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Gerold Morton Grodsky
January 6, 2023


Memorial for Robert Lincoln Nolan

Memorial Image
Graveside: Wednesday, January 4th, 2023
Gan Shalom Cemetery
1100 Bear Creek Road
Martinez, CA 94553

After a lifetime of public service, Dr. Robert Lincoln Nolan passed away peacefully at his home on December 30, 2022, at the age of 96. He was a World War II Veteran.

Dr. Nolan was born in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn in 1926 to Mollie Flaumenhaft Nolan and John Louis Leo Nolan. His parents met at the New York Society for Ethical Culture (NYSEC) in the Upper West Side of Manhattan in 1917. The NYSEC's purpose-driven mission of social justice echoed throughout Dr. Nolan's life. He and his wife, Janiece published a book about his mother, Up from Hester Street (2012).

In 1944, at the age of 18 he took a leave of absence from New York University's College of Engineering in the Bronx to enlist in the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy to defeat totalitarianism. A week after he said goodbye to his parents and headed across the North Atlantic on a high-octane steamer, the SS Whitehorse, his convoy was attacked and the companion ship to his went down with all hands. In 1988, World War II Merchant Mariners were recognized as Veterans by Public Law 95-202.

Upon returning from the war, Dr. Nolan joined the U.S. Naval Reserve and rose to the level of Captain (06), Medical Corps, USNR, earning numerous medals while serving as Commanding Officer of various hospital units. He was a member of Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 7, Oakland, California.

After the war, Dr. Nolan switched from Engineering to Medicine, earning his M.D. from Yale School of Medicine in 1953, followed by a residency in Pediatrics at NY Hospital-Cornell Medical School. He then joined a group practice on Staten Island, which was an innovative concept in the 1950's. In 1958, to further his interest in group practice models, Dr. Nolan moved his family to Oakland, joining Kaiser/Permanente Medical Group, where he served as Assistant Chief of Pediatrics at Kaiser Hospital, Oakland. In 1961, he earned a Master of Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley. Recognizing inequities in health care, in 1967 Dr. Nolan published "Social class differences in utilization of pediatric services in a prepaid medical care program," in the American Journal of Public Health (57(1), 34-37).

The California Legislature unanimously adopted House Resolution 653 in 1965, commending Dr. Nolan's exemplary record as a member of the Oakland Board of Education and School Director, City of Oakland from 1961-1965. Highlights of the Resolution outlined his achievements: succeeded developing policy position recognizing the problem with de facto school segregation; achieved expansion of the school lunch program (state and federally funded); proposed special education programs for disadvantaged and underprivileged children; opposed use of IQ scores as criteria for gifted programs which favored affluent areas; urged elimination of teacher assignment practices based on race, resulting in revised policy and practices.

To become more effective in his advocacy, Dr. Nolan became the first part time student at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, earning his J.D. in 1967, while maintaining his pediatric practice at Kaiser Hospital, Oakland. He was a member of the State Bar of California.

In 1969, Dr. Nolan moved his family to West Virginia, where he was Professor and Chairman, Public Health and Preventive Medicine, at the West Virginia School of Medicine. He put a special focus on the growing needs of the poor in the rural areas of West Virginia. He was instrumental in developing the National Health Service Corps. Dr. Nolan and Dr. Jerome Schwartz published the book, Rural and Appalachian Health (1973) with a forward by Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

Returning to California in 1972, Dr. Nolan became Chief of Staff of the Veterans Administration Hospital, Martinez, and then Director of their Oakland Outpatient Clinic. From 1978-1992, Dr. Nolan held medical director positions with the California Department of Health Services in Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco and Martinez, including Chief, California Children Services (CCS), San Francisco Regional Office, and finally Medical Director of Contra Costa County's CCS Program in Martinez, where he retired in 1992. In 1991, Dr. Nolan became a Full Clinical Professor of Pediatrics-Volunteer at the University of California, San Francisco.

As an attorney for his wife, Janiece Nolan, Dr. Nolan set case precedent in the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit for constructive discharge in her employment due to sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in Nolan v. Cleland, 686 F.2d 806 (9th Cir. 1982).

Dr. Nolan loved spending time with his six children and their families, teaching the 10 grandchildren about history and advocacy. He enjoyed traveling all over the world with his wife, Janiece. He continued to have opinion advocacy letters published in the New York Times.

Dr. Nolan was preceded in death by his mother Mollie, his father John, and brothers Bernard (1924) and Jerome (1935). Survivors include: first wife of 22 years: Virginia Reynolds Nolan; second wife of 50 years: Janiece Simmons Nolan; six children: Douglas Nolan (Grace), Patricia Suskin (Steve), Nancy Nolan (Bill Britt), Margaret Nolan (Richmond Kilpatrick), Sheffield Nolan (Melissa), Gemini McCasland (Joshua); and 10 grandchildren: Daniel Suskin (Britany), Kathryn Suskin, Lucas Kilpatrick, Nolan Kilpatrick, Brian Britt, Reed Nolan, Jasmine McCasland, Kiona McCasland, Natalie Nolan, Nora Nolan; and great-grandson Benjamin Suskin.

Temple Isaiah Clergy, Lafayette, California, led graveside services for the immediate family on January 4, 2023, at Gan Shalom Cemetery, Briones. Cards/letters may be sent to: The Nolan Family, PO Box 1137, Lafayette, CA 94549.