Dr. Delmar Tonge, a prominent physician whose family created a medical legacy in Stanislaus County, died at his Modesto home Sept. 27. He was 82.
Dr. Tonge made a major contribution to obstetrical medicine in Modesto and left his mark by supporting arts and education. The physician was instrumental in efforts to build an arts and entertainment center here, which resulted in the Gallo Center for the Arts.
He was the last surviving son of Dr. Archie Tonge, who founded Modesto City Hospital in 1950 and whose family operated the downtown hospital for four decades. Delmar Tonge, his two physician brothers and their father together provided medical care in Modesto for more than 70 years.
He is the end of an era, said Cher Tonge, his wife.
Dr. Tonge cared for thousands of expectant mothers at Modesto Arts Medical Group on Florida Avenue. He also was involved with setting medical policy as a former president of the Stanislaus Medical Society, a board member for the California Medical Association and in service on a state health planning commission.
Dr. John Pfeffer, a partner at the medical group, gave credit to Dr. Tonge for the neonatal intensive care unit at Doctors Medical Center, which serves a six-county area caring for premature infants and women with high-risk pregnancies. The NICU was first established at Modesto City Hospital and was moved across town when Doctors parent company purchased the private hospital in 1990.
Pfeffer said he always was impressed with Dr. Tonges judgment in assessing patients or situations in the delivery room. He insisted that the patient came first and if you ever considered surgery, it had better be for a good reason, Pfeffer said. He always insisted on high quality.
Besides his work in medicine, colleagues said Dr. Tonges philanthropic activities stand out as well. He was a longtime supporter of the Modesto Symphony and was among the private-sector representatives who kept the Gallo Center project moving forward.
Proceeds from the sale of City Hospital were invested in a foundation that awards scholarships for young people who choose a career in health care. The Archie Tonge Education Fund has donated to Central Valley Christian Academy in Ceres, Pacific Union College and Loma Linda University.
Cher Tonge said her husband encouraged young people to set their goals high and achieve them. His personal enjoyments included backpacking in Yosemite, skiing, sports cars, tailgating at 49er games and yachting on San Francisco Bay.
He was such a 49er fan, Cher said. We have a wall in our house with everything up to Frank Gore and Kaepernick.
Dr. Tonge was born in Los Angeles on Nov. 5, 1930, the third son of Archie and Eloise Tonge. The family moved as medical missionaries to Africa, where Archie Tonge established a number of hospitals and clinics.
Returning to the United States, the Tonges purchased a former hospital on 17th Street in Modesto and opened the facility as Modesto City Hospital. After his local schooling, Delmar Tonge attended Pacific Union College in Angwin and earned his medical degree at Loma Linda University in 1957. He received his training in obstetrics and gynecology at University of Southern California.
He served as a Navy physician for two years and then returned home to work at the medical practice founded by his father.
Dr. Tonge met his first wife, Joan, while he was serving in the Navy and she was working at Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center. They married when Dr. Tonges tour of duty was over and moved to Modesto in 1963.
Joan Tonge, a civic leader and stalwart in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, died at the familys vacation home in Truckee in December 2002.
Dr. Tonge suffered a mild stroke that affected his vision and he decided to stop seeing patients in 2007, Pfeffer said. He continued with practice management and remained on the medical staff of local hospitals.
He is survived by his wife, Cher Tonge; four children, Adorey Kramish, Archie Richard Tonge, Kathleen Tonge and Kristine Johnson; seven grandchildren and a great grandson. He was preceded in death by his parents; his first wife, Joan; and two older brothers, doctors Newton Tonge and Burnett Tonge.
A celebration of life will be held at Modesto Central Seventh-day Adventist Church, at 17th and H streets, starting at 11 a.m. Oct. 14. A reception will follow at the Gallo Center for the Arts. Contributions in memory of Delmar Tonge can be addressed to the Archie Tonge Education Fund, PO Box 700, Angwin, CA 94508; or the Gallo Center, 1000 I St., Modesto, 95354.