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Dr. Milton Stapen dies at 100

Hospital co-founder Dr. Milton Stapen died Sept. 2,

Hospital co-founder Dr. Milton Stapen died Sept. 2, 2012. He was 100. Newsday's obituary for Milton Stapen
Credit: Handout

The year was 1939 and Milton Stapen was a medical resident at Brooklyn Jewish Hospital. Another physician, after removing a young woman's appendix, had a suggestion for Stapen. "You've got to see this girl," he said. "I think you'd like to meet her."

So began a relationship between Stapen and Lois Koen, who were married for 72 years until his death Sunday at 100. The couple until recently lived in Floral Park.

Stapen, a radiologist, and other doctors founded Hempstead General Hospital, which was open from 1956 to 2003, and where he served as president and board chairman.

His son Joseph, 69, and a psychiatrist, said his father would weigh in on details both big and small, often consulting with chefs on meal selections -- he added steak and shrimp to the dinner menu -- and advising architects on the building's aesthetics as it was being constructed.

"He had no training as an architect," his son recalled, but "he would spread these huge blueprint rolls on our dining room table, take pencils, and make notations."

Before the hospital opened, Milton Stapen ran a radiology practice in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. His son Richard, 64, a radiologist who lives in Woodbury, said his father saw opportunity in the suburbs.

"My father felt there was a shortage of hospital beds in Nassau County," he said. "Hempstead was the major town in Nassau."

In the 1960s, Milton Stapen co-founded the Federation of American Hospitals, a group that represents hospitals nationwide. He opened a nursing home on the Hempstead hospital grounds, and an infirmary at Hofstra University was named after him.

The day after the Stapens were married in 1940, they embarked on a trip to Alaska. It was not a traditional honeymoon: Stapen was stationed there as part of his commitment to the U.S. Public Health Service. The only doctor practicing within 500 square miles, Richard Stapen said, his father took care of Eskimos and American Indians. In 1943, he joined the Army as a doctor, serving in Guadalcanal and Guam for two years, achieving the rank of major.

"Anything he set out to do he could do," Joseph Stapen said.

In addition to his wife, 95, and two sons, Stapen is survived by sister Annabelle Schnitman, 83, of Laguna Woods, Calif.; brother Irving, 93, of Roslyn; five grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. A funeral was held Tuesday at Sinai Chapel in Fresh Meadows. Burial was at Mt. Lebanon Cemetery in Glendale, Queens.


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