Hobart Lerner, MD

Obituary of Hobart A. Lerner, MD

Passed away peacefully on September 28, 2020, at the age of 101. He is survived by his devoted wife of 56 years, Elinor Otto Lerner; three children, Barry (Ann), Marcy Samel (Jonathan), and Kenneth (Miriam); three step-children, Karen Kenning, Kathy Kennedy, and Joan Kennedy; seven grandchildren, Stefanie Cassel, Michelle and P. Douglas Roth, Andrew and Jennifer Samel, Nathan and Jamison Lerner; and three great-grandchildren, Amelia, Olivia, and Lydia Cassel; cousins, nieces, nephews, many devoted friends and patients. Predeceased by sister Sally Lerner David.

Dr. Lerner was a member of the attending staff of Genesee Hospital where he served as Chief of Ophthalmology from 1966 to 1988, and of Strong Memorial, Rochester General, and Highland Hospitals. He was Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at the Flaum Eye Institute. As a member of state and national medical societies, Dr. Lerner was a tireless proponent for excellent health care and sensible legislation to ensure safe medical practices. In 2007 he was honored as the most senior Fellow of the American Academy of Ophthalmology still in active practice. Long a member of the NY State Ophthalmology Society, he served as its president from 1984-1986, and on the Board of Directors from 1975 until his death.

An innovator and a pioneer in his field, he was among the first ophthalmologists to use the laser in eye surgery. In 1968 he performed the first ever cataract intraocular lens implant operation done in Rochester, at the time one of only a few ophthalmologists performing the procedure.
Dr. Hobart A. Lerner (or Hobie, as he was known to friends and colleagues) was born in Rochester, NY on July 29, 1919, to the late Macy L. Lerner, MD and the late Therma Grunthal Lerner. He graduated with high honors in 1936 from Monroe High School, where he was Rochester Metropolitan Interscholastic Champion in the 100-yard dash and 220-yard dash, and was undefeated in competition over two years. At Harvard College he was a four-year member of the varsity track team competing in the sprints, middle-distance events, and as a member of Harvard’s Crack Mile Relay Team. He earned gold medals in the Milrose games and other prestigious national track meets. Dr. Lerner graduated Magna Cum Laude in June 1940.

Dr. Lerner earned his MD from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1943. Following an internship at Michael Reese Hospital, he served as Lieutenant (JG) MC USNR during WWII at Great Lakes Naval Station, in Okinawa, and finally at Pearl Harbor.

After an honorable discharge in 1946, Dr. Lerner completed his residency training in Ophthalmology at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, and a year of post-graduate work in ophthalmology at the NY University School of Medicine. He entered private practice in Rochester in 1949 in association with his father until his father’s death in 1962. Dr. Lerner continued in private practice until he retired at the age of 95, beloved by hundreds of patients for his diligence, warmth, and irrepressible sense of humor.

From his mother, he inherited a passion and natural aptitude for music. He studied piano, viola, trumpet, and voice at the Eastman School of Music, and at the age of six learned the harmonica from grandfather Rudolph Grunthal. Dr. Lerner serenaded friends, family, and complete strangers around the world with impressive, impromptu performances of musical favorites,new and old, singing or playing harmonica, once leading a spontaneous parade of enthusiastic followers down the streets of New York City. He was a lifelong attendee and supporter of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and GEVA.

He and his wife, Elinor (Ellie), enjoyed downhill skiing into their 80s. Dr. Lerner sought out every black diamond slope from New England and Quebec to the Rockies. Festooned with an assortment of heavy cameras and lenses and several large harmonicas, Dr. Lerner and Ellie traveled throughout Europe, the Far East, Middle East and Central and South America. Always ready for an adventure and a challenge, Dr. Lerner also became a licensed pilot. He owned and flew several single-engine and twin-engine aircrafts, and sometimes piloted Elinor on vacations as far as Puerto Rico, the Yucatan Peninsula, and Acapulco.

A Private Graveside Service will be held in the Temple B’rith Kodesh plot of Mt. Hope Cemetery on Wednesday, October 7, 2020, at 1:30 PM BY INVITATION ONLY. Those not invited may watch the service by clicking THIS LINK on Wednesday just before 1:30 PM. The link will not go live until we drive down to the grave, so please be patient if it's a few minutes after the scheduled start time.

Donations in his memory may be made to the David and Eileen Flaum Eye Institute, 210 Crittenden Blvd, Rochester, NY 14642 [LINK]