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Warren Tuttle Culver dies at 96; physician treated Eisenhower

Warren Tuttle Culver, an ophthalmologist whose 26-year medical

Warren Tuttle Culver, an ophthalmologist whose 26-year medical career in the Air Force included treating President Dwight Eisenhower, died on Feb. 12, 2016. The Westhampton native was 96. Credit: Culver family

In his youth, Warren Tuttle Culver spent summer days racing sailboats on Moriches Bay and taking flying lessons.

His love of air and sea turned into a 26-year medical career in the Air Force that included treating a U.S. president and conducting studies on the ocular impact of the hydrogen bomb.

Culver, an ophthalmologist who was born and raised in Westhampton but resided in Lawrence, Kansas, died of heart failure on Feb. 12, his family said. He was 96.

“My father was a man with an unwavering sense of duty tempered by love, love for his family, and love for the men and women he led and with whom he served,” said his son Ronald Culver, 70, of Prescott Valley, Arizona.

In 1962, as the Cold War unfolded, the U.S. launched a series of Pacific Ocean hydrogen bomb tests known as Operation Dominic. Culver, then a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, conducted a study examining the impact of the explosions on the eye, his son said.

Culver and a crew observed one H-bomb explosion from a ship positioned hundreds of miles from the site of impact near Johnston Island. Culver and the crew observed from below the ship’s deck for their safety, but later examined lab rabbits that were on deck to study the explosion’s impact on their eyes, his son said.

Warren Tuttle Culver was born on Jan. 11, 1920, in Westhampton, the fourth of Herbert Reeve Culver and Katherine Ward Culver’s six children. Their son wrestled for the Westhampton Beach High School team and was active in the Boy Scouts of America.

During the Depression, Warren Culver worked in his father’s plumbing business and helped out on the family’s duck farm, before attending Maryville College in Tennessee, where he met his future wife, Katherine Ann Garvin. The couple married in July 1944 and had five children.

After Culver graduated with honors from Maryville, the couple moved to New York, where he attended the Long Island College of Medicine in Brooklyn. Culver graduated in 1946 from the school, since renamed the SUNY Downstate Medical Center College of Medicine.

Culver then enlisted in the Air Force, rising in the ranks from flight surgeon to colonel.

In 1963, he treated former President Dwight Eisenhower for “visual issues” while serving as commander for the military hospital on Norton Air Force Base in California, his son said. His father did not disclose the details of Eisenhower’s diagnosis, only telling his children that Eisenhower, who was no longer in office at the time, was “gracious, and kind, and fatherly.”

Culver retired from active duty in 1968.

He settled with his wife in Lawrence, where he ran his own ophthalmology practice for 17 years before retiring in 1985. He also volunteered delivering meals to the poor and homebound, and served as a hospice volunteer.

“The trajectory of his life was one of service,” his son said.

In addition to his wife and son, Culver is survived by sons Lee Culver of Marietta, Georgia, Warren Culver Jr. of Fort Myers, Florida, and James Culver of Congress, Arizona; daughter Barbara Culver of Lawrence, Kansas; and sister Marian Phillips, 98, of Westhampton.

A memorial service was held Feb. 16 at First United Methodist Church in Lawrence, Kansas, followed by burial at the Chapel Hill Cemetery.

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