Dr. Savelly (Sam) Boris Chirman

Date of Birth

September 30, 1929

Date of Death

May 9, 2020

Dr. Savelly (Sam) Boris Chirman was born September 30, 1929 in Liège, Belgium to Charlotte Rachkovskaya Chirman and Boris Chirman. Sam spent most of his adult life in Santa Barbara, impacting the community as a physician, father, husband, and philanthropist. His family and friends are grieving his death on May 9, 2020 at the age of 90 in Portland, OR, where he and his wife Darlene moved in 2013. Sam’s quick wit and intelligence remained until he lost his battle with Alhzeimer’s in recent years.

During World War II, 10-year old Sam and his family, including younger brother, Michel, fled from Nazi-occupied Belgium to the south of France where they were interred in a succession of “refugee” camps. His parents sent him alone to the US under the care of Quaker American Friends Service. At age 12 and speaking only French, Sam lived in a series of Jewish foster homes in Pittsburgh, PA. He learned English and flourished in school despite a gap of several years in his education. He went on to attend Indiana State Teacher’s College of Pennsylvania with the intention to become a teacher, but instead ended up earning a graduate degree in Psychology at the University of Oregon (where he met and married his first wife, Carolie). Following being drafted Army service during the Korean War, most of which he joked was spent perfecting the art of peeling potatoes, Sam decided to become a medical doctor. He graduated from Harvard Medical School in Internal Medicine in 1959. By the time he had completed his Internship in California, Sam’s first four children had been born: sons Matthew and Guy, and daughters Anne and Amy.

Becoming a doctor was a journey for Sam. Arriving in Santa Barbara in 1964, he worked for the County and as Director of Medical Education at Cottage Hospital, establishing what would become a life-long pattern: the encouragement and training of new doctors and nurses. Sam had remarried and moved to the San Marcos Trout Club with his second wife, Carol, where he lovingly and continuously improved his beloved house. Tinkering in his shed and working on his projects was a favorite pastime. Sam became the Director of Internal Medicine at Rehabilitation Hospital of Santa Barbara where he met Darlene, who was working there as a nurse and whom he married in 1979. While Darlene attended graduate school at UC Davis, Sam taught at their medical school (1988-96). He also saw patients in the Internal Medicine Department, and focused his attention on care of the elderly. He officially retired when the family returned to Santa Barbara and the Trout Club house in 1996.

Never one to rest on his laurels, Sam worked part-time at the Isla Vista branch of Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, which he had helped found in the 1970’s. This “retirement” gig lasted for 17 years (1996-2013) which he enjoyed until the age of 83! Sam was the oldest practicing physician in Santa Barbara when he retired for the second time, having cared for patients for a total of 50 years! Many staff who worked with Sam have shared their memories of the love and compassion he had for his patients. “He always told us, ‘At the end of the day, it is not about how much money you take home, but how many lives you helped and changed that day!’” Sam was a mentor to many who became doctors, nurses, and physical therapists.

Sam was adventurous and loved to travel, spending years living abroad and practicing medicine in different countries. He lived in Saipan, Marianas (1968-70), where daughter Julie was born, and later lived in American Samoa (1985-88) with wife Darlene and daughter Sarah. He and Darlene enjoyed many bicycling vacations in Europe, exploring France, Spain, Portugal, England, Sweden, and Finland. House exchanges in Barbados and Norway provided further exploration of new places. Later boat/bicycle trips were taken in the Netherlands and the Mekong Delta. Working vacations included house rehab in Australia and teaching English in the Cook Islands and Italy.

Bicycling was a passion of Sam’s. He took pleasure in parking his bike next to a Mercedes in the doctor’s parking lot at Cottage Hospital, made house calls by bicycle to elderly patients in Davis, and was known for biking to work wearing his white helmet and pant leg elastics.

He was still riding an electric bike at age 89! Sam always insisted the family wear helmets, even before they were in vogue—much to the chagrin of his children! Always a rehab doc, Sam knew helmets save lives.

Sam had many interests: he loved to cook and produced many homemade meals for family and friends. He was also an experimental cook—his kids recall some of his less-than- successful low fat, low salt concoctions, and fish stew with scales forgotten to be removed!

Sam was an avid reader, passing on the “reading gene” to his children starting with the Belgian comics Tintin and Asterix, and spent many hours in the “reading nook” at home. He invented wonderful “Robbie” bed-time stories for the first four kids when they were young.

He loved science fiction and mysteries, in particular Sue Grafton’s stories (she was his secretary before becoming a known author). In Samoa, Sam was known as the “reading doctor,” as he would read while walking to work. Sam was red/green color-blind and indifferent to fashion with the exception of hats with feathers and suspenders (rainbow being his favorite). This resulted in interesting outfits of colors and patterns that didn’t match, the combination of which made him chuckle when brought to his attention.

An original do-it-yourselfer, Sam built a kitchen in the Trout Club house, learned plumbing (which he didn’t like!) and electrical, and installed a wood-burning stove. Always willing to learn by trying, while living in Davis, he cut into an exterior wall to install a bay window, only to find that it was a second story load-bearing wall! He later volunteered his carpentry skills for various non-profits including Coal Oil Point and Arroyo Hondo Preserve, built nest boxes at Lake Los Carneros (for Santa Barbara Audubon), and in Portland built arbors and picnic tables at Zenger Farm.

Sam is survived by his wife of forty years, Darlene, and his children Matthew Chirman (Becca), Guy Chirman (LaRonda), Anne Johnstone (Matthew), Amy Chirman (Mark Holsapple), Julie Bolton (Keith) and Sarah Murray (Jake). He has 12 grandchildren (“I never meant to be a patriarch!”): Talia Chirman & Joseph Coates; Shaina, Spencer, Travis, and Dylan Chirman; Ryan Gelston; Daniel and Jesse Holsapple; Tess and Millie Bolton, and Jonas Murray. His former wives are Carolie Coffey and Carol Chirman Schroeer. His brother Michel (Susie) lives in Los Osos, CA and he has cousins Israel and Shalom Schirman living in Israel.

No services are being held at this time. A memorial gathering will be held in California in the future. If you wish to make a donation in Sam’s memory, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU were special to him. If you care to share recollections of Sam, please e-mail them to darlene.chirman@gmail.com and they will be shared with the family.

Submitted by Darlene Chirman and daughters Amy Chirman and Julie Bolton.


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