Remembering Dr. Henry J. Heimlich

Heimlich died on December 17, 2016, after complications from a heart attack. He was 96 years old. Through his many innovations, including the Heimlich Maneuver to save people who are choking, it’s believed that Dr. Heimlich has saved hundreds of thousands of lives. A memorial was held in his honor on February 3, 2017, his birthday. Below are remembrances from those who loved him.

15 Replies to “Remembering Dr. Henry J. Heimlich”


    When we lived in New Rochelle and my son David was ill we met with Dr. Heimlich. This was in 1958, and David was 11 months old. Dr.H. told us the field of thoracic surgery was new. But he took an xray and found a spot on David’s lung. He then operated and found staff pneumonia and removed 1/3 of his lung. David recovered beautifully. He is now 59 and healthy.
    We owe so much to Dr. Heimlich and will never forget him. I live in Connecticut or I would be at the memorial. Thanks you for contacting me and my sympathy to all the family. By the way, we also have 2 sons and twin daughters!

  2. Ellen says:

    In 1968, my cousin, Hank, WAS my ninth grade science class project. Hank graciously agreed to explain and demonstrate how to use the chest valve he had invented. I received an A! Hank’s medical contributions will live on in the years to come. He will be missed by the lives he touched and those who loved him.

  3. Jill Russell says:

    I worked for Dr Heimlich when the Heimlich Institute was at Xavier University. I was a young, naive, insecure female trying to figure out life. Henry, (I was never comfortable calling him Hank), took me under his wing and mentored me and taught me how to think critically… about life and science. He and Jane took me into their family and it is through their example that I found the courage to go on to college, graduate school and eventually get a PhD in neuroscience. Now, I am a professor, and I use the same methods that Henry taught me to help others find their passion and go for it! What a very special, and brilliant man.

  4. Donnalee Sarda says:

    For Janet and Family… I’m so sorry. How wonderful you had each other for so long,and knew each other so well. That is a blessing. Be well.
    Donnalee Sarda, Phoenix

  5. Sonia Schorr Sloan says:

    The entire Heimlich family has played an important and long standing part of my life and that of my family. Henry was born in my home town of Wilmington, Delaware, where hus father was head of the YM YW Hebrew Association. My family became close friends then and it has continued ever since. Henry’s parents were Aunt Mary and Uncle Phil to me. I remember when Henry’s sister Cele stopped to visit my house with Uncle Phil when she was driving him to Cincinatti to live with Henry and Jane. They called Henry and when I talked with him, he described to me his new idea, The Heimlich Manuver! Little did I know the full impact of that. I stayed in touch with the family and in later years there was only Henry. My memories of him, of Cele and Aunt Mary and Uncle Phil are ones I treasure and hold close to my heart.
    And now I have connected with Janet and the Heimlich connection continues.

  6. Izzy says:

    I had the great privilege of speaking with Dr. Heimlich in October on the phone. He told me that his hope for the future was to leave a “more perfect world,” one that cherishes peace and progress. I will remember these words and his work always.

  7. John Starley Allen says:

    I had the great honor of interviewing Dr. Heimlich. I found him to be a humble man with an intense passion for saving lives. His lasting legacy will be the number of lives saved because of him.

  8. Lila Karpf says:

    It was my privilege to work first with Jane Heimlich as her agent. It was trough her that I first met Hank years ago, at his request, during the couple’s visit to New York. It was then that Hank first raised the idea with me of his writing an autobiography. It was some time later before we actually began work on that project. I was,and remain,deeply sorry that his son decided to pull me from working with Hank on the story of his five medical breakthroughs, including of course the Maneuver. I wanted very much to say to Hank how deeply sorry I was to leave that work unfinished, but could not find a way to do that without criticizing his son — a classic dilemma.

    Hank and Jane were gentle and honorable, and wonderfully devoted to one another and to their work. Hank’s work in particular — and not only the famous Maneuver — will continue to benefit so many thousands of people for many decades to come. What a benevolent legacy!

    Hank and Jane have been, and remain, in my prayers. God rest their immortal souls.

    Lila Karpf
    Literary Managment

  9. Anthony Al-Jamie says:

    I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Heimlich and interview him for the Tokyo Journal. He started the interview by saying I sometimes have trouble with my memory so I brought my sister Cele…she is 100 years old. She was funny and sharp as can be! In preparation for the interview I read his book and I was extremely impressed by all he did for the world. The maneuver itself has saved so many lives. However, what I did not know before reading his book was that his chest drain valve also saved many thousands of lives and that he was the first North American surgeon to perform an organ transplant and so much more.
    My condolences to the family.
    Anthony Al-Jamie

  10. Sukey Purdy Molloy says:

    My recollections of Dr. & Mrs. Heimlich (Uncle Hank and Aunt Jane as we were invited to call them) are from my early childhood and lasted into my twenties. The Heimlich’s opened their home to my sister and me during the many long hours of tennis and sailing that our parents enjoyed together, not to mention the many dinners and outings we all shared. I remember how engaging Uncle Hank was, always encouraging us to question and to think, even sometimes putting us on the spot to try something new and creative. I also remember his broad smile and infectious laugh, and the many hours we spent at his home with his dear wife Jane, and their beautiful four children. Dr. Heimlich’s death brings to a close a lifelong journey into medicine, and it is clear his contributions to the medical community, and the public as a whole, will long remain a profound measure of his determined commitment, and the amazing devotion of his family throughout. Sukey Purdy Molloy

  11. Sonia Daoud says:

    Please accept my sincere condolences for your loss. I am happy I had the chance to get to know your dad. I will always remember Henry with his warm smile & great enthusiasm. I know you are very proud of his accomplishments and contributions. He will be missed by many.
    With deepest sympathy. Sonia Daoud

  12. Karen Gromada says:

    I first “met” Dr. Heimlich when I was a student nurse (SN) at the Jewish Hospital School of Nursing in Cincinnati. During our surgical rotation, a few of us were assigned to his operating room (OR) not long after Dr. Heimlich arrived at the hospital as Direct of Surgery. We’d been made aware of Dr. Heimlich’s fame for developing a surgery that created a new esophagus from a patient’s stomach, and we puny SNs were nervous wrecks entering “his” OR. We did our best to go unnoticed, but Dr. Heimlich was nothing if not the consummate teacher. He noticed us and welcomed us to the OR. Although he gently challenged us with questions, he did so in a way that never derided or patronized. He did so in a way that let us know he wanted us to think for ourselves, to apply the knowledge we were learning, to expand on classroom lectures or text book information. I have NEVER forgotten those brief hours in that OR. I have never forgotten how someone famous in his field noticed and made welcome those who truly were insignificant in that room on that day. Of course, Dr. Heimlich later became even more famous for the Heimlich Maneuver, got to know his son Phil and interviewed his wonderful wife Jane for an article in a newsletter I published for mothers of multiple-birth children. But when I think of Dr. Henry Heimlich, I think of that morning in the OR. Thank you, Dr. Heimlich. You cannot imagine the long-lasting impression you made on me that day. I truly will never forget it or you…

  13. Ingrid Newkirk, president, PETA says:

    Dr. Heimlich was so kind and a dear friend of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, helping us combat the needless use of dogs and other animals to test already proven and accepted life-saving practices. We admired him for many years and he graciously told his story in my book, “One Can Make a Difference.” He certainly made a difference that saved so many lives. He will be missed at PETA.

  14. Melinda Zemper says:

    I met Dr. Heimlich only four years ago, but was impressed and inspired immediately by his brilliance and zest for life. He was passionate and engaged in promoting his medical inventions and the Heimlich Maneuver, and was a charismatic teacher who could explain complicated medical concepts quite simply. Dr. Heimlich was one of the great minds of a great generation, and we will be hard pressed to find another with such a burning passion to use his talents to save lives.

    What is the tally today of all the lives he has saved? The numbers have to be over 100,000 and rising just with the Maneuver alone; and they will only continue to grow. What a wonderful legacy. He lived a completely useful life.

    The Heimlichs overall are an exceptional family; I especially admire the Heimlich children, who were lovingly devoted to his care and comfort and modeled the love, respect and care we should provide to all our aging parents.

    Godspeed, Dr. Heimlich!

  15. Meg Davis (Griffith) says:

    I will always remember dear Henry as a welcoming and naturally witty man. I could usually find him swamped in papers as he sat working his way through research on the sun room couch. Whenever I was able to sit with him
    I would ask lots of medical questions about his research and discoveries. He never softened any technical terms or simplified things but talked with me on an equal footing. I learned a tremendous amount
    about diverse branches of medicine, information which has carried me through to this day.

    As for his quick wit and humor, I’ll never forget the night he was on the Johnny Carson show. It was running late and down to the last 5 minutes when Henry was quickly introduced. I’m sure Carson was expecting a sober and serious discussion but, in just a minute or two, Henry had Carson laughing so hard it brought tears to his eyes. In all of Carson’s shows Henry was one of those very rare people who surprised Johnny so much he was speechless.

    I will always cherish my times with the Heimlich family and I wish you all comfort and peace as you remember this great man whom you shared with the world.

    Most Sincerely,
    Meg Davis (Griffith)

Comments are closed.