Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth Sandel’

Bobbie Kaiser: Carrying on Kaiser family community traditions

posted on November 14, 2013
Bobbie Kaiser, widow of Henry J. Kaiser, Jr., in "Rosie's Corner" at 2010 Home Front Festival in Richmond, Calif.
Bobbie Kaiser, widow of Henry J. Kaiser, Jr., in “Rosie’s Corner” at 2010 Home Front Festival in Richmond, Calif. Photo by Ginny McPartland

By Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer

I want to say goodbye to a gracious and remarkable woman who helped carry the Henry J. Kaiser legacy forward into the 21st Century. Barbara Kaiser, the widow of Henry J. Kaiser, Jr., passed away in late September.

Barbara “Bobbie” Kaiser was married to Henry J. Kaiser’s second son, Henry, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1944 and died in 1961 at age 44 despite his father’s best efforts to find a cure.

Bobbie, as she liked to be called by everyone, survived her husband by more than 50 years.

In those years, she continued the Kaiser involvement in community affairs, helped to found a thriving Episcopal congregation in Oakland, Calif., and supported the celebration of Henry J. Kaiser’s epic history of shipbuilding during World War II in Richmond, Calif.

She also branched out on her own as an apprentice architect studying in the 1970s at the famed Frank Lloyd Wright school at Taliesin West, Arizona.

Getting to know Bobbie

Bobbie and me blog
Bobbie Kaiser and Ginny McPartland. Photo by Karen E. Lyons

For a few months in 2010, my life intersected with Bobbie’s, and I shall always remember her as the woman who – accustomed to a chauffeur-driven limousine – didn’t mind riding in my VW Beetle, invited me for lunch and explained to me how Cobb Salad came about.

She knew about Cobb Salad’s legendary origin at the famous Brown Derby Restaurant in Los Angeles because she was there, along with others who moved in Hollywood circles.

Barbara Preininger was working as a stewardess and assistant to entertainer Dennis Day when she met Henry J. Kaiser, Jr. They married in 1947. At the time, Henry was managing the Kaiser-Frazer division of the Kaiser Motors Corporation.

The couple lived for a time in one of the Kaiser Community Homes in Panorama City. In 1951, they moved to Oakland and Henry was responsible for the Kaiser Companies public relations program. In 1952 they had a son, Henry J. Kaiser, III, who has become a musician and filmmaker.

I met Bobbie through Kaiser Permanente Heritage Director Bryan Culp who knew her from the St. John’s Episcopal congregation. He suggested I contact her about the upcoming Home Front festival in Richmond to invite her to come along as our guest. She was delighted.

As it turned out, Bobbie and I were neighbors, so I just had to swing by to pick her up from the senior citizens building where she lived. When I got there, the doorman escorted her out to the car. She was dressed fabulously.

In a lovely, rich red wrap, black pants and top with beaded fringe about the bottoms and stylish shoes. She was sporting a gorgeous straw hat – a trademark for Bobbie – and her face was beaming from underneath it.

Betsy and Bobbie manhattan 11-2010
Elizabeth Sandel, MD, and Bobbie Kaiser in 2010 with the 1953 Kaiser Manhattan at the Kaiser Permanente Rehabilitation Center in Vallejo, Calif.

At the festival, the National Park Service rangers greeted her with reverence and invited her to sit in “Rosie’s Corner,” an area approximating a 1940s parlor, for photographs. Later she browsed the festival booths on her own, seeming to read every word on historical displays. She took every opportunity to speak to festival-goers and staffers throughout the day.

Relishing the fruit of her labor

A few weeks later, the Heritage team, led by former director Tom Debley, and Elizabeth Sandel, MD, took Bobbie on a tour of the Kaiser Foundation Rehabilitation Center in Vallejo, Calif. Sandel was chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the center, which moved in 2010 to a new, totally updated building.

Bobbie’s visit to the rehab center could not have been more relevant. She played a significant role in the development of the early techniques used at the first center, which was established in 1946 to treat her husband and others who had neuromuscular diseases.

With an opportunity to speak with the rehab staff, Bobbie described the regimen she used every day to help her husband get through the day. “Every morning, we would fill the bathtub with ice and Henry would get in . . . it really helped,” she recalled. “If we were traveling we’d ask the hotel to bring us buckets of ice.”

Again, Bobbie illustrated her keen curiosity by viewing up close many of the art pieces in the center. She talked to patients and told them the story of her husband and her familiarity with rehab therapies.

She had a chance to see the two gyms for rehab patients and the outdoor patio with steps for patients to practice their mobility skills. She posed with the 1953 Kaiser Manhattan automobile that sits on the grounds and is used to teach patients to transfer from wheelchair to car.

Bobbie with husband Henry J. Kaiser, Jr., son of industrialist and co-founder of Kaiser Permanente
Bobbie with husband Henry J. Kaiser, Jr., son of industrialist and co-founder of Kaiser Permanente Henry J. Kaiser, Sr., circa 1960.

Dr. Sandel confirms that the icing method is still used in the rehab center. A trained oral historian, Dr. Sandel, now retired, planned to interview Bobbie but never had the opportunity due to Bobbie’s recent illness.

The last time I saw Bobbie it was pouring rain. She invited me to visit her home for an interview. I went with her to the hairdresser’s shop in her building and then to the dining room for lunch. She was kind and non-demanding of all the people we encountered and before I left, she realized the gift shop had closed before she could get a fellow resident a birthday gift. “Oh, I guess I’ll just walk over to (the market),” she said frowning at the rain.

Every day as I walk by Bobbie’s long-time residence I think of her – her wondrous hats, her smiles, her curiosity – and I wish I’d met her sooner.

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Kaiser Permanente’s Historical Role in Rehabilitation Medicine

posted on January 23, 2010

By Tom Debley
Director, Heritage Resources, Kaiser Permanente

Since the late 1940s, the Kaiser Foundation Rehabilitation Center (KFRC) in Vallejo, California has treated thousands of patients with acquired neurological disorders, trauma, and neuromuscular and orthopedic conditions. This inpatient rehabilitation hospital and outpatient center also is Kaiser Permanente’s Center of Excellence for people with disabilities.

Less known is the role industrialist Henry J. Kaiser played in its inception, thereby establishing himself as a national philanthropic leader in helping establish the field of rehabilitation medicine.  Recognition for that historic accomplishment is remedied in a new book by Richard Verville titled “War, Politics, and Philanthropy: The History of Rehabilitation Medicine” (University Press of America, 2009).

Verville describes the birth of this field in part out of the need to treat soldiers who suffered combat injuries in World Wars I and II.  He traces its evolution to the present.  In his chapter “The Immediate Postwar Years,” he covers Henry Kaiser, Dr. Sidney R. Garfield and Dr. Herman Kabat in the formation of the Kabat-Kaiser Institute in 1946 – today’s KFRC.   Anyone interested can view our 11-minute video  The Power of Science and the Human Spirit  about the history of KFRC and get the full story in the context of American medical history in Verville’s book.

To sum up the historic role of Henry J. Kaiser, Verville places him in a pantheon of important leaders that includes President Franklin D. Roosevelt in setting the stage for the growth of rehabilitation medicine after World War II:  “Kaiser thus took his place along with Bernard Baruch, Jeremiah and Samuel Milbank, and FDR as philanthropists who assisted in the early development of the medical rehabilitation facility movement in the private sector. Without their initiative and willingness to back new methods in health care, the eventual growth of rehabilitation medicine might never have occurred.” (Emphasis added.)
 
To be sure, as Verville points out, the trigger for Henry Kaiser’s actions was news in 1945 that his son, Henry J. Kaiser Jr., had multiple sclerosis. When the elder Kaiser learned that Kabat, a neurophysiologist and clinical neurologist, was achieving success in treating multiple sclerosis and paralytic poliomyelitis, he asked Kaiser Permanente founding physician Sidney R. Garfield to meet with Dr. Kabat.  “He had people walking who hadn’t walked for years,” Garfield recalled.  The Kabat-Kaiser Institute was born.

Not covered in this book is the fact that Kaiser already had experience with addressing the needs of people with disabilities on the Home Front of World War II.

An early Permanente physician, Clifford Kuh, a specialist in industrial medicine, did research in the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, Calif., looking at workers for their capabilities despite their physical disabilities rather than viewing them as “handicapped” and incapable. It was a visionary’s viewpoint that did not become prevalent for another 30 years with the rise of the Disability Rights Movement of the 1970s and subsequent Independent Living Movement.

The importance of Dr. Kuh’s work was recognized immediately, however.  In reporting on it, the New York Times (May 21, 1944) quoted William K. Hopkins, regional director the War Manpower Commission, which collaborated on the study.  Hopkins called it “pioneering” work that would prove “invaluable in the post-war period” with service men and women who would return to the civilian workforce with disabling injuries.

As a charitable trust, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan (then “Permanente Foundation”) provided funds in 1944 to distribute the research results nationwide as a public service so that communities across the country could use it help assimilate disabled veterans into the postwar workforce.

(The Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources program offers special thanks to its history colleague Dr. Elizabeth Sandel, chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation at KFRC today who Verville notes reviewed an early draft of his book and provided him with historical material on the history of The Permanente Medical Group and Henry J. Kaiser.)

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