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NJ Couple Honors Memory of Loved One by Helping Others

 4 min read

Bruce and Carol Gooberman’s love story is one borne out of tragedy, loss, and an enduring desire to honor a man they both loved.

Bruce and Carol were part of a closely knit group from Pennsauken, New Jersey—youth that grew up riding bikes, playing ball, and just hanging out together, throughout elementary, middle, and high school. They even stayed in touch in college and beyond.

Alan Gartzman, Carol’s first husband, was part of that group. The two young men shared the trials and tribulations of getting into, and through, medical school. Alan stayed local, attending the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine; Bruce went to school in Mexico at the University of Juarez, but returned home to do a pediatrics residency at Cooper Hospital in Camden, where he and Alan had rotations together.

Eventually, Alan joined the family practice of his father—the well-respected local physician N. Harry Gartzman, DO—and he and Carol married and had two children, Sheera and Steven. Bruce became the kids’ pediatrician, and the friendship continued.

But life changed drastically for everyone on October 4, 1985. Alan, who was a physician at Kennedy Hospital (now Jefferson Health – New Jersey) in Cherry Hill, was killed in a car accident while on his way home from seeing a patient at a nearby nursing home. Sheera was 4 years old. Steven was just 6 months old.

Bruce was at the hospital the night his friend died. He drove Carol home and helped break the news to Sheera.

While making funeral arrangements, one routine question gave rise to what would grow into a legacy of support for future doctors and nurses and community service.

“The funeral director asked me and my father-in-law, ‘What would you like people to donate to?’ And we looked at each other and said, ‘How about we make a fund in Alan’s name for the hospital?’” recalls Carol.

And so, the Alan Z. Gartzman, DO Memorial Fund was established. Harry became the first chairman of the fund, each year presenting the Alan Z. Gartzman, DO Family Medicine Memorial Award to a graduating resident from the Department of Family Medicine at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine. Another portion of the fund was set aside to support nurse and physician leadership and development programs.

But the story doesn’t end there.

After the funeral, Bruce called Carol regularly to check in on her and the children. He would drop by to help with the kids, and she would make dinner for him. The visits became more frequent, and he became closer with the children, who grew to adore him.

“He was always my friend,” Carol says. “Then that friendship turned into love…”

“And we decided to create a life together,” Bruce says, finishing his wife’s sentence.

They wed on November 5, 1989, and moved into an old Victorian home they had renovated in Haddonfield. A year later, their son, Evan, was born, and then their daughter, Marcy.

The years went by, but the memory of Alan—the husband, and friend, they both loved—never faded. It was out of a desire to keep his memory alive that they decided to expand the fund that bore his name.

In 2016, the Gartzman RN to BSN Scholarship was created to help nurses continue their studies and to encourage lifelong learning and professional development.

“From the time Alan worked as an orderly in the hospital right up to his years as a physician, he loved and respected nurses. He learned from them and valued the work they did,” Carol says. “It just seemed natural to create a fund to benefit nurses.”

In 2013, Harry passed away and Carol and Alan’s son, Steven, stepped in to lead the foundation. Under his direction, the funds reached beyond medical personnel and into the community.

Steven added an educational program to aid those caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. With the help of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Delaware Valley chapter, the hospital ran a six-week course that focused on all aspects of the disease. It was so well-received and well-attended that the program continues today.

In 2015, Steven passed the leadership baton to his brother, Evan—who is now Evan Gooberman, MPH, DO, a 2019 graduate of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, the alma mater of Harry and Alan Gartzman. At his medical school graduation in May, Evan received the Physicians for Social Responsibility’s Soul of Medicine Award for exemplifying respect, compassion, understanding, and integrity in medical care. Under Evan, plans for additional programs, including a lecture series on autism and one on the opioid epidemic, are under way.

“Evan has energy and communication skills,” Bruce says. “He’s the perfect person to take over the leadership of the foundation and help develop it even further.”

We are part of a community, and we share in the values and quality of care that’s being delivered through Jefferson.

Carol Gooberman

“We are part of a community, and we share in the values and quality of care that’s being delivered through Jefferson,” says Carol, explaining that the family recently established the General Patient Assistance Fund to help those who come into the hospital with financial needs.

“It’s for people who just need resources to get through the day, or week, or month—whether it’s medicine, or food, or housing, or clothes,” Bruce says. “This is something that actually reaches individual people on an individual level.”

And it is all in keeping with Alan’s legacy of compassion and his lifelong dream “to provide medical care, social care, and individual care in his community,” Bruce says. “Our first goal was to honor Alan’s memory through establishing the original fund. Now our goal is to build on that by bringing it up to another level.”

And they did. And they are. And they are living happily ever after.