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SLO County's first pediatrician, Dr. Louis Tedone, dies at 97: 'His legacy will endure'

San Luis Obispo Tribune logo San Luis Obispo Tribune 1/11/2021 Mackenzie Shuman and Bill Morem, The Tribune (San Luis Obispo, Calif.)

Jan. 10—San Luis Obispo County's first pediatrician, Dr. Louis Tedone, died Sunday of lymphoma. He was 97.

Dr. Edison French hired Tedone in 1953 to join his staff at what was then called the French Medical Clinic in San Luis Obispo. Before Tedone's arrival, general practitioners counted pediatrics as part of their skill set.

During the course of his career, it's believed that Tedone saw some 35,000 youngsters as part of his practice. The number of house calls he performed for his patients isn't known, but the prevalence of such home visits was part of his specialized medical attention that led to numerous awards and honors over his lifetime.

"On behalf of the French Hospital Boards, staff and physicians, we are deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. Tedone," Alan Iftiniuk, president and CEO of French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo, wrote in a statement. "At French Hospital, his legacy will endure as a compassionate and dedicated caregiver serving our community with an extraordinary devotion to children and their families .... We will always remember Dr. Tedone for his warmth, vivacity and commitment to his patients and our community."

Tedone's son Bob Tedone said his father will be remembered by his kind spirit.

"He always did things out of the pure goodness of his heart," Bob Tedone told The Tribune.

Louis Tedone was born in Brooklyn in 1923, the second of three sons of Matteo and Grace Tedone, immigrants from Bari, Italy. His parents owned a small grocery store and deli, behind which the family lived in three rooms.

When Matteo died from a heart attack at age 50, Tedone and his brothers Nat and Frank would get up at 6 a.m. to begin the hot and arduous chore of making fresh mozzarella cheese. It was a skill that he would employ again after he closed out his 45-year medical career — an avocation that earned him renown as the "Mozzarella Man."

Tedone supplied his daughter and son-in-law's deli, DePalo & Sons in Shell Beach, with mozzarella for more than 25 years.

Bob Tedone said his father was still making mozzarella up until a few weeks ago.

A native Brooklynite who never fully lost an accent typified by that New York borough, Tedone graduated from Boys High School in 1941 as class president. He then attended Fordham University in New York for the next two years and graduated from New York Medical College in 1947 through an accelerated program offered through the Department of the Navy.

He served his medical internship and pediatric residency at St. Catherine's Hospital in Brooklyn from 1947 through 1950, then another residency at Lutheran Hospital in Brooklyn before entering the U.S. Army. He served as Camp Roberts' pediatrician during the Korean War from 1951 through 1953, after which he was hired by French.

Tedone gave himself a couple of monikers during his long life: "Luigi," to honor his Italian roots, and "Lucky Louie." The latter, he explained, was "because I was lucky in love and lucky in life."

"There will never be another Lucky Lou," his son Matt Tedone wrote on Facebook on Sunday.

Those who knew Tedone described him as vivacious and funny.

"He's just really an all-around good guy," Cal Poly Professor Sky Bergman told The Tribune in 2017. Bergman featured Tedone in her documentary "Lives Well Lived: Celebrating the Secrets, Wit & Wisdom of Age."

"He's my hero. He's amazing," Bergman added.

Tedone's oldest daughter, Gracie Tedone Manderscheid, said her father always put family first.

"His motto is 'Do the right thing,' " she told The Tribune in 2017. "He's the most unselfish person I know and I think he's passed that down to his children."

The love of Louis Tedone's life was wife Grace Tedone, nee DePalo, the mother of their nine children, Master Bridge Player and cookbook writer and chef. She died in 1994. Her parents also emigrated from Bari, Italy.

In 1963, Tedone began teaching sex education in sixth through ninth grades at what was then Mission Nativity School — the same year that an appeal of a lawsuit was filed against San Luis Coastal Unified School District over teaching the topic.

"Somebody has to counteract the negative aspects of sex," he told a Telegram-Tribune reporter in 1971. "If it can be done at home, that's the ideal place ... I do feel morality must be included while kids are in the formative stages. The emphasis should be on the known Judeo- Christian concepts of morality in sex."

He taught the classes for 13 years.

At the time he also gave talks to Mission ninth graders about drugs. Calling drug use "stupid and dangerous," he nonetheless said, "I prefer that nobody would ever try (marijuana)" but didn't think that "anyone should panic" over kids experimenting with it.

His association with Mission included sitting on the high school and elementary school's school boards.

Other civic involvement included being a founding member of the Mental Health Clinic, sitting on the advisory board for 10 years, seven of those as the board's president. He was also a founding member of the Youth Football League, and a member of its board of directors.

From his arrival in San Luis Obispo until 1976, he was the volunteer medical consultant at Chris Jesperson School Cerebral Palsy Clinic.

In 1988, he was honored by the Central Coast Language-Speech-Hearing Association with its first Distinguished Service Award. Eight years later he was honored by San Luis Obispo's Congregation Beth David as one of its recipients of the Crown of a Good Name.

Tedone's love of sports — he was an avid golfer, runner and tennis player who credited his longevity to a regular exercise routine — was recognized in 2002, when he was selected to carry the Olympic torch. Tedone, then 84, was one of 21 local torchbearers who carried the Olympic flame in advance of that winter's Olympic Games in San Lake City, Utah.

The San Luis Obispo Community Health Foundation gave him its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. Four years later, the French Hospital Medical Center Foundation honored him for his extraordinary contributions to improving the community's health with the Louis M. Tedone, MD, Humanitarian Award, an honor that is now given on an annual basis.

Asked in 2017 about the secrets to a long, healthy and happy life, Tedone said, "The biggest thing is to find work you like and do the best you can."

Tedone is survived by nine children and their spouses, 22 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

Tedone's family had not scheduled any services as of midday Sunday. However, the family asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Tedone's name to the Grace and Lou Tedone Scholarship at Mission Preparatory Catholic School, or to the Newman Catholic Center at Cal Poly.


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