Marvin H. Balistocky, 97, of Philadelphia, an ophthalmologist in Montgomery County for four decades, died Friday, Dec. 18, of heart failure at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center.
Born to Tillie Wright and Meyer Balistocky, he graduated from West Philadelphia High School in 1941 and took courses at the University of Pennsylvania until being inducted into the Army in October 1943 during World War II.
He served as a medical technician, according to his military records. He was honorably discharged with the rank of private in December 1944.
He resumed his studies at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1946, and earned a medical degree from Hahnemann Medical School. His medical training was interrupted when he contracted tuberculosis in 1952, and he spent eight months in the hospital but was able to graduate in 1953. He served an internship at Philadelphia General Hospital, where he was chief of ophthalmology.
In the early 1960s, he started a solo ophthalmology practice on DeKalb Street in Norristown and then added a second office on Allendale Road in King of Prussia.
He was chief of ophthalmology at Sacred Heart Hospital in Norristown and was appointed to the medical staff at Wills Eye Hospital, Montgomery Hospital, and Mercy Suburban Hospital. He was a diplomate of the American Board of Ophthalmology.
He taught medicine and surgical techniques to interns and residents at Thomas Jefferson Medical School, Wills Eye Hospital Residency Program, and Mercy Suburban Hospital. He was also a visiting professor at New York College of Osteopathic Medicine.
When not in his office, Dr. Balistocky donated his services, caring for the inmates at state correctional institutions and providing pro bono medical care for Catholic nuns, priests and other clergy.
Dr. Balistocky provided free medical and surgical services for a Catholic mission in Mexico. Patients traveled to Baja, Mexico, some by foot, from several hundred miles away to receive the care, and he was able to save the sight of some of them, his family said.
“I even have letters from doctors thanking him for that,” said his daughter, Anne Yaros.
He didn’t hesitate to treat patients confined to Eagleville, Norristown, and Haverford State Hospitals.
“They needed the care; their lives weren’t any less significant than anyone on the street,” his daughter said. “He taught us as children not to underestimate the need for medical care for everyone.”
He performed free eye screenings for the Montgomery Association for the Blind.
At a time when health insurance wasn’t widely used, he accepted all patients without regard to their ability to pay for care or surgery.
“He was commended frequently by hospitals for his willingness to handle emergency room calls at all hours of the day and night,” his daughter said. “When a worker at Alan Wood Steel or Lee Tire had a foreign body in their eye, my dad was called.”
In 2001, Dr. Balistocky retired after agreeing to settle a civil claim filed by the U.S. government that his office had submitted false billing for reimbursement through Medicare and Medicaid. His family said he had been unaware of the false billings.
A vigorous athlete, Dr. Balistocky was an accomplished tennis player. He played until age 93. He enjoyed photography, travel, stand-up comedy shows, classic films, art shows, and Frank Sinatra. He also loved home and garden projects.
He was a founding member of Congregation Or Ami in Lafayette Hill.
“His most treasured times were shared with Lorie, his wife of 63 years,” the family said.
In addition to his wife, Lorie Rabinowitz, and daughter, he is survived by a son, Paul, and two grandchildren. A brother and sister died earlier.
Funeral services are private.
Memorial donations in support of youth tennis can be directed to the U.S.T.A. Foundation, 70 W. Red Oak Lane, White Plains, N.Y. 10604, or through www.ustafoundation.com/donate. Dr. Balistocky’s name should appear in the memo field of checks. Donations can also be made to Congregation Or Ami, 708 Ridge Pike, Lafayette Hill, Pa. 19444.