Our Sages taught that there are three crowns a man might wear in his life: the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of kingship. But the most important one of all is the crown of a good name.
Dr. Hugh Levin earned the crown of a good name.
And, though he was a humble man, he was rightfully proud of the things he achieved in his life and the reputation he built for himself.
After serving in the Air Force, Hugh moved to Omaha to join a practice with some of his former Ohio State classmates.
By 1968, he was so widely regarded that he was invited to start the cardiology department at Bergan Mercy hospital.
As department head, he was instrumental in securing the certification for the hospital to perform open heart surgeries.
Hugh was a brilliant doctor, and it seems he was well loved by the people he touched, too.
Mike, you remember your parents hosted lots of parties at your house when he was at Bergan. They loved to entertain.
In addition to running the cardiology department, Hugh also taught classes at Creighton Medical School. In that role, too, he earned a stellar reputation, winning numerous accolades for his teaching, including the Golden Apple Award.
Being a doctor was such a central part of Hugh’s identity. In fact, Anita, you called him “Doc.”
You told me about a conversation you had with him recently. You asked him:
“When you pass on and meet God, do you think you’ll let Him call you by your first name?”
And Hugh responded, “I think I’ll make Him call me Dr. Levin.”
He had a wonderful sense of humor.
Mike, you said he used to begin every med school lecture or speech he gave with a joke.
He actually kept a catalogue of jokes in a spreadsheet, so whenever he needed one, he would go to the spreadsheet and find just the right one.
I think he must have loved laughing.
Mike and Deb, you remember those summer vacations and family car trips to Okobojie, and New York, and other places – how your dad almost drove off the road because he was laughing so hard at the silly songs you were making up in the back seat, and the time when that guy who bragged to your dad about being an outstanding fisherman got his line caught in his pants.
Fishing was one of Hugh’s favorite pastimes. He and his parents used to go fishing together when he was growing up in Vermont.
Anita, he loved to tell you the story about how, when he was six years old, his dad gave him his first fishing pole.
His dad told him to go out and practice his casting, so Hugh threw his line way out into the water, and caught a fish so big he didn’t know what to do with it!
Hugh’s dad had a boat, and boy, did he love going out on the water.
Mike, you said they used to take the boat out through upper New England into Canadian waters, and your dad loved to wave back at the border.
Apparently, Hugh’s dad didn’t catch many fish, but his mother would be the one reeling them in.
Deb, you said in recent years he loved going to visit Mike and Jane out at Lake Bennington and going out on the boat, because it reminded him of his childhood.
Mike, you remember he also loved to sit out on the porch and just peacefully watch you mow the lawn, with his dog Buddy by his side.
Hugh loved Buddy. Deb, you said his voice would audibly change whenever he talked about Buddy.
And Buddy always reminded him of his dog Pal, whom he had growing up.
It seems like a piece of Hugh’s heart was always in Vermont.
Anita, you used to read him the news and weather reports from his hometown of Newport every morning, and you and he used to talk about going there to visit someday.
Other than fishing, Hugh had a lot of hobbies that brought him joy.
He loved playing Bridge, swimming in his pool, and going out to dinner.
Even in the hospital last week, he was trying to persuade the nurses and doctors coming in and out of his room to let him take them out to dinner.
He also really enjoyed classical music, opera, and Broadway musicals.
He had a very extensive music collection, which he used to keep in his basement. But as he got older, it became difficult for him to go down the stairs, so he wasn’t able to listen to music for a long time.
Well, when you moved him out to a one-story house, you set up a music and entertainment center for him right there in the living room – and he loved it, because he was finally able to listen to his record albums again.
And, of course, he loved playing golf.
When he retired in 1995, Hugh and Corrine bought a place out in Palm Desert, CA, where they could play golf year-round.
They also loved travelling. They went all over the world together: Africa, France, cruises. Italy and Israel were their favorite places.
Hugh was a very proud Jew.
He was a regular every Friday night at Temple Israel. It was clear how much he enjoyed being there.
Anita, you were always there with him.
You love that you got to spend the last two Hanukkahs with him – and how much fun it was to light the candles and sing the blessings together.
Deb and Paul, you remember how much he loved coming out to Dallas to have Seder with you and his grandchildren. That was a real highlight for him.
He loved his grandchildren: Lisa, and then Nic; Daniel, and then Alicia; Eric, and then Sara.
And his 8 great-grandchildren: Joshua, Kaden, Layla, Camden, Arianna, Ryane, Avery, and Everly.
I know you will all miss him dearly.
* * *
Dr. Hugh Levin was a kind and gentle man; a brilliant and hard-working doctor; and a loving husband and father – even if it was a little hard for him to show it sometimes.
Deb and Mike, you said he taught you, by his own example, that hard work pays off.
He raised you to be independent and expected you to be independent.
He built a hospital program that has surely saved countless lives.
He leaves a proud legacy.
Because in his life, Dr. Hugh Levin earned the most important crown of all – the crown of a good name.
Zichrono livrachah. May his memory be for a blessing.
By Rabbi Brian Stoller