Throughout our lives we have always been either introduced or asked if we are Dr. Kalani’s sons or daughter. I guess my first understanding of what that meant came on the first day of kindergarten. I was surrounded by all these kids and I didn’t know any of them, waiting in line with name tags pinned to our shirts. As the teacher read your name, she then told you to sit at an assigned desk. When it came to my turn she said ‘I’m Mrs. Tomasello, your teacher and are you Dr. Kalani’s son?” I said “yes” and she smiled and said “your dad saved my life!” I then sat down next to the biggest kid in class and he said to me “hey, your dad is my doctor!” At that point I thought, wow school is going to be great! Stories like this continued throughout my brothers’ and sister’s lives. Each story leading with a smile and heartfelt gratitude. Even years after retirement, no matter where we went, there was a voice out of the crowd “Dr. Kalani!” which proceeded with a story and a large smile.
Our father stated many times that a major part of his success as a doctor was because of his nurses and staff. From coming out of medical school with very little English and experience, he appreciated their guidance and assistance every day. When he started his residency, he was thrown into surgeries right away with very little English learned. He explained that the nurses guided his communication aided with smiles and gestures. Even in his last few weeks, when we would take him for a treatment, he would find the little energy he had to tell them they were doing a great job. And when we ran into any of the nurses or staff that worked with him, we were met with the same smile and gratitude.
We were also introduced as sons and daughter of Amo Mehdi (Iranian for uncle on father’s side), Daee Mehdi (uncle on mother’s side), and Mehdi Joon (“Dear Mehdi”) to our family and friends from Iran. Our father’s parents both passed away before he was 11 years old and he was raised by his brother and three sisters, my father being the youngest. He learned early on that no matter what, nothing is more important than family and friends and always hug and kiss your brothers and sister! Our father was the first of his family to come to the U.S. from Iran and made sure that if any family who wanted to come, they were always welcomed to stay with us. He didn’t believe family should stay in hotels, we will always make room and he loved large meals with family and friends at home.
I had asked my father what made him come to the U.S. He said at graduation he saw students in the hallway filling out forms for intern openings in the U.S. and didn’t think it was going to happen, but filled them out anyway. He received an offer; he asked his brother Hassan if he could pay for his plane ticket and bus ticket. The offer was $40/month, 3 uniforms, free food, and a cot in the hospital. He thought he’d try that for the experience and then go back to Iran, which he deeply loved.
Then he met our mother, a student nurse at St. John’s and fell immediately in love and was married in 1962. Their love, friendship, and never-ending support in one another was seen by all throughout every phase of their life. Truly an inspiration. All of the strength and confidence he gained was because he had his wife, Barbara, to encourage him to be himself, care for others, and know that his family would be here waiting for him to come home every day. She was his voice and she managed our daily lives, while opening our eyes and experiences to the beautiful things this world has to offer. She gave him the freedom to focus on being a great doctor and a father who stressed family values. The both of them became the ultimate grandparents. After retirement there was plenty of time and patience to spend with grandkids.
He concentrated on making sure they understood where to find the love inside their hearts for family and friends, while our mother would open up the unlimited possibilities to look for the love of life itself. Our dad was always the first to raise a glass at the dinner table and cheers to his family in good health. He greeted everyone with kisses on both cheeks and was never shy of the dance floor. His grandchildren will always remember his humor and funny dance moves.
Early on, our father while interning and residency in NYC received three offers from hospitals.
Our parents chose to come to Hammonton, NJ. They found Hammonton early on to be a town predominantly of Italian immigrants starting their lives a generation or two before our fathers.
He recognized early on they had strong family traditions that he related to in Iran. He and our mother were warmly welcomed and made lifelong friends with the people of Hammonton.
Friendships grew fondly for our parents within Hammonton and although my father loved and missed Iran and would return for 6-8 weeks each year after retirement, he believed Hammonton was his home now and he felt he had become an important part of it. He loved and cherished his friendships he developed the last 56 years.
Our father was always at the hospital, but our childhood time together usually spent working with him around the yard raking leaves. We would spend hours raking leaves with him in the front of the house and every two minutes someone would beep and yell, “Dr. Kalani!” from their cars as they drove by. He would wave back and we would say “Dad, whose that?” He would respond,” I don’t know” but he’d smile and make sure he waved back.
The last few years our father would sit out front of his house here in Hammonton every day. At 4 pm, he would ask his lovely wife to make him his vodka tonic. He would enjoy his drink with his view, and with his very limited hearing call each of his children and grandchildren. He couldn’t hear if they answered the phone, and would proceed to just say “Hello it’s daddy or poppop, I love you, I hope you are happy, bye-bye” and then hang up regardless if it was them on the other line or voice mail because he couldn’t hear back. He would then finish his drink and say to himself and sometimes to his nephew Abbas, “I am now in Kashan, Iran” remembering his childhood.
Although our father wished for an immediate family only service, we understand how many people he has impacted and wanted to find a way to pay their respects. We believe the following values really encompass our father’s approach to life and we would love to share them with everyone...
For those of you who have brothers and sisters, always find a way to hug and kiss them.
For those of you who have grandparents present, spend time with them to discuss the basics of life which haven’t changed in hundreds of years; love, life, loss, grief, and friendship. You will get a response made with patience and love and build a strong relationship across family generations.
For those of you who are doctors, thank your nurses and staff every day.
For those of you who live in Hammonton, keep the traditions dear to your heart, invite your neighbors to enjoy, and build lasting friendships.
Although our names are Christopher, Kamran, Paul, and Elizabeth, we respect and greatly appreciate being referred to as Dr. Kalani’s, Amo Mehdi’s, Daee Mehdi’s, Mehdi Joon’s children.
Dr. Mehdi Kalani, M.D.
Loving husband to Barbara of 60 years
Loving father to Christopher (Sharon), Kamran (Mina), Paul (Christina), and Elizabeth (Louie).
Loving grandfather to Alexsandra (Ian), Kristin (Seth), Alison, Cayla, Louie Jr., Paul Jr., Cameron, Dillan, and Rhett.
Dedicated General Surgeon, Kessler Memorial Hospital 1967 to 2004
To leave a condolence, please visit firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arrangements entrusted to the Marinella Funeral Home Inc.