Dr. Gilbert Tabby, 87, who operated a family practice in Philadelphia’s Hunting Park section for more than 45 years, died Sunday, Dec. 22, at Jeanes Hospital from pancreatic cancer.
Born in Philadelphia on April 20, 1932, he was the only child of Marcia and Louis Tabby, who owned a neighborhood pharmacy at 13th and Diamond Streets. As a youngster, he spent hours at the drugstore, running errands for his father.
He graduated from Central High School in 1950. In case he was not admitted to medical school, he attended Temple University School of Pharmacy as a backup and graduated in 1954, said his son, David Tabby, a neurologist.
“In those days, gaining entrance into med school for a Jewish boy was not the easiest thing to accomplish," Dr. Gilbert Tabby wrote in his memoirs earlier this year. “My master plan was to attend pharmacy and use it to satisfy the pre-med requirements; should I not succeed in entering medicine, I still would have a profession.”
Dr. Tabby graduated from Philadelphia College of Osteopathy in 1958. A year later, he completed an internship at the now-closed Metropolitan Hospital in Philadelphia.
In 1959, he opened his first practice, specializing in general medicine, obstetrics, and pediatrics in an office at 13th and Diamond. It was located over his father’s pharmacy, which previously was known as Tobotsnick’s, the family’s original name. A businessman called his father, Louis, “Tabby.” The name stuck and the father eventually legally adopted the name, Dr. Tabby wrote in his memoirs.
Back then, an office visit cost $3, a house call was $5, Dr. Tabby wrote in his memoirs. Most of his patients received state Medical Assistance, which paid $1.50 a visit. His practice was busy and he would often run out of billing forms near the end of the month.
“I was quite satisfied with the situation back then because treating many people that I had known for years made my transition rather easy,” he wrote.
Dr. Tabby also had an office at 901 W. Butler St. from 1960 until 1975, according to his son. His largest and most successful practice was at 4000 N. Ninth St., which he opened in 1975. By the time he retired in 2004, he had treated tens of thousands of patients, spanning generations, his son said.
“I’m really proud of the fact that he saw people of all socioeconomic levels,” David Tabby said.
At a young age, Dr. Tabby began collecting, a passion he pursued with vigor for most of his life. He began collecting U.S. and Roman coins when he was 11 and later added stamps, other currency, Coca-Cola bottles, and Monopoly games from around the world, David Tabby said. He also collected militaria such as helmets, hats, uniforms, model tanks, and aircraft.
“He didn’t want to just collect,” said Tabby. “He wanted to have things that were weird and rare.”
Several years ago, Dr. Tabby purchased from another collector 50 yellow Stars of David that Nazis had forced Jews to wear, his son said. Dr. Tabby gave several lectures at synagogues about the collection, which he displayed in his home, his son said.
Dr. Tabby was a member of Old York Road Temple-Beth Am in Abington and the Israel Numismatic Society, and was a delegate to the Pennsylvania Osteopathic Medical Association.
In addition to his son, Dr. Tabby is survived by his wife of 65 years, Lorna; a daughter, Caryn; and six grandchildren.