William B. Linenberg

Oral Surgeon and long-time Westfield resident

William “Bill” Bernard Linenberg passed peacefully on the evening of May 3rd surrounded by family members at the home of his daughter in Haddonfield, NJ, where he resided for the past seven years. Bill and his wife Gerry (who predeceased him on December 19, 2020) made Westfield their home for more than 50 years where they raised five children and he practiced oral surgery. Although the nameplate on his office door formally said William B. Linenberg, DDS,MSD (initially at Lenox Avenue in 1963 before relocating to East Broad Street in 1969), he was affectionately known as “Doc” to the thousands of patients under his care for 40-plus years. And for those who loved him and knew him best, he was known as “Bill”, “Billy”, “Dad”, “Dzia Dzia”, and “Granddad”.

Born and raised in Philadelphia by Rose (née Schlichtman) and Max Linenberg during the depths of the Great Depression with sisters Selma and Lillian, Bill’s childhood was a modest one. During his formative years which occurred under the shadows of World War II, Bill focused on his academic studies having come to the realization that hard work combined with honesty and humility would allow him to achieve his goal of becoming a dentist (a profession which he apparently set his sights on in 4th grade!). Bill balanced his academic pursuits with his love for scouting where he attained the rank of Eagle Scout with Bronze Palm. He was recognized for his accomplishments with an all-expense paid trip to the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico – an unparalleled experience for a 16 year old boy in 1947 who had never ventured far from inner city Philadelphia! After four years at Philadelphia’s prestigious Central High School, Bill was admitted to the University of Pennsylvania in 1949. However, due to his family’s financial circumstances, Bill had to drop out of college after one and a half years without a degree. Despite the setback, Bill was more determined than ever to succeed. Following an intense period of personal study, Bill passed the entrance examination for Temple University’s School of Dentistry and matriculated in 1951. During his four years at Temple’s School of Dentistry, Bill was an outstanding student and strong leader as evidenced by numerous accolades including election to Omicron Kappa Upsilon, assistant editor of the yearbook, and president of the school’s honorary medical society.

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After graduating from Temple in 1955, Bill enlisted in the US Army as part of the Dental Corps and was based at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C. It was there that he met the love of his life, Geraldine Redzinak, a First Lieutenant dietician. Within a year, Bill and Gerry married on December 28, 1957 in her hometown of Roselle, NJ at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church. Shortly thereafter, Bill started his residency in oral surgery at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia where he also was a member of the faculty of Emory University’s School of Dentistry. During his residency, Bill became certified in anesthesiology, which would turn out to be very useful for his subsequent position in the US Army Dental Corps as post oral surgeon at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Georgia which began in 1960.

During his second stint in the army, Bill continued his graduate work which led to a Master of Dental Science degree in oral surgery from the Graduate School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania in 1961. Bill’s years of research and published papers in his field culminated in his landmark study — “The Clinical Evaluation of Dexamethasone in Oral Surgery” – which was presented in 1962 to the American Society of Oral Surgeons and won first prize at their annual conference. His research was published in 1965 in the Journal of Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, and Oral Pathology and helped create the postoperative protocol that oral surgeons use today. Bill’s landmark study has endured the test of time as it is still taught today as part of the classic literature of oral surgery and continues to be cited in new studies. In 1963, Captain William B. Linenberg received the Army Commendation Medal for meritorious service. Although this spelled the end of active duty for Bill, he remained an officer in the US Army Reserve for another two decades.

Bill never forgot where he came from, yet he always knew where he was going, and generously supported others along the way. He believed that a strong education was what made good things in life possible, a legacy that he not only instilled in his five children, but reinforced with the utmost support to ensure their success. Away from the office, Bill’s passion was gardening – whether mowing the lawn, tending to his roses, or trimming the hedges, he truly had a green thumb (his plant and tree taxonomy were encyclopedic!). Bill was also very handy around the house – not surprising for a surgeon with steady hands – but certainly a skill that is essential for the maintenance and upkeep of an old Westfield Victorian! And while these activities provided him with the downtime he sought from his busy surgery schedule, Bill was happiest around family. Whether during the holidays, or at graduations, weddings, and other special occasions, or trips to Daytona Beach Shores, a special destination that Bill and Gerry discovered in the late 1950s, Bill’s time spent with family was what he appreciated more than anything else.

Bill lived a full life, measured not only by the number of his 93 years but also by the tremendous impact he had on the others he cared so much about. While we are saddened by his passing, his legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of the latest generation to perpetuate his ideals, namely his 14 grandchildren who he dearly loved.

Bill is survived by his sister Lillian Cohen of Delray Beach, FL; his sister-in-law, Rosemarie Win (and her husband Maung Hia) of Neenah, WI; his nieces Donna Spencer (and her husband Steve) of St. Simons Island, GA, Mary Copeland (and her husband Ron) of Shorewood, MN, Eileen Baker of Cheltenham, PA, and Kim Cohen (and her husband Howard Brown) of Toronto, Canada; his nephews Peter Davidson (and his wife Anne) of Mountainside, NJ and Brett Cohen (and his wife Phebe) of Canton, GA; his five children Mr. David Linenberg of Scotch Plains, NJ, Mrs. Karen Kurtz (and her husband Steven) of Haddonfield, NJ, Mr. Michael Linenberg of Westfield, NJ, Mr. Mark Linenberg (and his wife Konnie) of Atlanta, GA, Mr. Eric Linenberg (and his wife Courtney) of Westfield, NJ; and his 14 grandchildren (Katie, Peter, Michael, Sophia, Andrew, Lance, Anna, Spencer, Cameron, Brody, Max, Sam, Joey, and Alexis).

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Bill’s name to Operation Smile, a provider of safe surgery for those in need: http://support.operationsmile.org/goto/drwilliamlinenberg

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