Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

William B. Sembrot, 82, physician who made house calls

He was a veteran of an Army MASH unit in Korea.

IT PROBABLY wasn't too cool an idea to walk through certain sections of Southwest Philadelphia carrying a black doctor's bag.

But Dr. Bill Sembrot did it without fear.

"He was a small, country doctor in a big city," said his son, David J. Sembrot. "He made house calls. Colleagues would say, 'Doc, what are doing? People will think there are drugs in that bag.' But he never had a problem. He was never afraid."

William B. Sembrot, retired private practice physician who worked for several city health clinics, an Army doctor assigned to a MASH surgical unit in Korea, a passionate Civil War buff and devoted Temple University basketball fan, died Nov. 25 of heart failure. He was 82 and lived in Plymouth Meeting.

To say that Bill Sembrot was a fan of the Temple Owls basketball team would be a serious understatement. Bill would be at just about every Temple home game, and he didn't just sit in the stands and cheer. He kept score, taking detailed notes of every basket, every rebound, every foul.

He might have kept a record of every oath John Chaney uttered during a game, but that might have been too much. However, he frequently got angry at Chaney's coaching decisions. "Why is he calling a timeout?" he might demand.

Fellow fans seated around Bill fed off his knowledge of the game. "How many rebounds does so-and-so have? How many personal fouls does somebody else have?" Bill, of course, would know the answers to all questions.

"He was very affable," his son said. "He would talk to everyone. He would regale me with stories of Temple games and stars before I was born."

Players like Guy Rogers and Hal Lear from the '50s; Bill Mlkvy - "the Owl Without a Vowel" - who scored 73 points in a single game (March 3, 1951, against Wilkes College), and others back through Owls history.

Bill was also a Big 5 fan who would call his wife on a pay phone from the Palestra to tell her about a game he had just seen, maybe featuring La Salle's great Tom Gola. It didn't seem to bother him that his wife, Barbara, couldn't have cared less.

As a history buff, Bill had a passion for the Civil War. He was a great admirer of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Never heard of him? He was a Union colonel when he commanded the 20th Maine Infantry that launched a heroic bayonet charge at the Battle of Gettysburg. He later became a brigadier general.

Bill was also fascinated by other historical periods, and David remembers sitting before the TV with bags of popcorn, watching war documentaries, with Dad inserting his own color commentaries.

William Sembrot was born in Peckville, Pa., north of Scranton, to William H. Sembrot and the former Veronica Podrasky. He graduated from Blakely High School in 1950. He played football for Jack Henzes, a legendary high school football coach (400 victories).

Bill recalled an all-star game in the snow when the boundaries were marked with coal dust. He listened to Brooklyn Dodgers games on a transistor radio in his bedroom, and became a fan of Jackie Robinson.

He and his brother, Joseph, attended Temple University where Bill earned a bachelor's degree in 1954 and went on to the Temple Medical School, graduating in 1958. Joseph also got his medical degree from Temple and went on to become an endocrinologist.

While at Temple, Bill joined the ROTC program and received the rank of second lieutenant in 1957.

He served his internship at Northeastern Hospital, where he met his future wife, Barbara Karpovich, a nursing student. They were married on Thanksgiving Day 1960 at Fort George Gordon Meade in Maryland where Bill was stationed after going on active duty.

He was sent to Korea where he served in the 43rd MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) unit that inspired the popular "M*A*S*H*" TV series. Since the truce with the North Koreans had been signed before Bill arrived in Korea, the unit did not have to deal with the war wounded.

After his discharge, Bill served his residency at the Medical College of Pennsylvania. In 1965, he opened his private practice in Roxborough. He began his career with the city health clinics in 1976, where he had the reputation of being an excellent diagnostician.

The family moved to Plymouth Meeting. He retired from private practice in the early '90s, and from the city in 2005.

Besides his wife, son and brother, he is survived by a granddaughter, Kateryna Sembrot.

Services: Requiem Service 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral, 6740 N. 5th St. The viewing will be held at 2 p.m. today at the Fletcher-Nasevich Funeral Home, 9529 Bustleton Ave. Parastas Prayers will be sung at 8 p.m. Burial will be in Oakland Cemetery, Adams and Ramona avenues.