OBITUARY

David Abraham Sommer

October 3, 1934September 12, 2020

The boat engine would not start late one afternoon more than fifty years ago when one of my sisters and I went fishing with our father for what could have been our first time. Our father was new to boating and had taken us to Jewfish Creek where he rented a small boat for the day. We might have recognized at that time our father's love for the outdoors, adventurous spirit, and resourcefulness as he paddled us towards the shoreline while explaining his strategy to wade ashore and find help while leaving us "safe" in the boat in the shade of the mangroves. My sister and I were probably about four and six years old, respectively, so we cried. Our father eventually abandoned his plan after thinking it through more carefully, but more importantly, it was an early introduction to a lifetime full of memorable experiences and a few mishaps, all of which emphasizing the value of family, self-reliance, joyfulness and courage. Our father showed courage throughout his life up to the very end, when surrounded by his big, close and loving family, he died peacefully asleep at home on September 12, 2020. He leaves behind his wife of 62 years, Erica "Ricky" Sommer, and their three children, Jill Band Abisch (John), Wendy Elkin (Michael), and Glenn Sommer, and nine grandchildren, Ali and Jack Band, Jordan and Samantha Abisch, Emily, Annie and Katie Elkin, and Charlie and Sam Sommer. He also leaves behind an older sister, Sydell Pollard, and nieces and nephews too numerous to individually mention. Our father was born in Paterson, NJ, and moved at two years of age to Dubois, PA. He was the youngest child of Fanny Gold Sommer and Charles Sommer's three children. His oldest sister, Rhoda Sheldon (deceased), was the first sibling to move to South Florida when she relocated with her husband to Miami Beach. She introduced her younger brother to a tropical lifestyle when he briefly lived with her and her husband while studying for his Bar Mitzvah and attending Miami Beach Junior High School for seventh grade. He would remember how magical Miami was years later when he decided to begin his career and raise a family there. After completing junior high school in Dubois, PA, he left again for boarding school never to return, and eventually graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1952. He later graduated from Harvard University in 1956 and from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1960. While in medical school, he married his beloved wife and together as partners they started their lifetime of adventure by moving to Miami. Always destined for a career in medicine, our father completed his internship at Jackson Memorial Hospital just before being drafted into the U.S. Army during the Berlin Crisis. He became a Captain in the U.S. Army First Armored Division, known as "Old Ironsides," and was based in Fort Hood, TX, from 1961 to 1963. On one occasion in 1962, while his wife was pregnant with their second child, his unit was relocated to Fort Stewart, GA, for training before being transferred surreptitiously to Gulfstream Racetrack to await deployment during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Despite a break from military protocol by notifying his sister in Miami Beach that he was visiting the area, he received a service commendation from President Kennedy. Not until his return to Fort Hood did he learn that his wife had given birth to their first daughter. Our father eventually returned to Miami, FL, following his military service so that he could complete medical residencies at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Internal Medicine in 1965 and in Gastroenterology in 1967. He entered private medical practice with an emphasis in his areas of specialization and joined the staff of some of the most highly regarded hospitals in Miami-Dade County. Throughout life, our father was motivated by his love for family, service to the medically ill, and a heartfelt concern for his fellow man. More than anything else, he loved the company of his wife and children. However, he also recognized the importance his professional calling and loved individually helping his patients and collaborating with other doctors. He earned the trust of his patients' families as much for his professional abilities as for his strength of personality and the joyfulness he exuded. Mutual warmth and concern characterized the exceptional professional relationships that he shared with his six partners, especially Dr. Seth Rosen, and with Ana Perez and Lori Rogers, two of his devoted nurses that he held in high esteem. He was honored every day to work with them as well as with many other similarly dedicated professionals with whom he had the good fortune to develop meaningful relationships over the course of a lifetime. In such relationships, both personal and professional, our father found meaning, joy, and often laughter. Appropriately nicknamed the Silverbear, our father maintained an active lifestyle and enjoyed a strong competitive streak. He was a huge Miami sports fan, too, and always found time to attend the Heat, Dolphins, and Marlins games, and the entire Miami Open experience each year. However, his favorite spectator sports by far were the weekly games of the various teams on which his grandchildren participated in youth leagues and in high school. Almost every weekend one could find him cheering from the bleachers. Throughout his life, our father demonstrated a strong affection for animals. His pet dogs always occupied a special place in his heart. Out of respect, we now remember Flicker, Caprice, Maggie, Sammy, Frisco, Riley, and Lucy, all of which were beloved, coddled, and at least one of which actually received swimming lessons. We now can laugh thinking about how he might be managing such a pack of his beloved untrained pets swimming in an after-life pond. Some things that now might help us to smile as we remember our father's extraordinarily large personality and presence that was interchangeably warm, loving and entertaining might include his booming voice heard from the next room, his incessant whistling of an invented unrecognizable melody, his jolly laughter, his compulsive list-making, his genuine concern for others, and his emphasis on honest work and joyful living. While there are so many other things that might be mentioned to effectively convey his love of life and warmth of personality, perhaps the most meaningful would be his deep understanding of the human condition and the unusual level of empathy he possessed, both of which compelled him to help others smile more and suffer less. Above all else, however, our father taught us in words and deeds the importance of family and to always prioritize family relationships and quickly resolve family issues. No greater value did he cherish than the bonds of family and no greater lesson did he impart as his legacy than to protect the family unit. We will miss our father dearly and will think about him often, honoring his legacy for future generations. His persistent memory always will bring a smile to our faces, reminding us to believe in ourselves and to live a life full of meaning, healthy activity, and the joy of family. We love you, dad, and your lessons will not be forgotten. Due to the pandemic of Covid-19, there will be a small private memorial service limited to our family. Regretfully, we are unable to safely accommodate the many people who may wish to celebrate the life of our father, but you may consider honoring his memory by making a charitable contribution to the Miami Cancer Institute at Baptist Hospital (www.baptisthealth.net), Rabbi Judith Siegal's Mitzvah Fund at Temple Judea (www.judeagables.org), or Ben and Jerry's Social Justice Foundation (www.benandjerrysfoundation.org).

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