Jordan Ruboy, 85, ‘old fashioned’ pediatrician at MGH

In addition to his caring bedside manner, Dr. Ruboy was known for having impeccable manners and spotless attire.
In addition to his caring bedside manner, Dr. Ruboy was known for having impeccable manners and spotless attire.

Dapper and gentle, Dr. Jordan S. Ruboy cared for generations of children at his private pediatrics practice in Concord and at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was on staff for 50 years. He went on house calls, soothed the anxieties of generations of parents, and wept openly when a child died.

“He really was an absolutely special person, a totally dedicated professional,” said his spouse, Richard Milstein, a Boston attorney who was with him for more than 48 years. “He was the old-fashioned doctor who took care of his patients.”

Dr. Ruboy, who was 85, and Milstein, 87, married five days before Dr. Ruboy died in Mass. General July 20 of complications of cancer and renal failure.


“It was his wish,” said Milstein, who went to Boston City Hall to get the license while the staff at Mass. General made preparations for the ceremony conducted by Rabbi Howard Berman of the Central Reform Temple in the Back Bay, where Dr. Ruboy was a member.

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They did not have a glass handy to break under heels as a symbol of the fragility of life and support for each other through hard times. Instead, they crushed a plastic hospital cup together with their hands, Rabbi Berman said.

“I have done about 3,000 weddings and this was one of the most powerful and inspiring ceremonies I’ve ever done,” Rabbi Berman said.

Born in Taunton, Dr. Ruboy knew when he was young that he wanted to become a doctor, he told friends.

He graduated from the Boston University School of Medicine in 1955 and served from 1956 to 1958 in the US Army Medical Corps in Texas.


Dr. Ruboy returned to the Boston area and worked in private practice at Concord Hillside Pediatrics. He also was a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School and Northeastern University.

“He was very much loved by his patients,” said Dr. Nancy Hendrie, a pediatrician who worked with him at Hillside for 28 years.

In addition to his caring bedside manner, Dr. Ruboy was known for his “impeccable manners” and spotless attire.

“He typified the best of that era when you practiced old-fashioned medicine,” Hendrie said. “He was part of the community. He was very involved with not just the children but their families. You went to the children’s school conferences. If they went to court, you went to court. You weren’t on a time clock. You were expected to be there and you wanted to be there.”

A few days before Dr. Ruboy’s death, she visited him at the hospital. They chatted about a shared sense of having been pediatricians during “a golden age” of medicine before managed care, she said.


“I was never sued. Jordan was never sued. It was a completely different era,” Hendrie said. “He was very fortunate to be the best of the best when you were able to practice medicine in a human fashion.”

Sometimes parents needed Dr. Ruboy more than their child. He once went on a house call around 3 a.m. when a frantic mother phoned about two sick children, according to Milstein. Dr. Ruboy discovered that the children were fine. Their mother, however, needed a edative, he said.

Michael Talbot of Concord, who with his wife, Marie, has three children, recounted the devoted care Dr. Ruboy provided to their family.

“He was always incredibly supportive and helpful,” Michael Talbot said. “He just had a way of making you feel confident as a parent. He would give advice in such a way you hardly knew you were getting advice. He understood being a parent was not always easy or automatic.”

He added that when families had financial woes, Dr. Ruboy waived his fee: “He would oftentimes put on the top of an appointment bill, ‘No charge.’ He did a lot of that.”

When the couple’s third child, a son, was born seven weeks premature, they named him Paul Jordan in honor of Dr. Ruboy.

“That was a very scary time, but he was always there checking with us,” Talbot said.

Paul, the once-tiny boy whom Dr. Ruboy cared for graduated from Hofstra University in New York this year with a music degree and will sing during a tribute to Dr. Ruboy at 1 p.m. Sept. 8 in the Boston Center for Adult Education.

Dr. Ruboy was on the center’s board of directors for 23 years. As chairman for four years, Dr. Ruboy led efforts to rehabilitate its Commonwealth Avenue Gamble mansion in preparation for its sale in 2007. Classes are now held at a new headquarters on Arlington Street in Boston, where students spend time in the Jordan S. Ruboy Reading Room.

“The BCAE is a stronger institution today due to the leadership, dedication, generosity, and passion of Jordan,” the center’s executive director Susie Brown said in a statement. “We will forever be indebted to him for all he has done for this institution and his commitment to education and lifelong learning.”

Dr. Ruboy was the only child of Jean and Samuel Ruboy, and his father was president of the Standard Fruit Co. for 35 years.

He went to prep school at Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania. Dr. Ruboy graduated with a bachelor’s degree from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., followed by a master’s in 1951 from Boston University, and then medical school.

Milstein met Dr. Ruboy at a party in Lexington. They both were dedicated to their careers. Milstein was a key founder of Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education in 1969.

In retirement they traveled internationally and spent winters in Palm Beach, Fla., where Dr. Ruboy was a member of the Palm Beach Society of the Four Arts and the Palm Beach Yacht Club. “We enjoyed doing the same sort of things,” Milstein said. “It was a good life.”

Dr. Ruboy was devoted to the arts, Milstein said. When he was in medical school, he and two other residents shared a season ticket to the Boston Symphony Orchestra. When he became a professional, Dr. Ruboy supported the BSO as a Higginson Society member.

He also served on the board of the Boston Lyric Opera and was a member of the advisory committee of the department of musical instruments at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

J.M. Lawrence can be reached at