William Martin Stahl, M.D., a surgeon and professor of medicine who was considered a master teacher by his peers and legions of students and residents whom he trained, died at home in Larchmont, N.Y., on Dec. 22, at the age of 90. His family described his death as natural and peaceful.
Dr. Stahl was a scientist, whose medical publications numbered in the hundreds, a physician who had dedicated himself to quality care for the poor, and a lifelong musician. In Montauk, where he bought property 45 years ago, he loved the ocean and swam as often as possible. He also had enjoyed surfcasting.
He was born on Nov. 6, 1922, in Danbury, Conn., to William M. Stahl and the former Isabel Sarah Walker, and knew from the time he was 12 that he wanted to be a doctor like his father. He attended Dartmouth College and Harvard Medical School, graduating from each in three years under an accelerated program. He was then commissioned as a captain in the Army Medical Corps and stationed on the Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands under the United States Atomic Energy Commission. There, he became the only doctor for nearly 1,000 men and directed a mobile surgical hospital.
Returning to civilian life in 1952, Dr. Stahl did his residency at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. He then had a surgical practice in Danbury and went on to become an associate professor and vice chairman of surgery at the Vermont Medical School. In 1966, he joined the faculty of the New York University Medical School. From then until his retirement in 1997, he was engaged as a professor or director of surgery at several New York City institutions, including New York Medical College, Metropolitan Hospital, and Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center. According to his family, his early work at Bellevue “opened his eyes to what was possible and seeded his desire to teach and conduct research.”
In Montauk, Dr. Stahl first lived adjacent to Gurney’s Inn on the bluffs. He and his first wife, Alice Miller, then bought a large, wild tract on the ocean, south of Deep Hollow Ranch. Moving their three small structures there was said to be quite an endeavor, with a three-quarters-of-a-mile-long road having to be cut through the brush and utility lines lifted to allow the buildings to pass along Old Montauk Highway. Some of the property was used by Deep Hollow Ranch for grazing, but the tract was eventually divided. One parcel, between the Stahls’ and the Warhol Estate, was donated to the Nature Conservancy. In more recent years, Dr. Stahl sold that property and moved back to Old Montauk Highway, with a house at Davis Drive that also has an ocean view. His family plans a memorial gathering there in early summer.
Greg Donahue of East Hampton, who met Dr. Stahl in Montauk in the early 1970s and said they would stop to have “nice chats” for the next 30 years, remarked that he was an honorable and delightful man. “Just to think of Bill puts a smile on my face,” he said.
Dr. Stahl played the clarinet and sang in a band at Dartmouth College called Barbary Coast. He later played clarinet with the Hudson Valley Wind Symphony and soprano sax with the Westchester Saxophone Quartet. His true love, his family said, was the tenor sax, which he played for 15 years with the Wednesday Night Big Band.
Dr. Stahl is survived by his wife, Patricia Maloney, and their children, Matyas Stahl and Elizabet Stahl, of Larchmont and Montauk. Also surviving are his children from his first marriage, William M. (Skip) Stahl III of Portland, Me., Katherine A. Stahl of Washington, D.C., and Springs, Sarah Jaffe Turnbull of Bridgehampton, and Elizabeth Stahl Parkinson of Phoenix. A brother, Frederick A. Stahl of Boston, also survives, as do seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. In addition to his first wife, Dr. Stahl was predeceased by his second wife, Mary Elizabeth Stahl, and by a son, Jonathan Stahl.