When Everett’s Dr. Art Grossman was diagnosed with ALS, the debilitating neurological condition known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, he told his wife he wouldn’t be making a bucket list. He liked his life just as it was.
Virginia Grossman said her indomitable and incredibly fit husband planned to keep doing what he loved — bicycling and teaching exercise classes — for as long as he could. “And that’s exactly what he did,” she said.
A family practice doctor and obstetrician who had delivered the babies of children he brought into the world a generation ago, Arthur Saul Grossman died Dec. 21, just eight days after turning 71. He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis about 18 months ago.
“We’re rewriting the book on how you’re supposed to act when you get old,” Grossman told The Herald in 2010 after completing a 154-mile bike ride called RAMROD (Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day). At the time, he was 63 and still busy in his practice with Western Washington Medical Group in Everett.
“Arthur was truly a unique person,” said Dr. Randall Gould, a former colleague of Grossman’s. Both doctors joined the Everett Family Practice Center in 1977. “I have never known another physician with more compassion and more talent. It was an honor to work side by side with him for 20 years,” said Gould, who now lives in Kona, Hawaii.
“He was always positive, decent, careful, prepared and humorous,” said Gould, adding that his colleague had “a highly developed sense of social responsibility.”
Grossman retired from Western Washington Medical Group in 2013, at 66, but until three months before his death he volunteered at Providence Everett Healthcare Clinic, now Community Health Center of Snohomish County. Retirement simply meant more time to help. “He started using his many gifts to try to improve the lives of many others in our community,” Gould said.
“It’s a huge loss,” said Ted Wenta, the YMCA of Snohomish County’s senior vice president of operations. “For many of us, Art was the YMCA,” Wenta said in the online guest book accompanying Grossman’s obituary in The Herald.
Grossman taught cycling and other classes at the Y for at least a decade. Even as his disease progressed, “that was not who Art was,” Wenta said Friday. “He enjoyed being out on the bike instructing people, coaching them up.”
On Thanksgiving morning, Grossman was a surprise honoree before the start of a “Burn the Bird” fitness class at the Everett Y. The class was supposed to start at 8 a.m. But Gael Gebow, senior program director at the Everett Y, asked Grossman to be there a half-hour early.
“I made a secret-event invitation, with everyone pretending to come to cycle class,” said Gebow, Grossman’s longtime friend and his YMCA supervisor. She worried because Grossman was having trouble getting up the stairs of the multi-story building, but he made it to class. About 50 people showed up as a tribute to Grossman’s decade of service.
“There were a lot of tears in the room,” Gebow said. “He’s been the biggest inspiration. He became a certified personal trainer and was also a wellness coach. He met one-on-one with people to talk about wellness goals.” Along with cycling, Grossman taught a “Silver Sneakers” senior fitness class and water exercise for people with arthritis.
Gebow’s friendship with Grossman began long before she was his supervisor at the Y. “He was my kid’s soccer coach — and the most driven, determined human I’ve ever known,” she said.
Born Dec. 14, 1946, in Philadelphia, Grossman attended Brown University in Rhode Island, where he met his future wife. They settled in Everett after he completed his medical training.
“We wanted to be in a small city close to a big city,” said Virginia Grossman, who grew up in Iowa. She remembers their house across from what’s now Providence Regional Medical Center Everett on Colby Avenue. “He could walk across the street when it was time to deliver a baby,” she said.
Along with his wife, Grossman is survived by his three children and their spouses. Daughter Emily Grossman is a veterinarian in Seattle. Andrew Grossman is a nurse practitioner, also in Seattle, and Gretchen Grossman Webber lives in California’s San Diego area. He is also survived by five grandchildren — Cassie, Meadow, Gloria, Amelia and Milo — and by his brother and sister-in-law, Sam and Jean Grossman.
Medicine, fitness instruction and racking up miles on his bicycle — his goal was 14,000 miles in a year — weren’t Grossman’s only interests.
He had served on Everett’s Board of Park Commissioners and had coached a math Olympics team at Hawthorne Elementary School. Those two causes, parks and kids, were so close to his heart that in 2000 he wrote a letter to the editor published in The Herald. In it, he noted an “unbalanced concern for animals versus children.”
Grossman said in his letter that just 12 months after initiating the idea of an off-leash dog area, Everett had one. “However, it has been almost 12 years since the parks department identified a desperate shortage of play fields for the children of Everett to use for soccer, baseball and just running free and having fun,” he wrote.
When he wasn’t cycling or running marathons, he enjoyed opera and playing bridge.
“He had no ego,” Gould said. “Usually I would hear about one of his new endeavors from someone other than him. And there never seemed to be any limit to his time or energy.”
Virginia Grossman agrees. There was no sitting around, no hanging out.
“He was not a hang-out person. He was a bumblebee, always busy. He just stopped by to say hi occasionally,” she joked.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.