Dr. Herman
Dr. Herman W. Wirka Jr. (74) died peacefully at home on Sunday, October 7th after a brief but difficult battle with cancer. Known as "Doc" to his friends, he was a beloved surgeon and active member of his Manhattan Beach community. He was born to Herman Sr. and Mildred Wirka on June 20, 1933 and spent his boyhood in Madison, Wisconsin. He studied at Williams College and the University of Wisconsin. While completing his medical degree, he married fellow medical student Elizabeth Weber with whom he had three children. Dr. Wirka moved with his family to southern California in 1967 when he began a cardio-thoracic surgical residency at Good Samaritan Hospital in downtown Los Angeles. He went on to help found the surgical group at Kaiser West L.A., where he worked until his retirement in 1996. Even prior to retirement, Dr. Wirka spent countless hours volunteering for causes he believed in. As a member of the Knights of Columbus, he spearheaded fundraising and outreach efforts to help low income families, promising young scholars, and boys at risk. He also volunteered over 25 consecutive summers as the camp physician for the Forest Lawn Boy Scout Reservation in Lake Arrowhead, California. Although known for an occasionally cantankerous and complex personality, Dr. Wirka will be remembered by his many friends and colleagues for his warm heart, his boundless generosity, and his jovial wit. He is survived by his sister Julie Bauer (Terry Crockett), his three children Susan (Tracy Johnson), Jeanne, and Karl Wirka (Mary Jane Kubler); and three grandchildren, Max, Laurel, and Grace. A gathering of family and friends will be held at White and Day Manhattan Beach Chapel on Thursday, October 11, 2007 from 1:00 P.M. until 5:00 P.M. A Rosary will follow at American Martyrs Church at 7:00 P.M. A funeral Mass will be held at American Martyrs Church on Friday, October 12, 2007 at 9:00 A.M. In lieu of flowers, Dr. Wirka has asked that donations be made to either Rancho San Antonio or the Boy Scouts of America.

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  1. Dr. Wirka was the first doctor I saw when I joined Kaiser in the mid-1980’s. He was warm and friendly and I thought I had found my own special doctor at last. His caring demeanor and concern helped allay my fears about cancer and surgery, which it turned out I didn’t need. A great man, and I know he will be sorely missed.

  2. I was so sorry to hear of Dr. Wirka’s battle with cancer and his recent passing. I worked with Dr. Wirka at Kaiser Permanente for many years. He was a great surgeon and I respected his judgement and treatment of his patients. He kindly wrote a letter of recommendation for me that allowed me to enter the Nurse Practitioner program at Kaiser 23 years ago. I have kept this letter and have always been very proud of his words . I know his recommendation helped. I hope his last days were free of pain. My deepest sympathy to his wife and his children and grandchildren. Sincerely, Nancy Rea

  3. “Herm” was a wonderful colleague and great mentor during the 13 years we worked together at Kaiser WLA. I consider myself lucky to have known him and came to appreciate his subtle humor. Working with him in the ER, I had seen him save more than a few lives of trauma victims who might have otherwise died if not for his great courage and skill. Beneath his rough exterior, he had a wonderful heart and a gentle soul. I will miss him and remember him every day of my life.

  4. Dr. Wirka will truly be missed by the Pathology Department. He has been a part of our lives for many years. Our prayers are with the Family.

  5. Dear Susie, Jeanne, Karl & family, I was very sorry to hear of “Doc’s” passing. He was a wonderful supporter of our Forest Lawn Scout Reservation and brought so much to our medical facility and camp overall through his own time and recruitement of other doctors and nurses. We never worried about our staff or campers when he was on call. I remember bringing a young scout to the health lodge complaining of an upset stomach. After a careful examination, Doc asked him if he’d ever had this problem before and when the boy replied “Yes”, Doc patted him on the head and said “Well you’ve got it again” and sent him back to camp to enjoy the rest of his week. My family are parishioners at American Martyrs and we enjoyed sharing Scouting memories with Doc when we’d bump into each other at activities, especially at the Knights of Columbus lemonade stand. I regret that I will not be able to attend the services this week as I am travelling out of state, but our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  6. Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this time of loss Dr. Kenneth Nudelman and the Culver Marina office staff

  7. To the family of “Doc” Wirka, I had the great honor to get to know him at the Lake Arrowhead camps over a period of many years. He was a bit gruff for some of the younger staff, they saw his tough exterior. I saw the heart of gold. I worked with him for years before I really got to know him. When confronted with cases he was always ready, day or night. After Doc being awoken in the middle of the night I saw him give the gift of life back to a child who could not breathe. He stood their in his underwear administering meds and calling the shots, never missing a beat. That child’s life was spared in the health lodge that was Doc’s simple home on the mountain. He supplied the meds, bought the washing machines and painted the walls and became a role model for me and I am richer for it.

  8. Wirka Family,You have our deepest heartfelt condolences on the loss of your loved one.We also share your grief because Herm was more than merely our dear fiend. We considered him to be our beloved surrogate brother and shall miss him greatly. Stan & Chris Dash

  9. Dr. Wirka was our John Wayne of the operating room. He had a great present and was one of the icons of Kaiser West LA Hospital Surgery. He has helped so many patients and so many young men, we are all proud of his accomplishments and his caring for others. We are deeply sorrowed for your lost and we pray for an overwhelming peace that passes understanding for your family.

  10. Herm, I will forever be grateful for the role you played in helping me raise my son. You boys spent many wonderful times together, experiencing the lessons of manhood. Stubborn to the end, I could not change you, but I always loved you. Thank you for bringing us into your family, we shared so many good times. Rest in peace.

  11. Dear Susan, Jeanne and Karl, As you know Herm and I had been professional coleagues since 1969 when I joined our group. As you implied in his obituary he was a non-conformist and a curmugeon. However, underneath it all, he had a dedication and human compassion for his patients and, really, for anyone in trouble. We worked on many very difficult surgeries together and having him at the OR table gave us all more courage to do what had to be done. I’m so glad I kept up my communication with him during this illness and also was able to spend some good time with him 3 weeks ago. While Herm was an unforgetable charachter, I certainly would not claim to have any deep understanding of his complex persona, but, I feel very fortunate that he was a part of my life. My wife Joan, who also worked with Herm for many years, and I send our heart felt condolences to the 3 of you and the rest of his family and loved ones. Herm will always be a part of us.

  12. Dear Wirka family, On behalf of the entire Surgical Department at Kaiser West Los Angeles our heartfelt condolences are with you during this time of loss. Herm taught us many things over the years, and we will continue to impart his knowledge on to our surgical residents. He will be sorely missed, but never forgotten.

  13. Dear Wirka Family, I just want to say a few words that will express the image that pops into my mind when I hear the name Dr Herman Wirka. Every Wednesday, in Room 7, he would do his thoracic cases. There would be a coffee cup right outside the room. PS would be circulating, and Belen would be scrubbing. I often had to give them coffee and lunch breaks. He was an excellent surgeon, one that really cared about his patients. I used to tell the patients and their families how lucky they were to have him as their surgeon. As mentioned earlier, he did have a bit of a gruff manner. I am smiling when I think of the way he used to bark out the word “SWEETHEART” and everyone would stand at attention, even the men in the room! The famous quote “LAY OFF THE LUNG” followed by yet another “SWEETHEART” lives on in Dept of Anesthesia. I knew him outside of Kaiser, as well. Once, when I had no place to go for Thanksgiving, he invited me to his house for the dinner. I felt like I was among family there. He was always good to Jared, and acted as a male role model for him. I attended many social functions with Karen and Herm. We had quite a few laughs together. I will miss Herm, but he has left some lasting memories for me and the rest of the more SENIOR OR Staff members that were lucky enough to have worked with him over the years. May He Rest in Peace!!

  14. When I joined the WLA O.R. several years ago, I was told by many that there was a doctor there that reminded them of my dad (he was a surgeon at Panorama City). I didn’t know whether that was a compliment or insult, my dad being stubborn and curmugeony. When I met Dr. Wirka and got to know him I realized it was indeed a compliment. He was a wonderful man to know, a great surgeon and a man of dry wit and humor. I will remember many good times that included him and my deepest sympathy to all the Wirka family and to Karen and Jared.

  15. Dear Wirka Family, I first met Dr. Wirka when I joined Kaiser West L.A. in 1984. At first I was a little intimidated by him, but as I grew to know and work with him, I realized that he was one of the kindest,most caring men I had ever met. I will always remember one day when we had a pot luck luncheon at the hospital, how much my young daughter Andrea(age 2 1/2) took to him. I will always remember them sharing the same plate and him feeding her. I will miss you, Go in peace and God bless. Marlene Rubin

  16. Dear Susie, Jeanne, Karl & Family, I am so sorry to hear of Doc Wirka’s passing. I spent eight summers of my youth working with Doc at the Lake Arrowhead Scout Camps and enjoyed his dry wit and his camaraderie. His beautiful kids grew up with all of us on the mountain and my prayers are with you all. Doc Wirka will live on in all of us, as his spirit deeply enriched all of us who were lucky enough to share part of our lives with him.

  17. It was indeed an honor, privilege, and a pleasure to have had the opportunity to know and work with Dr. Herman Wirka over a period of many years at Kaiser West Los Angeles. I never ceased to be in awe and had deep admiration and appreciation of his knowledge, abilities, and profound surgical skills. He was affectionately referred to and known as “The Professor.” Although he may not have known it, I loved him as a professional friend and colleague. There has never been a more unselfish, caring, and giving man than Dr. Herman Wirka. It can very truly be said that he did indeed make a significant difference for society, his patients, colleagues, and his fellow man while he was here on earth. He was loved by many and will be missed by all who have known and worked with him. I wish him all the best and know he is now in a place that abounds with peace and tranquility, and in which there is no longer any pain and suffering. May he now rest in peace. My heart goes out to Dr. Wirka’s family and to Ms. Karen Kennedy. I am so very sorry for your loss. Very sincerely and with love, Jack Goldin

  18. Doc you will live on forever in the hearts and souls of the thousands of Scouts and Scouters you touched. I cherish the memories of our many conversations, laughter, camp inspections, horseshoes and friendship. It was my honor to serve on staff alongside you. To the Wirka Family goes our deepest sympathy and love and our heartfelt thank you for sharing Doc with all of us up at Lake Arrowhead for those many, many years. Aloha A hui ho Chris Morales

  19. My memory’s are all memories of thanksgiving for a wonderful Doctor! Living in the Scout camp for 4.5 years we were blessed in having Dr. Wirka as a friend and advisor. He helped with medical challenges as well as advice on our beloved donkey, Abel. I remember well being snowed in and 7 months pregnant with our 4th child and former husband Victor-ill with pneumonia. By telephone Dr. Wirka prescribed, told us where to find necessary antibiotics and helped us through 13 days of being snow-bound. He will be remembered by thousands and what a legacy he has left to each person he touched. May God be praised for His gift of Dr. Wirka!

  20. To the Wirka Family: My fondest memory of Herman is his wonderful,contagious laughter. I can still hear him. My condolences to the family. Audrey Rasch

  21. I will always remember you and love you!!! You looked past the “brooklyn” and my inability to hear and saw the nurse. You looked out for me and stood up for me when other surgeons gave me a hard time and harrassed me. There are no thoughts, words, or gestures that can make the death of a loved one seem like anything else but what it really is. My condolences to his family.

  22. A wonderful man and giving life to be remembered. My prayers are with Herm’s family and friends. My prayers are for your peace and comfort at this sad time. Bonnie Brocator (Karen’s childhood friend)

  23. We all have lost a great man who has left his mark on so “many” that ever visited our camp at Lake Arrowhead…I feel so lucky to have known him. I remember an instance where I was ill one summer while at camp and he was there to with all his dry wit and candor telling me to get back out there and enjoy myself…. And, it was many years later after college, when I brought my own two sons to camp that “Doc” was still doing his thing at the health lodge, and they, along with others in my troop learned about my fond memories – “first hand”….I will miss our conversations, his practical advice, but most of all his laugh. My heartfelt condolences to Doc’s wonderful family…. May the lord provide comfort to you all in your time of loss. With Love,

  24. To the Wirka Family: When I heard of “Doc’s” passing I felt a deep loss. My deepest hartfelt condolences on the loss of “Doc”. My family spent many summers with “Doc” at Lake Arrowhead we will cherish the memories of our conversations, laughter, friendship that my family shared with your family. “Doc” wirka has touch us all. “Doc” will live in all of us, and will always be part of us. May he rest in Peace!!!

  25. Dear Wirka Family, I’ll always remember “Doc” as that cool guy walking everywhere around the Lake Arrowhead Scout Camps. He even made it down to Big Horn, where I was keeping watch at the pool. There were so many changes at camp, but “Doc” was the constant, the rock. He was always there and his spirit remains. His hard work and dedication to scouting and all of his endeavours were without equal. “Doc”, thanks for molding and mending many lives, including this one. A speical thanks for also looking in on my brother, Mark, while he was at Kaiser. Susie, Jeanne and Karl, what a great Dad you have! Thanks for sharing!

  26. Aussie’ (Greg) & Heather Parsons send their condolences to the Wirka family especially Suzie. Greg worked Staff at Lake Arrowhead in 1978,1979 & 1984. Such a loss, know how you feel. We wish to be remembered to you.

  27. My prayers are with the family and friends of Herm. Over these many years his kindiness and love for my daughter, Karen and grandson, Jared have given me great comfort. He always made me laugh and showed such kindiness to me too. I’ll miss his calls and humor always.

  28. Dr.Wirka had the gift of being a natural born surgeon,truly his hands were a gift from God. I would tell new employees that all he needed to do surgery was a spoon and knife from the cafeteria. I always thought when he called me sweetheart in the OR it was a term of endearment. Dr. Wirka was a great example to us all of what it means to work hard and share your talents to better others. We all now have a big responsibility to live up to his example.

  29. Dear Family, Please accept my sincere condolences on the passing of your father…I am friends of Karen and Jared Kennedy, and spent alot of time with your Dad. He was a wonderful man, and will be missed by all that knew him…May he rest in peace..Love, Ellen Finkelstein

  30. I worked with Dr. Wirka at Kaiser for about 6 years and really missed him after he retired. You always knew, even in the worse situations, that if he was in the room everything was going to be ok. I also came to appreciate that dry sense of humor. Most of the time when he was being gruff, you would see him look around the room to see if he was getting a rise out of anyone and then you would see that twinkle in his eye and know he was smiling behind that mask. Dr. Wirka I hope they have plenty of real coffee in heaven because I know you don’t like that perfume stuff. Rest in peace!

  31. Herm, I thank you for being a role model in my life. Although you are not with us anymore, I carry around with me many of the values that you instilled in me. I will always remember the great memories we have together. – Love , Slug

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