Dr. Victor Kassel, at one time the Mountain West's only geriatrician, died Wednesday, March 9, 2005, of natural causes.
Dr. Kassel was best known as an outspoken, sometimes outrageous and often eccentric gadfly for the elderly. In the mid-1970s his favorite hat bore the motto "Age and treachery will beat youth and skill," and he frequently advised America's seniors to fight against restrictive Medicare regulations.
Become "geriatric guerrillas against the gluttons of privilege," he once urged a meeting of the Utah Coalition of Senior Citizens. "Walk, meditate and think" he liked to tell his patients. "Learn a new language every decade after 40." For years, Dr. Kassel handed out copies of Cicero's "De Senectute," an essay on the importance of education later in life.
Dr. Kassel was born in New York City in 1920 and received his medical degree at the Long Island College of Medicine. He first landed in Utah on his way overseas during World War II as an Army Air Corps flight surgeon, stopping with his company at the overseas replacement depot in Kearns. One Sunday morning, in search of a bagel in Salt Lake City, he met Freda Eisen at the Jewish USO. He married her on his return from the South Pacific.
Dr. Kassel was in private practice in Utah for more than 50 years, retiring in 1995. Prior to his retirement he was medical director of St. Joseph's Villa. At the time of his retirement he was the oldest physician with admitting privileges to the former Holy Cross Hospital.
The author of frequent letters to the editor, he particularly incensed about America's mistreatment of its elderly women, who made up 80 percent of his medical practice. During the 1960s and 1970s he shared his views about medicine and life as a talk show host of KSXX, on a show he dubbed The Church of the Paranoid.
He made international headlines in 1966 with his proposal, in the medical journal "Geriatrics," that society should allow polygyny — multiple wives for one man — for widows older than 60. "It was written tongue-in-cheek," he admitted later.
Dr. Kassel lobbied for Medicare reform throughout his career, and during the 1960s was a delegate to the White House Conference on Aging.
A funeral for Dr. Kassel will be held at Evans and Early Mortuary, 574 E. 100 South, today at 10 a.m. The family requests that donations be sent on his behalf to Jewish Family Services of Salt Lake City.