Dr. Imrich Bor, Survivor Of Holocaust, Pediatrician

Dr. Imrich Bor, a Holocaust survivor and noted pediatric cardiologist, died Oct. 31 after a lifetime of healing children. He was 74.

Friends, relatives and colleagues call Dr. Bor an excellent and kind man who was devoted to his work and children.

"For him to take care of children it was a real pleasure; it was his life," said Dr. Eva Bor, a Czech-trained physician who helped run her husband's pediatric practice.

Dr. Bor was the oldest actively practicing physician in Everett until this summer, when a rare adrenal-gland cancer stopped him from working.

Dr. Bor was born in the northeast corner of the former Czechoslovakia, in a mountainous region that looks similar to the Cascades.

At 17, he moved to Prague to attend medical school at Charles University.

While he was away at school, the Nazis took over Czechoslovakia and forced his parents and brother into a concentration camp. They were eventually killed.

Dr. Bor went into hiding for nine years. He hid wherever he could: in the film-projection room of a local movie house, in attics, basements and fields. For a while, he assumed a non-Jewish name and worked in a logging camp.

After the Nazi occupation was over, Dr. Bor finished his medical studies and became a professor of medicine at Charles University, where he specialized in the budding field of pediatric cardiology.

He did not talk much about the Holocaust, his son said, although when Dr. Bor visited a museum exhibit about the Holocaust eight years ago he searched every face in concentration-camp pictures, hoping to find his family.

Colleagues and family members say Dr. Bor's early years shaped the way he treated other people, the way he led his life.

"He tried to do all the positive things. Not to be prejudiced. He remembered so many bad things - he was always trying to make things better," said his son, Daniel Bor.

Dr. Jeff Rey, an Everett colleague, says Dr. Bor's early years may have inspired Dr. Bor's compassionate and meticulous attention to patients.

"People who suffered in their lives seem to have a special ability to connect with other people," Rey said. "He took care of many impoverished people just as if they were well-to-do, regardless of their ability to pay. He cared for all of them deeply."

A true scholar, Dr. Bor spoke eight languages fluently (Czech, German, Hungarian, Yiddish, Russian, French, Italian and English) and was well-studied in literature, philosophy and politics, as well as medicine.

He published two books about pediatrics and pediatric cardiology and authored more than 100 scholarly articles in Czech and English.

At the peak of a prominent career in Prague, Dr. Bor defected with his two sons, using a medical conference in Paris as a springboard to America. His wife, forced to stay behind as "insurance" the family would return to the Iron Curtain country, was not able to escape for another year.

The family left Prague because under a "Great Equalization Program," the children of professionals were committed to a life of manual labor.

"The poor guy arrived with almost nothing but the clothes on his back, what he could carry in his suitcase and the two boys," said Dr. Warren Guntheroth, a University of Washington pediatrics professor and colleague of Dr. Bor's.

"He came from a position of respect and authority . . . to leave that and start at the bottom is a tremendous act of generosity for your sons."

That put some pressure on his sons to become successful professionals, Daniel Bor said. Both Daniel and his brother, Andrew, are Seattle attorneys.

"If success is expected," Daniel Bor said, "It's hard to do anything but succeed."

Dr. Bor was from the old school, a traditional European father who was less of a friend than, well, a father, his son said.

He was a father his children could always depend on. In 1970, during hard times in Seattle, Dr. Bor left academic medicine for private practice, in part so he could earn enough money to send his sons to college, his wife said.

Dr. Bor had few hobbies outside medicine. He was an armchair tennis fan who rooted for Ivan Lendl and Martina Navratilova, fellow Czechs who adopted America as home.

Dr. Bor's one anomalous trait was a liking for loud clothes with flashy nautical emblems, although he did not sail.

He had a paternal brusque style, Rey said, but parents didn't mind because they knew their children were getting excellent care.

"A lot of people look at medicine as just a job," Rey said. "He was from a generation where when you become a doctor, medicine becomes your life."

A memorial service will be held Tuesday from 5 to 7 p.m. at Providence Hospital in Everett. Memorials may be made to the hospital.