Seymour Holtman, 88, veterinarian

Seymour Holtman
Seymour Holtman
Posted: March 20, 2014

Seymour Holtman, 88, of Philadelphia, a veterinarian in Center City for three decades, died of congestive heart failure Saturday, March 15, at his home.

Before retiring in 1980, Dr. Holtman practiced at the Animal Hospital on 20th Street, between Pine and Lombard. Previously, he had worked at Dr. Bachrach's Animal Hospital in the 5900 block of North Broad Street.

"One of the things my father used to tell me was that when he opened his practice, he was one of four vets in the city," said his son Eli J. "When he retired, there were four in a three-block radius."

Dr. Holtman's compassionate care for the pets of many city dwellers earned him a fiercely loyal clientele. One was Ed Rendell, who went to Dr. Holtman for treatment of his dog as a young man newly arrived from New York. Another was singer Chubby Checker.

"When I was a younger man, I could go anywhere in the city. Everyone knew my dad. Everyone loved the way he treated animals," his son said.

Dr. Holtman was known for his kindness, sense of humor, and generosity. He would often forgive payment of services if a client could not afford his fees, his family said.

"He'd take phone calls in the evenings and [for example] tell a client to mash up a baby aspirin with the pet's food. My mother would say, 'Seymour, have them come in.' But he wanted to be available. He didn't get rich on this, but he was rich in spirit," his son said.

Born in Hartford, Conn., he was a member of a family that immigrated from Ukraine in the early 1900s. His father operated Capital Fruit & Produce, a distributorship. The company was among the first to ship produce across state lines by motorized trucks.

When Dr. Holtman was 10, his father was killed in a trucking accident. Dr. Holtman had to help lead his family, whose economic fortunes spiraled downward. Ever afterward, he showed the frugality typical of those who faced the Great Depression, his son said.

Dr. Holtman served in the Army at Newton D. Baker General (VA) Hospital, Martinsburg, W.Va., during World War II. After his military service, he earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1950 and studied medicine at Penn's Veterinary School on the GI Bill. He emerged with a veterinary medical degree in 1954.

He retired from practice in the 1980s and pursued cabinetmaking, welded iron sculpture, and did stained-glass work, turning the same dexterity he showed as a surgeon into artistic handiwork.

For 15 years, he shared his talent for communicating with children as a volunteer fourth-grade teacher's aide at the Samuel Gompers Elementary School in Overbrook. He also volunteered at Inglis House and at Beth David Reform Congregation in Wynnefield.

"He was a mensch," his son said. "If something was needed in the synagogue, he would go do it."

Dr. Holtman was married to the former Nancy Korenfeld. The two raised a family in Bala Cynwyd. She died of cancer in 1987.

After his wife's death, he lived in Wynnewood and Center City, where he shared a home with Mona Doyle, his partner of 18 years.

Dr. Holtman enjoyed travel. He and Doyle made yearly trips to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. He also loved the arts, theater, cinema, and reading.

"His humor endured to the end," his family said. "He would make listeners smile with a wry philosophical observation about living a long life, or some bit of verse."

Surviving beside his companion and his son are another son, Charles B.; a daughter, Jayne K.; three grandchildren; and a brother.

Memorial services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday, March 19, at Goldstein's Rosenberg's Raphael-Sacks, 6410 N. Broad St., Philadelphia. Interment is in Har Jehuda Cemetery, Upper Darby. Shiva will be observed at his home through sundown Friday.

Donations may be made to Keystone Hospice, 8765 Stenton Ave., Glenside, Pa. 19038.


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