Dr. Lee Robinson Chutkow, 93, dies

Dr. Lee Robinson Chutkow, 93, died Nov. 30, 2020.

In no specific order, Lee loved classical music, Shakespeare’s writings, Shabbat morning services, and chocolate ice cream. He was a lifelong learner and his desire for knowledge did not lessen with age. Barnes & Noble bookstore was his “Disneyland” and he would go there every day if given the opportunity to search the aisles for a new book to add to his library.

He endeared himself to all who knew him with his kind and gentle soul, sweet smile, and infectious laugh. Many of his caregiver companions referred to him as their greatest teacher.

Lee was born in Denver, Colorado, to Sam and Yvette Chutkow. He was raised alongside his two brothers, Arnold, who predeceased him, and Jerry.

Along with Colorado, he lived in many places — Kentucky, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico and, for the past 19 years, Arizona. During World War II, he served in the Navy Reserve. After completing his service, he studied at the University of Chicago where he received his bachelor’s degree in philosophy, the University of Colorado in Denver where he received his medical degree, and the University of Rochester/Strong Hospital where he did his psychiatric internship. He returned to the University of Colorado in Denver to complete his residency in Psychiatry.

He spent the entirety of his career helping those struggling with mental health challenges. His career included time as the medical director of Kentucky’s Central State Psychiatric Hospital. In 1983, he received the Humanitarian Award at the 60th Anniversary Celebration of Amit Women by the Louisville Chapter. According to a Jewish Journal article, he received the award for “his compassionate involvement in the field of mental health for 26 years.”

Over the years, he was involved in many organizations. He was an award winning member of Toastmasters. He was an officer of Physicians for Social Responsibility, an organization devoted to the eradication of nuclear weapons and world peace. And he served as president of Chesed Friends, the male affiliate of AMIT Women, in the mid-’80s. He was a longtime member of Congregation Anshei Israel.

His hobbies included singing in synagogue choirs, reading poetry and literature, attending classical musical concerts and live theater, listening to his CD music collection, and attending services and events at his synagogue. He exercised over the entire course of his life and was a faithful attendee in the Tucson Jewish Community Center’s Elder Rehab Program beginning with its inception, receiving an award for being one of its longest running participants.

He was the father and stepfather to three children — John Chutkow, who predeceased him; Jennifer (Dr. Hillel) Baldwin of Tucson, and Rabbi Jon (Lisa) Hanish of Tarzana, California — and had two grandchildren. He had three marriages, the first to Mary Lou Murdoch; the second to the Betty Hanish, who predeceased him; and the last to Theodora Ladnya; who also predeceased him.

While he had many pets over the course of his life, Penny was his final beloved canine companion. She was by his side 14 years and always brought a smile to his face and the faces of residents and professional staff at his retirement community.

Lee passed peacefully while listening to classical music as his daughter Jenny read him poetry.

A private graveside service was held at Evergreen Cemetery, with Rabbi Avi Alpert of Congregation Bet Shalom officiating.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra, Arizona Public Media, Humane Society of Southern Arizona or Congregation Anshei Israel.