Herbert Chessin, a Nassau County obstetrician and gynecologist who delivered more than 14,000 babies, died on Nov. 25 at age 95. A Roslyn Heights resident and Vanderbilt University graduate, Chessin was a founding member of North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset and Long Island Jewish-Hillside Medical Center in New Hyde Park. He is survived by his wife of more than 30 years, Judie.
“He was very bright,” Judie said of her husband. “He was a very interesting man, very compulsive and careful. Even after all those years [of practicing], he would still read up on surgery. He wanted to get everything right.”
Chessin’s career on Long Island dates back to 1953, when he opened his own OB/GYN practice. Prior to that, Chessin had assisted former Planned Parenthood President Alan Guttmacher in starting the obstetrics and gynecology program at Mount Sinai Hospital. The meticulous way Chessin approached his work was, his wife believes, indicative of his love and care for his patients. Judie notes that Chessin was generous with his patients’ fees, often tailoring them to the spouse’s weekly salary.
“He called all of his patients ‘honey.’ I think it’s because he couldn’t remember their names,” she joked. “He was so caring for his patients. They really were number one. His medicine was his life. It was very difficult when he left medicine. He had lost joy for it. But he never should have retired.”
Judie claims that her husband’s retirement at age 78 was due to his tiring of paperwork. Chessin found it difficult to live without regularly practicing medicine—so much so, Judie said, that he spent several years doing very little. Judie, who had been a teacher in Plainview, was also a part-time travel agent and felt that her husband could benefit from seeing the world.
“It was very difficult at the beginning,” she recalled. “He didn’t want to do anything. But I got him out more and more. We traveled a lot the last three or four years. He loved it.”
Though it took a few years, Chessin came to approach travel and adventure with the same enthusiasm he had for medicine, extracting joy from sightseeing and photography as well as skiing, an activity he enjoyed until around age 83. Each endeavor was part of Chessin’s effort to fill the void left by retirement; an effort his wife said led to him dying a very happy man.
“I think he ended his life like he wanted it,” Judie said. “When he died, all of his children were here together. He left this world in his sleep. There’s no better way than that.”
Chessin, married twice, leaves behind three children, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, as well as a stepdaughter and two step-grandchildren. Many will likely remember his accomplishments in the fields of obstetrics and gynecology, but his wife will remember him as a “quiet gentleman,” a man who demanded much of himself for the sake of his patients.
“He was a very sweet man,” Judie said. “He loved every single baby he delivered. He used to tell me every baby was different, that no two babies were alike. He worked very hard. I was very lucky to have him for as long as I did.”