Death notice of WALDO FIELDING (1921 – 2022) – Hingham, MA

FIELDING, Waldo L. Boston’s Legendary Physician passed away at South Shore Hospital on January 1, 2022, at the age of 100. A distinguished physician, obstetrician, and gynecologist, Dr. Fielding began his four-decade medical career providing care in the Pacific Theater during World War II, developed his expertise in Harlem, established his practice in Boston and shared his expertise with the next generation of physicians, serving on faculty at Harvard, Tufts, and Boston University medical schools. In retirement, he returned to his first passions for singing and acting. Bright, wickedly funny, and socially active, he was known simply as “Waldo” by generations of friends, family, patients and colleagues. If you were lucky enough to share a bus stop bench with Waldo, he would tell you about a more interesting life than Forrest Gump. But Waldo did not take the bus. No, he drove his convertible BMW, too fast, with the top down and the stereo playing the Red Sox at full volume. Waldo rubbed shoulders with Babe Ruth and Louis Armstrong, was the closest friend of Frank Avruch (better known to millions as Bozo the Clown), owned a restaurant with a few Boston Celtics, and appeared regularly on local news, the Mike Douglas Show, 20/20, and Phil Donahue. At 19, he was ranked sixth in the country in table tennis. He is the author of two books on childbirth and pregnancy (“The Childbirth Challenge”, later known as “The Case Against Natural Childbirth” and “Pregnancy: The Best State of the Union”). Following Roe v. Wade of the Supreme Court, Waldo has become a strong advocate for the availability of safe and legal abortion. Waldo was protested and vilified, but continued to practice what he preached. He devoured non-fiction books and newspapers, and claimed to complete the New York Times crosswords pretty much every day, though no one could verify it due to his doctor’s handwriting. He was halfway through re-reading Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” when he died. Waldo could whip up a martini, tell a joke, sing you a song, fight tennis, and deliver your baby, all before lunch. He was one of a kind. So many people he knew in his prime are gone, but the 150 who showed up to celebrate his 100th birthday all had stories to tell. Waldo was loved. Waldo was also a very poor cook, which worked well for the dozens of restaurants and bars where Waldo was a staple, an inexhaustible tap of wit and wisdom, the life of the party. He had the gift of communicating with people. At her 95th birthday dinner, a waitress asked Waldo the secret to her longevity. Waldo scratched his ear, as he always did when thinking about something, then replied, “Well, you just saw me ordering it – double vodkas, rare red meat, and extra salt.” ” They both almost fell out of laughter. Waldo loved nothing better than grabbing the mic and giving a bar full of strangers the chance to know and love him by filling the room with songs. “Alabamy Bound” and “Pennies from Heaven” were still on the setlist, and with longtime collaborator Eddie Scheer on keyboard, Waldo has succeeded every time. A successful evening ended with the crowd chanting, pushed by a drink, about Waldo, for his new friends. He was generous to a fault. O’Leary’s at Brookline gave him his own Tiffany tumblers, kept behind the bar, which he continued to sip very carefully after the rims cracked and shredded. The Chart Room in Cataumet has hosted his songs for years. They once opened for a day, off season, just to throw a birthday party for his wife Anita. He asked for this check for years. He was known to everyone at the Quarterdeck, and finally at the Pub at Linden Ponds, his retirement home, where he liked to complain loudly that the crowd was “too old.” Waldo Lewis Fielding was born July 25, 1921 to Harriet and Bennett Fielding in Worcester, Massachusetts. An only child, he had a close relationship with his father, who introduced him to the YMCA of Worcester at the age of six. A longtime member of the YMCA, he trained four times a week, swam and played tennis. The Boston Globe featured Waldo, training on his usual treadmill at the Huntington branch in Boston, 91. Bennett Fielding was “Everybody’s Doctor”, a highly respected general practitioner in Worcester and a surgeon for the Worcester Police Department, and who inspired Waldo’s choice of a medical career. It was not an easy decision for Waldo, who was very fond of the theater and shared his talent, warmth and humor with an audience. Medicine prevailed and he set himself the goal of becoming a doctor. “It was a big dichotomy in my life,” he was quoted of his actor versus doctor dilemma in a 1995 article for the Worcester Telegram and Sun. “My dad was very easy on this, but it was my mom who insisted that I become a doctor.” Waldo graduated from Worcester Classical Secondary School. “Doc” Fielding, as he was called in the first five minutes of his undergraduate studies at Dartmouth (class of 43, graduate of 42), continued his education as part of the College’s two-year medical program, followed by two additional years of medical school at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Waldo joined the Navy in 1942, trained at the Great Lakes Naval Base, and served in the Pacific Theater, caring for mothers and newborns in Guam, and later in Truk, a remote atoll of the Pacific. His service in the Navy continued until 1948. There, Waldo was lined up, in formation under the scorching sun, to meet a visiting dignitary on an inspection tour as the personal representative of the President Roosevelt. It turned out to be the former president of Dartmouth College, who spied on his former student Waldo and interrupted his inspection to discuss and ask what he could do for him. Within weeks, Waldo was ordered to report to his dream job at Bellevue Hospital in New York. Still the showman, he hasn’t completely cut the scene from his doctor’s life. While in service, he presented shows for Navy trainees, and in 1948 appeared regularly as a comic book on CBS’s “Mississippi Music Hall” radio show at medical residences in Bellevue, London. Harlem Hospital and The Hague Maternity Hospital in Jersey City. From 1950 to 1952, he was chief resident of obstetrics and gynecology at Harlem Hospital in New York. While working at Bellevue, Waldo met and married Suzanne Benjamin (Sue Bennett), a singer on “Your Hit Parade”, various network shows, as well as “The Sue Bennett Show”. After accepting a job at the Chelsea Naval Hospital, Waldo and Sue moved to Boston. Suzie has done voiceover work for radio and television commercials while raising their two sons, Jed and Andrew. Waldo then joined the Medical Associates of Massachusetts Memorial Hospital before entering private practice in 1954 until his retirement in 1990. Suzie died in 2001, but was kept alive thanks to Waldo’s many love stories at his subject. Providing medical care to women was her life’s work. Waldo was introduced to obstetrics in medical school and knew then that it would become his specialty. He loved his job and often said, “You can’t find a happier doctor than I am. Part of this care, after Roe v. Wade, was about providing safe abortions. Waldo opened and was the head of the Pre-Term Health Services Clinic, which offered a full range of OB / GYN services at Brookline. In 2008, when it emerged that the Supreme Court was becoming more conservative, Waldo wrote an essay in The New York Times, recounting his experiences with dealing with the legacy of illicit procedures during his first training at Bellevue and Harlem Hospitals, and advocating for women to finally enjoy “the full rights of first-class citizens”. He was a tireless advocate for women’s right to choose. He was proud of his appearance on the PBS documentary “No Choice”, in which he was interviewed by Pamela Mason in the summer of 2017. Waldo couldn’t get a parking ticket at Brookline if he tried, because there was so many officers among the thousands of Boston babies delivered by his hands. He once parked his convertible in two places, left the driver’s door open, the keys in the ignition, while he went to lunch. When he returned, all the maid said was “I waited for you Waldo, nice to see you!” After saying thank you and hello, Waldo turned to his lunch mate and whispered, “Who the hell was that?” It was after retiring from his medical practice that Waldo was able to devote himself to his other love, entertainment. Waldo’s connection to show business began with his first wife Suzie, and his own talent developed over the following decades. Waldo has performed in over 70 community plays and made many cry with his renditions of “Love Letters”. He was a valued patron of the Cotuit Center for the Arts on Cape Cod and donated many long-lost manuscripts to the center from his personal collection. It was around this time in his life that Waldo met Anita Mackinnon, organist, mother of six, and longtime nonprofit activist. From their first meeting at O’Leary’s they were inseparable and happy, always out in the theater, playing music and enjoying their friends and family. Anita is a member of the College Club of Boston, where Waldo has appeared in “Love Letters” and in several cabarets. Waldo and Anita tied the knot in November 2014 and split their time between Brookline and East Falmouth. Anita liked to sit in the passenger seat of the convertible and focus on the Red Sox show and knitting on her knees, or chatting on the phone, all to avoid seeing Waldo driving. Waldo and Anita moved to Linden Ponds in Hingham, MA, in 2018. In addition to Anita, he is survived by two sons: Jed Fielding of Chicago, IL, an internationally renowned street photographer; and Andrew Fielding of Pompton Lakes, NJ, radio talk show host and author of “The Lucky Strike Papers – Journeys Through My Mother’s Television Past,” a book about early television in the 1940s and 1950s. Waldo claimed which Anita added years to her life, and through their marriage Waldo became the eldest of a loving extended family, what he called “the tribe” including: Matthew and Linda MacKinnon of Bethlehem, NH ; DJ and Leslie MacKinnon of Hingham, MA; Laurie and John Fallon of Easton, MA; Robert Benjaminsen and Linda Blue of Annapolis, MD; Leslie MacKinnon of Dorchester, MA; Liza MacKinnon and Brian Knies from Hingham, MA. Waldo’s grandchildren are: Taylor and Andrew Howell of Hingham, MA; Alec MacKinnon of Allston, MA; McKay Blue of Miami, Florida; Lila Blue of Annapolis, MD; and Maisie Knies and Lachlan Knies of Hingham, MA. Used to babies, Waldo held his first great-grandchild, Avery Charlotte Howell, on Christmas Day. A private memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, Waldo would be happy to donate to the Geisel School of Medicine in Dartmouth and the Cotuit Center for the Arts, Cotuit, MA.

Published by Boston Globe January 4-6, 2022.

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