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Obituary: Dr. Franklin J. Chinn Sr., 88, cared for generations of Sacramento families

Published: Wednesday, Mar. 19, 2014 - 10:53 pm

Dr. Franklin J. Chinn Sr., who cared for generations of Sacramento residents while raising an accomplished family of medical and educational professionals, died March 10 after a brief illness, his family said. He was 88.

Dr. Chinn was a prominent veteran physician and a respected patriarch in the Chinese American community. Besides treating patients for almost 60 years in midtown and East Sacramento, he served on the staffs and on medical committees at Mercy and Sutter hospitals. He trained students, residents and nurse practitioners as a volunteer clinical professor at UC Davis School of Medicine.

His field was known as general medicine when he began making house calls in the 1950s after serving as a flight surgeon and Air Force captain in the Korean War. He earned board certification in the new specialty of family medicine in the 1970s and attended continuing education programs until last month.

A Sacramento native, he was a trusted physician and close friend to longtime local families. He was a regular at the Land Park home of Michael P. Virga, an Italian house painter, and went on to be the family doctor as well for Virga’s namesake son and grandson, who both became Superior Court judges.

“He was one of those people you rarely meet in life who was so warm and genuine and caring,” said Michael P. Virga’s granddaughter Julie. “My grandfather was an immigrant and (Dr. Chinn’s) father was an immigrant. Somehow they met, and the families have been connected all this time.”

Like many first-generation Americans, Dr. Chinn was raised by parents who valued education as the key to a better life. He was born Nov. 19, 1925, to Leong See and Ned Chinn, a businessman who owned several grocery stores and was a leader in the Chinese American community.

After graduating from McClatchy High School in 1944, he attended Sacramento Junior College (now Sacramento City College) and graduated from UC Berkeley. (It was the same path followed by his siblings, who went on to careers in education, engineering and medicine.) He earned his medical degree at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and met his wife, Lily, a chemistry teacher, during Air Force training in San Antonio.

The couple raised five children who followed the family tradition of higher education and professional careers. After completing studies at American River College, their three sons and two daughters graduated from UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UCLA and Stanford University. Four became physicians, and one was a teacher who now works in medical office management.

A Carmichael resident, Dr. Chinn was active in medical groups and Fremont Presbyterian Church in Sacramento. He enjoyed traveling with relatives to the family’s ancestral village in China.

“He had seen so much illness and sadness as physician, and it gave him so much compassion for people in all walks of life,” said his daughter Susan Amaturo. “I was proud to walk with him in the hospital, and he knew all the technicians, maintenance people and orderlies by name. He said, ‘These are the important people here.’ 

Besides his wife of 59 years and Amaturo, Dr. Chinn is survived by another daughter, Rebecca Spears; three sons, Franklin Jr., Bertram and Norman; two sisters, Florence Loui and Carolyn Gan; a brother, Holland; and nine grandchildren.

A wake is set for 4 to 7 p.m. todayat Nicoletti, Culjis & Herberger Funeral Home, 5401 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento. A funeral will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Fremont Presbyterian Church, 5770 Carlson Drive, Sacramento.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Asian Community Center Nursing Home, 7801 Rush River Drive, Sacramento 95831; to scholarship funds endowed by Dr. Chinn and his family at Los Rios Community College District, UC Berkeley, University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, UC Davis Department of Family and Community Medicine; or any charity.


Call The Bee’s Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Davila.

Read more articles by Robert D. Dávila



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