Fred Epstein, 69, Prominent Physician and Ocean Beach Resident

Dr. Fred Epstein, a world famous pediatric neurosurgeon renowned for overturning death sentences for countless children with his procedure that removes benign spinal tumors, died July 12. He was 68 and a lifelong resident of Ocean Beach.

The cause was melanoma. He died at his home in Greenwich, Conn. When he passed away he was still recovering from neurological damage suffered in a 2001 bicycle accident. He was a gifted athlete who rode his bike every day, but the coma took weeks from his life and cut his career short.

In 1996 Epstein founded the Hymen-Newman Institute for Neurology and Neurosurgery (INN) at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, which was dedicated to serving the psychological and emotional needs of families while treating kids who had terminal neurological disorders.

The young patients of the INN loved him. He would often operate wearing cowboy boots under his surgical scrubs, just to make the kids smile. He once operated on a millionaire’s pug on the condition that the dog owner pay the $60,000 fee for Epstein to operate on a poor boy from Pennsylvania with a spinal tumor. Dog and child later appeared on TV together, healthy and happy.

Fred Epstein was born on July 26, 1937 in Yonkers, NY, where he grew up with his older brother Simon and his younger brother Abram. He graduated from New York Medical College and New York University-Bellevue Medical Center.

According to his brother Abram, he never missed a summer in Ocean Beach. His friend Estelle Ellis said that when Epstein moved with his wife and five kids into the house on Bay Walk where his parents lived, “He was recreating this setting as he had remembered growing up. The kids went to the same camps that he went to. It was a rich and wonderful thing to see this next generation he had seen with his mother and dad in Ocean Beach.”

Said his brother Abram in a eulogy, “His intellect was guided by spiritual depth, much as was the sailboat by the wind.”

Epstein is survived by his children, Samara Epstein Cohen, Ilana Epstein Grady, Jason Epstein, Joseph Epstein and Benjamin Epstein; three grandchildren; two brothers; and his wife of 42 years, Kathy.

—David Crohn