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Obituaries

DR. MARTIN HERBERT GREENBERG

Dr. Martin H. Greenberg, beloved pediatrician and educator, passed away at Memorial Health University Medical Center, on June 15, 2021. He was 83 years old. He will be remembered for his generosity of spirit, wide-ranging intellect, compassionate nature, love of his family, and boundless good humor. He was larger than life and made the world a better place.

Born an only child to Jack and Ann Greenberg in 1938 in Brooklyn, New York, Dr. Greenberg was a naturally inquisitive person which led to his life-long love of learning. He excelled in school, skipping several years in elementary and junior high school. He was one of three students from his Junior High school to test for the exclusive Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan and was the only one to be accepted into the program. Dr. Greenberg thrived at Stuyvesant, long citing it as one of the most influential parts of his life. He then earned a Bachelor of Science degree from New York University. While there, Dr. Greenberg applied to the Free University of Brussels Medical School in Brussels, Belgium, which he attended on a full scholarship. He learned medicine in French and Flemish and became deeply connected to history of Europe, particularly that of the Jewish population, in the post-war years through his connections with Holocaust survivors.

Dr. Greenberg returned to the United States for his internship in Pediatrics which became a pivotal time in his life because it was then, at Albany Medical Center in Albany, New York, that he met a little firecracker of a medical student, Doris Markowitz while working in the emergency room one night. In true fashion, they had their first disagreement – about using baby talk when taking care of children – which he was quick to emphasize that he won. The two went out on a date, and within two weeks, he knew she was the one. He proposed. She said no. Not to be easily dissuaded, he said he wouldn’t ask again until he knew she would say yes. He did. She did. And they were wed in 1965, soon after her graduation from Albany Medical College. The newlyweds moved to Boston to complete residencies at Massachusetts General Hospital in Pediatrics. While in his residency, Dr. Greenberg took on a position that he relished most, father to his son, Michael Greenberg. He then completed a fellowship in the burgeoning new field of neonatology.

Following his training, Dr. Greenberg joined the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War, serving as a Captain and the first Neonatologist in the Air Force. Stationed at Travis Air Force Base in California, he also trained other medical professionals in the region about care of medically fragile newborns. He also enjoyed assisting the protocol officer with tending to celebrities like Jimmy Stewart and Gypsy Rose Lee who were headed to Vietnam to entertain the troops. One especially powerful memory of his was being called to the tarmac to see the newly returned Lunar Module that had just returned from the first manned trip to the moon before it was sent back to NASA in Houston.

The Greenbergs returned to Albany, New York after his service, and Dr. Greenberg served on the faculty of Albany Medical College and welcomed his daughter, Sarah. In 1973, the family moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma. During his time working in Oklahoma, he became involved in a project to open a Pediatric Clinic in Pétion-Ville, Haiti. In addition to bringing medical care to the local population, Dr. Greenberg began a love of indigenous art and crafts from the island.

In 1977, Dr. Greenberg was drawn to Savannah to take on the challenge of developing a sophisticated pediatric program. At the time, Savannah had very few opportunities for local children suffering from anything beyond routine care. Dr. Greenberg was on a mission to bring world-class pediatric care and services to Savannah, not just those who could afford it. He was determined to help reverse racial and economic disparities in health and served as a role model for so many who helped him achieve his vision. He envisioned a comprehensive program with many subspecialties available in a real children’s hospital, so Savannah’s children would not have to travel to Augusta or Atlanta for care. During his time at Memorial, he overhauled how patients were seen in the clinic. He transformed the ward into a place welcoming for children. He was beloved by his patients and recognized throughout the region as a compassionate, skilled and generous doctor. He started the Pediatric Emergency room, the Pediatric Residency program, and recruited some of the best medical professionals to serve the area’s children. He worked to affiliate Memorial’s children’s hospital with the Children’s Miracle Network and worked tirelessly with bringing much-needed programs like the Ronald McDonald House to the region. In the midst of the AIDS crisis, he started Open Arms for medically fragile babies to provide compassionate care for babies who had life-threatening ailments at birth and no one to care for them. He started the medical ethics program at the hospital and influenced generations of doctors in treating patients and their families with dignity and respect. He was a founding member of Hospice Savannah and served on the board for many years. In addition, he served for many years with the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, including serving as President of the chapter.

As devoted to his community as he was to his patients, Dr. Greenberg served the region with his time, various talents and abilities. He worked for many years as the President of the Savannah Concert Association. He helped to found WSVH to bring Classical Music to Savannah’s airwaves and had his own show about international music. He was a founding member and program chair of the Harvard Society of Savannah and Coastal Georgia. Dr. Greenberg spoke frequently about Jewish music and Jewish history at the Jewish Educational Alliance. He was an active member of Congregation Mickve Israel and frequently filled in as a lay leader for services when needed. He was a nominee and semi-finalist for in to the Energizer Bunny Hall of Fame. He loved to play bridge, collect art and antiques (and just about everything else), listen to music from around the world, and travel. He had a knack for finding a good deal and a penchant for scoring cool stuff like free pens and promotional items everywhere he went. He was a consummate shopper and a great practical joker. He was an avid reader, student of history, and cook. He supported many charities as seen in his vast collection of stickers, bags, and other “thank you” gifts from everything from Heifer International to American Indian Services to the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library. He believed in justice, ethics, and lifelong learning. He was a fierce friend, a loving husband and father, and the best “Googie” any grandchild could ever have.

Dr. Greenberg was preceded in death by his parents, Jack and Ann Greenberg. He is survived by his wife, Dr. Doris Greenberg, his son, Michael (Laura) Greenberg, his daughter, Sarah (Seth) Kovensky, and his grandchildren Hannah and Alex Kovensky and Sam and Ben Greenberg, by whom he will always be known as “Googie.” He will be especially missed by those who adopted him into their families, including his dear friends, his former students, and the many patients, colleagues, and people whose lives he touched so deeply.

A private funeral will take place at Bonaventure Cemetery on Friday for immediate family. Shiva will be observed Sunday, June 20 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at 4 Sir Lancelot Court.

A celebration of life will be held on July 11 at 1:00 PM at the Jewish Educational Alliance; masks will be required for those in attendance, and the event will be live streamed for those who cannot attend but would like to be present.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Mercer University School of Medicine in honor of the Department of Bioethics and Medical Humanities recently established in his honor or the Willett Children’s Hospital which was the fruition of his lifelong dream of having a real children’s hospital in Savannah.

Online Condolences

  1. Bob Shelley says:

    We are all deeply saddened by Dr. Greenberg’s passing. No one has had a greater influence on pediatric health and medical education in Savannah than Martin. He was a brilliant, kind and good man. A born educator and a true mensch. I am honored to have known and worked with him, and will miss him greatly.

  2. Brian H. Childs says:

    Martin became my mentor when I arrived in Savannah and he shall be my inspiration as I continue his work at the Mercer University School of Medicine. He was the most widely read and talented humanist I have ever known. A true mensch indeed. My thoughts and prayers will be with Doris and their wonderful family.

  3. D Micah Hester says:

    Martin was brilliant–in all senses of that word. I am so fortunate to have known him, and he was generously supportive in my early life in both Mercer and in bioethics. His influential legacy in Savannah and beyond will continue. My thoughts are with Doris, family, and friends.

  4. James Knapp says:

    Dr. Greenberg will be missed. He treated me like a son ever since I arrived in Savannah. My prayers goes out to Doris and the rest of his family.

  5. Cody Blanchard says:

    I was extremely sad to hear of the passing of Dr. Greenberg. He served as a mentor to me during my entire time at Mercer, and even continued this mentorship after I moved to Columbus to continue my schooling. He was one of the most talented educators that I have encountered, and had some of the most entertaining stories from his wide fund of travel and knowledge. My thoughts and prayers to the entire Greenberg family. He will be sorely missed.

  6. Linda MacMillan says:

    Danny, Mark and I are so sorry to hear about Dr Greenberg’ death. We feel like we have knownhim for almost 40 years as you have always treated us like part of your family, sharing stories about your family with us. May God give you peace during this difficult time
    Danny, Linda and Mark MacMillan

  7. Daniel Lindsey says:

    I owe my career to Dr Greenberg. He has believed in me from the day I met him and served both as a mentor and friend everyday since. He was truly one of the most interesting and caring people I have ever had the pleasure to know. He will be missed but not forgotten. My thoughts are with Dr Doris and the rest of their family.

  8. Janel Brayboy says:

    Doris, I’m so sorry for your loss. You and Martin are pioneers of Pediatrics in Savannah and true advocates for all children. He will be truly missed. I send you love and hugs. May you find some solace in knowing that all the people who love, admire, and have been raised up by him are forever changed for the better and have had a better life because of him. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

  9. Benjamin Levi says:

    To have known Martin is to have benefitted from his generosity, his love of learning, his dedication to and celebration of children, and his endless playfulness. I am forever grateful for Martin. His humanism, generosity of spirit, and friendship over the past 25 years have made my life so much richer in so many ways. Martin was family, and his memory will always be a blessing to me and the rest of my family.
    With much love, Benjamin & Shaun

  10. Adriana Rzeznik says:

    I am deeply saddened to hear of Dr. Greenberg’s passing. A man of great erudition and wit with a personal interest in his students’ well being, he mentored me with kindness and expertise. He made me feel part of his family when mine was far away. I will forever be grateful for his love and support.
    My heartfelt condolences to Dr. Doris Greenberg and the entire family.

  11. Thomas Waters says:

    I got to know Dr. Greenberg while working at Mercer School of Medicine from 2014 to 2016. We shared an interest in history, and he taught me the significance of former mayor Richard D. Arnold for the medical
    history of Savannah. When I left my job at Mercer for another position, he brought me a card and a small gift. It saddens me to hear of Dr. Greenberg’s passing and to know that future colleagues and students wont benefit from his friendship.

  12. John Rowlett says:

    “Every great institution is the lengthened shadow of a single man. His character determines the character of the organization.”
    — Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Memorial Children’s Hospital is Dr. Greenberg’s lengthened shadow; he will be greatly missed, but unlike a shadow, his presence and impact survives the dawns and the dusks. A true visionary and scholar, husband, father, and grandfather; I learned so much from him. My sincerest condolences to Dr. Doris, Michael, Sara, and the extended family that loved and will miss him so.

  13. Esther Godbee says:

    I was so blessed to have met Dr. Greenberg. It was an honor just to know him. I am so thankful I got to speak with him for only a short period and will always remeber his kind words.

  14. Misty Graham says:

    Dr. Greenberg was one of a kind, and I feel like a better person for having known him. He was kind, compassionate, and always thoughtful. I love having had him in my life.

  15. Sally Altman Bradshaw says:

    Dr Greenberg was a fine man and Dr. The true essence of honor, integrity, and faith. He will be missed

  16. Kelly Hunt says:

    Martin’s contributions and passion for the world of pediatrics will always be remembered and greatly appreciated. Peace and love for the Greenberg family and all whose lives were touched by Martin.

  17. Richard Leighton says:

    Martin was a valuable member of the Memorial IRB. He contributed so much both to the Memorial pediatric residency and to the education of Mercer medical students. He will be greatly missed.

  18. Sam Murray says:

    Martin was many things to many people but the one common trait to everyone was kindness. He always had time to listen to your question, comment or problem. And he always had good advice to give in return. His influence over colleagues and medical students could be not measured but be sure each of us benefitted from his guidance. We will always remember him as a kind and gentle friend.

  19. Mary Suddath says:

    Dr.Greenberg was one of the first physicians I worked with when I moved here as a young nurse in 1983. He was very kind and easily approachable, and made me feel very welcome in my new hospital. When Dr.McKee went to Shands to complete his fellowship as a Pediatrics Intensivist, Dr. Greenberg was the interim director of the PICU, and I have great memories of him during that time as well. He truly was a renaissance man, and his august presence will be greatly missed.

  20. Philip Greenberg says:

    I first met Martin as a result of his passion for music. I soon came to know that “passion” defined him. He was passionate about family, medicine, Yiddishkeit, children, knowledge, Savannah, the world, LIFE. To know him was to learn from him and be inspired by him. He had a way of making his every acquaintance feel singularly important to him. While Savannah is today the lesser for his having left us, it is forever greater for him having been a part of us. His legacy will live on with all those that he mentored and inspired. Much love and condolences to Doris, Sarah, Michael and the ” ainiiklach”.

  21. Jeffrey Schulman says:

    I cannot believe that our dear friend Martin is gone. It has been almost 30 years since we saw you all last and not a day goes by when I do not remember you all with a smile.

    I have known Martin my entire live, he was a great friend to my parents and to all of us. May his memory be a blessing to all who had the pleasure of knowing him.

  22. Noel Cooper says:

    In the 1970’s the Greenbergs moved into their home on 44th St. Just east of my home. I would meet them as we walked in the neighborhood. Both were so positively happy in conversation. We commiserated over our flooding street following heavy rains. His house always seemed to get the worst of the flood. I knew he would have to move when he could. Yet, he remained a positive influence as I watched his life from afar. What a fine person. What a fine family! He gave more than he received!

  23. Milne Class of '57 says:

    Extremely saddened. Our very best to his family, his wife and our Milne Classmate Doris, and the entire family. Dan Brown, Class Representative.

  24. Melissa & Sumner Sydeman says:

    Remembering an extraordinary life…and sending our condolences to Doris, Michael, Sarah, and their families.
    Much love,
    Melissa & Sumner Sydeman

  25. Bobbie Shelton says:

    I was always happy to see Martin walk through the door at Mercer University School of Medicine. When I told him my cousin was Tony Randall (nee Rosenberg) he embarked on a delightful, short, lecture on Jewish genealogy, etc. He always made my day! Condolences to the Greenberg Family.

  26. Lance S. Lowe says:

    My heart goes out to Dr. Doris Greenberg and to the extended family. I was greatly saddened by the news of Dr. Greenberg’s passing but also overwhelmed with the joy and knowledge of all of the great people he influenced and the exponential amount of knowledge he bestowed upon the pediatric community which has tendrils reaching around the world. I met Dr. Greenberg in 1997 as a green medical student and immediately knew that he was developing the program that would be perfect for me. The training I received was beyond comparison with his fingerprints all over it. I feel that much of my success today stems from his leadership and vision. Peace in Gan Eden, my mentor.

  27. LaQuanta Hamilton says:

    I am sadden to hear of the passing of Dr Greenberg. He always greeted you with a smile. I will remember him fondly for asking for hot water and tea when in the Dean’s Suite of the early days of MUSM Savannah Campus. My heartfelt prayers to his wife and family.

  28. Fozia Khan Eskew says:

    Prayers of comfort to the family. I will miss seeing Dr. Greenberg and the joy and dedication he brought to everything he did in his life. May his memory be a blessing.

  29. Terry, Virginia and April Travis says:

    Dr. Doris Greenberg and family- We were deeply saddened over Dr. Greenberg’s passing. You are in our prayers.

  30. Ada Arroyo says:

    My deepest condolences to Dr Doris Greenberg on the passing of her lovely husband. Strength to her and her family members.

  31. Meredith Devendorf Belford says:

    Mr. Dr. Greenberg liked to greet me with my nickname and wish me a “Merry Devendorf.” The Greenbergs welcomed me into their home when I was an outsider, and they befriended my parents who loved their broad interests and iconoclastic tendencies. Dr. Greenberg was larger than life and kind and clever to a fault. His personal crusade to create a proper hospital for children was especially dear to me. As a three-year-old in the early ’70s, I was severely burned. There was NO WHERE in Savannah for little people to be treated as the little people they are. Because of “Mah-tin,” Savannah has grown and been given the foundation for caring for children. Special love to Doris, Sarah, and Michael. May peace be upon you.

  32. Christine Ferrelle says:

    In the 1980’s Martin and Doris spent much of their time at Urban Health on York St.( now Curtis V. Cooper Health Care) working in pediatrics and kindly mentoring me. I was the solo pediatric provider and a new pediatric nurse practitioner. They worked in the clinic in their spare time modeling their unique art of working with children. I will always be so grateful for Martin’s guidance whenever I called him to ask for advice. He was always available, there was never a bad time. He taught me so much – to do my research first, of course – but kindness, patience, and praise. He was my resource, my HERO.
    My Love to Doris, Sarah and Michael

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