William G. Chodoff, 64, of West Mount Airy, a pediatrician, died of Merkel cell carcinoma at his home on Nov. 26.

Since 1997, Dr. Chodoff was medical director of Keystone Mercy Health Plan in Philadelphia, a managed-care plan serving more than 273,000 medical assistance recipients in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Previously, he was a pediatrician at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's primary-care center in Cobbs Creek; a pediatrician in West Philadelphia for Philadelphia Health Associates; and in the 1970s and 1980s, a pediatrician and medical director of the Children and Youth Program of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in South Philadelphia.

"Dr. Bill," as he was known to his patients, was more than six feet tall and had a football player's frame. He was a "gentle giant," said a friend, Sherie Ernst. "He loved children," she said, "and they always felt comfortable with him."

A graduate of Lower Merion High School, where he played football, Dr. Chodoff earned a bachelor's degree from Wesleyan University in Connecticut. He earned a medical degree from Jefferson, interned at Montefiore Hospital in New York, and completed a residency in pediatrics at Lincoln Hospital in New York. His late father, Richard, was a physician, as are his two uncles, Peter and Paul Chodoff.

Dr. Chodoff, who spent most of his career caring for children in the inner city, was an advocate for quality health care for poor and working people, Ernst said, and was an activist for racial and social justice. He supported his first wife, Joan Horan Chodoff, a nurse, in her efforts to unionize medical workers, and cared for her during her 20-year battle with cancer and more than 70 hospital admissions. She died in 2001.

Since 2003, Dr. Chodoff had been married to Louise Barteau Chodoff.

He loved travel, good wine and food, blues, jazz, folk music, and big dogs.

Dr. Chodoff is survived by his wife and uncles.

A gathering in his memory was held Saturday. Memorial donations may be made to Bread and Roses Community Fund, Suite 1305, 1500 Walnut St., Philadelphia.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.