In a death notice published on the Jewish Exponent’s website on April 4, Dr. Murray Moliken’s family wrote that Moliken “believed it was his job to both cure people and make them laugh.”
They were talking about his several-decade career as a family physician in the Cherry Hill, New Jersey, area, but they were also talking about the rest of his life.
Moliken, according to his wife Anita Moliken, daughter Cheryl Marken and son Warren Moliken, lived to cure people of whatever internal woes they may have been carrying around, make them laugh and remind them that life could be fun. He used everything, from practical jokes to dinner table jokes to letters, to achieve his mission in life.
Moliken died on March 21 at home surrounded by family. He was 84.
In the days around Moliken’s death, family members grew to realize the gravity of their patriarch’s impact.
“Everyone has a memory,” Anita Moliken said. “Whoever we talk to.”
One of the doctor’s friends shared a story about how his wife was dealing with complications from a Caesarean section. Moliken knew that his friend’s wife would heal better at home with personal care, so he told his buddy to bring her home. The doctor went over every day for two straight weeks and cared for her.
Right before the doctor’s death, a guy came by to shampoo the carpets in the family home.
He told Marken that her father was “the best doctor I ever had.”
“He said, ‘I could never find a good doctor after him,’” the daughter added.
The carpet cleaner probably felt that way because of Moliken’s deep and abiding concern for his patients.
In the 1980s and ’90s, family physicians were selling their practices to big hospital groups, and Moliken initially did the same. But since he kept working there as a doctor, he saw that the big group was not giving his patients good enough service, according to Marken.
Moliken bought the practice back from the conglomerate, something other doctors struggled to do after coming to the same realization, Anita Moliken said.
At a different point in his career, Moliken recognized another inefficiency in the medical system. If his nursing home patients fell and needed an X-ray, they had to wait for an ambulance and then wait again for transportation back to the home.
But there was nothing in New Jersey law forbidding a portable X-ray system, so Moliken created one and began going around to nursing facilities.
“And this was while he was practicing medicine,” he added.
That wasn’t even his only side project.
At 60, the doctor reinvented himself as “The Clock Doc.”
“The Clock Doc” was Moliken’s moniker in his new nonprofit organization, Kids Time, which “gathered communities of school children” to create “watch-adorned clocks,” with “one watch face for each hour,” and then deliver them to “sick kids in hospitals across the country.”
When Marken lived in Florida, her dad came down for a visit. One morning, he got up and said he was going to a school to make clocks with students. Marken had no relationship with the school.
“Everything about him was irrepressible,” she said. “You could not put a lid on his love and affection.”
This was as true at home as it was in public.
Moliken was perhaps the first dad in town to buy a video camera and, like a true dad, he started videotaping everything — runs down the neighborhood hill, his son’s wrestling matches and his daughter’s marching band performances, among other events.
He would also buy his children “any kind of pet,” Marken said. When she was 7, her father bought her a pony.
“He always wanted to make us happy,” the daughter said.
But Moliken saved his most elaborate gestures for the person who made him happy: Anita, his wife of 59 years. The husband would use everything from string beans to bottles of nail polish to lipstick on a mirror to form the words “I love you.”
“It would pop into his head, and he’d make it happen,” Anita Moliken said. JE