ST. PETERSBURG — When he sat down for a biographical interview in 2005, Dr. Sidney Grau was 87.
The interview, now part of the University of Florida's digital archives, traces the career of a prominent cardiologist.
"Do you know what we had to do when we had Mound Park Hospital?" Dr. Grau asked the interviewer. In the 1950s, he said, the hospital that is now Bayfront Health had only 150 or so beds, not enough to accommodate the crush of winter residents.
"We'd have patients who were ill, we'd have to hospitalize them, but Mound Park Hospital was filled," Dr. Grau said. "Do you know where we used to put some of the patients?
"In the hallway, we had patients in the hallway."
When hall space ran out, the hospital moved patients to the non-air-conditioned Coast Guard barracks further south, Dr. Grau said. The story is one of dozens recalled by the former Mound Park chief-of-staff. Dr. Grau also helped prepare Mound Park's move in 1968 from a city-owned hospital to the not-for-profit known as Bayfront Medical Center.
Dr. Grau, who in 54 years of practice impressed peers as much with a generosity of spirit as his well-regarded medical acumen, died Friday after a lengthy illness. He was 96.
"He had a magnificent mind, a quick sense of humor and a magnificent sense of fair play," said Dr. Michael Slomka, 72, a friend of 40 years. "He was a fine physician who cared deeply about his patients. The medical community is sad, and has been sad for some time, not to have him as a member."
Sidney Grau was born in Pittsburgh in 1917, the son of European immigrants. The family later moved to Cleveland. Dr. Grau graduated from Ohio State University and its medical school. He was interning at the Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago in 1943 when military duty called.
Stationed in Germany during World War II, Dr. Grau served in the Army Medical Corp in the 3rd Army, 8th Armored Division.
For a week in January 1945, the first lieutenant withstood heavy German artillery fire while trying to treat the wounded. His besieged unit in Nennig, Germany, had moved the wounded to a nearby town, then back once Nennig was cleared by the Allies. All the while, he repeatedly refused to go to the rear for rest.
Citing his "display of determination, calmness and outstanding leadership," the Army later awarded Dr. Grau the Bronze Star. In an interview 60 years later about his life, he never mentioned the honor.
After the war, Dr. Grau returned to Reese Hospital for his residency and a cardiology fellowship. Wanting to escape the cold, he and his wife, the former Lillian Brooklyn, moved to Florida in 1948. He worked for nearly a year at what is now the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center, then opened his own office in the St. Petersburg Times building on First Avenue S.
In 1953 he built his own office on Sixth Avenue S, half a block from Mound Park, where he would remain for 50 years. Besides Mound Park, he practiced frequently at Mercy Hospital, then at 1344 22nd St. S, for decades the only primary care facility for African-Americans. In 1963 he became chief-of-staff of both hospitals.
Over the years, Dr. Grau served on the boards of Bayfront and Bay Pines hospitals, Menorah Manor and the Florida Orchestra.
He and his wife traveled widely. Dr. Grau didn't always trust the local cuisine so he packed a jar of peanut butter, just in case.
He took cruises, always seeking to chat with international staff in their native languages.
"He wasn't the 'great doctor,' " said Barry Grau, 64, his son. "He was a very loving man."
On the golf course, Dr. Grau practiced a running joke for decades.
"The golf attendants would put the bags on the golf cart," said Barry Grau. "My dad would say, 'How are you doing?'
"They'd say, 'Fine, Dr. Grau.' "
"He'd say, 'That'll be $35.'"
Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.