philosophy was, “You can’t have a democracy without people participating.” And participate he did.
Dr. Chapman was actively involved with the Claremont Friends Meeting (Quaker), and he was a longtime member and co-chair of the Peace and Social Justice Committee there. Other members of that committee describe him as principled and dedicated in his research, thinking and actions. He was also a strong supporter of the Friends Committee on National Legislation and brought their “War Is Not the Answer” campaign to Claremont, buying signs with his own money when necessary.
Dr. Chapman was also passionate about health education and the environment, and he brought his characteristic dedication and commitment to those issues. At Mt. San Antonio Gardens, he coordinated a popular series of health education lectures, bringing in expert speakers on medical issues of concern to the residents. He also served many years on the Environmental Quality Board for the city of Claremont.
Recently, in response to a growing belief that climate change was becoming the most important issue of our time, he helped form the Future of the Earth group at the Gardens and worked tirelessly to inform others and inspire them to action on that problem. He treasured the people he met and worked with in all of his activities, and they respected and appreciated him for his generosity in helping others.
Dr. Chapman lived a full and extraordinary life in other areas as well. He expressed some of his most important thoughts and deepest feelings through his poetry, which he shared in lively discussions at the Joslyn Center poetry class he attended for many years and at the Live Poets Society at the Gardens. He loved being out in nature and enjoyed summer visits to his grandparents’ farm in Indiana as a child, as well as later camping in the deserts of Utah, collecting driftwood and shells on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, contemplating the lakes of New England and experiencing awe in the Sierras and the Alps.
Photography was also a special interest, starting with well-loved black-and-white pictures of his children and evolving through slides of family trips and then professional-level scenic prints. At the Gardens, he was also known as a wonderful ballroom dance partner who was light on his feet and a delight to watch, with a special grace and style of his own.
Dr. Chapman is survived by his friend and companion, Elayne Logan, by his daughters and their partners, Jennifer Chapman and Roger Smith of Austin, Texas, Carol Chapman and Joe Cadora of Richmond, California and Laura and Glenn Morrison of Champaign, Illinois, and by his son, Mark Chapman of Santa Cruz, California. Their mother, Lois Chapman, died in 1972. Also surviving are Dr. Chapman’s granddaughter, Leslie Morrison, his sister, Margaret Smith, sisters-in-law Glenn Chapman and Gloria Underhill, friend and former wife Karen Chapman Lenz, stepson Jason Shupe and many special friends.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made in Dr. Chapman’s memory to the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (www.chesapeakeclimate.org). He was very proud of the work his granddaughter, Leslie, has been doing with that organization.
Services will be held on Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 2 p.m. at the Claremont Friends Meeting House, 727 W. Harrison Ave. in Claremont.