Editor’s Note: A celebration of life for Dr. Harvey Leventhal, an eminent neurosurgeon on Staten Island who retired to Cooperstown, is planned 4-6 p.m. Sunday, May 20, at Origins Café & Carefree Gardens on Beaver Meadow Road. This obituary is from SIlive.com, the web site of the Staten Island Advance.
By CLAIRE REGAN • Staten Island Advance
STATEN ISLAND – Dr. Harvey R. Leventhal, 90, of Cooperstown, and formerly of Emerson Hill, a pioneering neurosurgeon who was among the first physicians to introduce CT scans and the MRI to Staten Island patients, died March 6 in Albany Medical Center.
Born in Brooklyn on Feb. 29, 1928, he was a leap-year baby and never let anyone forget it, his family recalled fondly. Even at 90, he told anyone who asked that he was 22-and-a-half years old – leap years, that is. Every four years, his family hosted a spectacular party to make up for the three previous no-birthday years.
Dr. Leventhal lived briefly in West Brighton before moving to Emerson Hill in the early 1970s and to Cooperstown 11 years ago.
Becoming a physician was his boyhood dream. His father, Samuel, was a general practitioner in Brooklyn and his mother, Marion, was a pharmacist.
A graduate of Cheshire (Conn.) Academy and Syracuse University, he earned a medical degree in 1952 from SUNY Downstate College of Medicine in Brooklyn and completed internships at Kings County Hospital, also Brooklyn, and Duke University Hospital in Durham, N.C. He completed a neurosurgical residency at Yale/Grace-New Haven Hospital in 1960.
In the early 1950s, Dr. Leventhal served as a Navy medical officer. He originally enlisted in the Marines, but responded to the call for a physician in the Navy.
He practiced medicine in New Orleans for a year before moving to Staten Island in 1963 to open a private practice. In 1971, Drs. Stephen Kulick and Michael Schuman partnered with Dr. Leventhal to form Concord Neurological and Neurosurgical Associates at 1099 Targee St.
The practice continues in that location today as Healthcare Associates in Medicine.
In 1977, the Concord team purchased the first CT (computed tomography) scan equipment on Staten Island, and in 1987 first made MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans available to Staten Islanders.
For over 10 years, Dr. Leventhal was the only neurosurgeon in the borough and on call 24/7 – before the assistance of beepers and cellphones.
He was an attending physician at the former St. Vincent’s Medical Center and served as president of its medical staff.
He was also an attending physician at the former Staten Island Hospital, Doctors’ Hospital, Richmond Memorial Hospital, St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan, Bayonne Hospital, Maimonides Hospital, Methodist Hospital and Seaview Hospital, where he was chief of neurosurgery.
He was a clinical associate professor of neurosurgery at New York University Medical Center, Manhattan, and an active member of the Richmond County Medical Society, serving as its president and as chairman of the Medical Malpractice Committee.
Dr. Leventhal was honored for his service to St. Vincent’s Medical Center, now Richmond University Medical Center, at its anniversary ball in 2001.
He cared deeply about his patients, often going above and beyond the call of duty to handle a health crisis.
His partner, Dr. Kulick, recalled a case at the former Richmond Memorial Hospital in 1969 involving a 2-year-old girl with signs of hematoma of the brain. He consulted Dr. Leventhal, who was handling an emergency at St. Vincent’s Hospital.
Dr. Kulick drove the young patient to St. Vincent’s where, in spite of limited equipment in the emergency room, Dr. Leventhal used burr holes to release pressure and drain the hematoma, saving the child’s life.
On another occasion, Dr. Leventhal attended the first communion Mass for a young girl who had undergone surgery for removal of a brain tumor. He sat in the back of the church to make sure his young patient was able to get through the ceremony without incident.
“He was a very warm-hearted, conscientious and hard-working physician,” Dr. Kulick said. “His patients loved him and appreciated all that he did for them.”
Known in the office as “HRL,” Dr. Leventhal also cared deeply about his staff. At Christmastime, he wrote personal notes of appreciation, and in summer, hosted a pool party for employees.
“He was admired, loved and an inspiration to all,” said Marie Razza, Dr. Leventhal’s first employee who retired in 1999.
BELOVED IN THE COMMUNITY
After retiring in 2000 to Cooperstown, Dr. Leventhal enjoyed the theater, opera, gardening, reading and maintaining his collection of model trains.
Gregarious and well-known in the community, he was the unofficial “mayor of Cooperstown, a figure everybody knew as ‘Harvey,'” said his wife of 25 years, Joan Powers Leventhal.
Dr. Leventhal was also an adventurous traveler, completing a safari and gorilla-tracking in Africa and ballooning in France. In 1987, he parachuted from a plane over Pittstown, N.J.
He and his wife enjoyed trips to the British Isles, the Galapagos Islands and to Machu Picchu in Peru.
“He preferred a map to GPS, and wanted to absorb as much knowledge as he could,” his wife recalled. “He couldn’t get enough of everything.”
Most importantly, Dr. Leventhal enjoyed going to dinner with family and friends. He was a great storyteller with a keen wit and a great sense of humor. His captivating stories often left a lasting impression.
“He was a great listener, too,” his wife quickly added.
In addition to his wife, survivors include two daughters, Jan Correa and Beth Leventhal; a son, Steven, and five grandchildren. He was also devoted to his two stepsons, Richard Powers, who predeceased him last year, and Francis Powers. A sister, Edythe Lucks, died in 1995.
A private funeral service was held in Cooperstown. A celebration of Dr. Leventhal’s life will take place on April 29 from 2 to 4 p.m. at 1099 Targee St., Concord.
Donations can be made in Dr. Leventhal’s name to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.