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Celebrating the life of

Dr. Richard F. Leighton

Passed away on February 05, 2023

Dr. Richard F. Leighton

To view the service, please click on the following link.


Dr. Richard Frederick Leighton, a cardiologist who practiced medicine for more than 60 years and served as dean of the School of Medicine at the the Medical College of Ohio (now the University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences) in the 1990s, died Sunday, Feb. 5, in Savannah, Ga., at the age of 91.

Dr. Leighton was struck by a vehicle on Feb. 1 while walking across a street in downtown Savannah and never recovered from the brain trauma he suffered. He died at Memorial Health, a Savannah hospital where he had trained medical residents until the last few years.

To his patients, he was a healer. To his colleagues, he was a mentor. To his three children, he was a role model.

In 1951, Dr. Leighton received a bachelor’s degree from Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College), where he met the love of his life, Frances Virginia Scaggs. He earned a medical degree from the University of Maryland in 1955. He completed an internship at University Hospital in Baltimore between 1955 and 1956.

From there, he served with the United States Navy School of Aviation Medicine in Pensacola, Fla., beginning in 1956 and became a U.S. Navy Flight surgeon of the Airborne Early Warning Squadron One (VW-1), initially based in Hawaii and later on Guam. It was in the Naval Hospital on Guam that Richard and Fran Leighton’s first child, Kimberly Ann, was born in 1958.

Dr. Leighton initially took an interest in cardiology after his father had suffered a series of heart attacks in his 60s. He began his career in academia in 1965 at The Ohio State University and became director of the coronary care unit from 1968 to 1969. He was the director of the cardiac catheterization laboratories from 1970 to 1974.

He then moved to the Medical College of Ohio in Toledo, where he enjoyed a long and successful career. Hired as a professor of medicine and chief of cardiology in 1974, he taught in that capacity for 16 years. He eventually became vice president of academic affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, serving in that capacity until 1997, when he relocated to Savannah for “retirement.”

While finding time to swim, bike, golf, kayak, and play tennis, he continued to practice medicine and train the next generation of doctors. He joined the Mercer University School of Medicine in 1998 as a cardiologist and professor of medicine. He also chaired the Memorial Health  University Medical Center institutional review board for 20 years between 1998 and 2018. He was medical director of the Center for Heart Disease Prevention at St. Joseph’s Candler Health System in Savannah from 2007 to 2015.

Dr. Leighton was the author or coauthor of more than 90 publications in the field of cardiovascular medicine and the author of six books: Dear Folks: A Memoir from 500 Letters in 2016, From Guam and Beyond: Stories of the Men of VW-1 in 2018, Reflections of a Hessian in 2019, 80 Poems by Two Octogenarians in 2020, Elder Verse in 2021, and My Family, Your Family in 2022.

He traveled widely and developed a passion for French cooking, despite his lifelong devotion to a low-salt, nonfat diet.

He was born on Feb. 27, 1931, to Herbert Cale Leighton and Leona Ronelva (Houck) Leighton, in Oakland, Md. His older brother, Dr. Herbert Houck Leighton, an obstetrician who delivered 6,410 babies in a career that lasted over 40 years in Oakland, died in 2018 at the age of 88.

The Leighton brothers were raised in a funeral home, a business their father operated out of their large brick house in Oakland. It was a family enterprise with young Richard playing the piano during services. His mother helped arrange the hair of the deceased.

Dr. Leighton recalled that growing up with a funeral parlor on the first floor and caskets stored on the second floor wasn’t as grim as it might seem. “If I ever needed a pillow,” he once said, “I always knew I could borrow one from one of the caskets.”

In the 1950s, when Dr. Herbert Leighton was delivering babies and Herbert Cale Leighton was still working as a funeral director, it was said in Garrett County, Md., that the Leightons “got everybody coming and going.” Dr. Richard Leighton briefly helped his brother with his practice before deciding that delivering babies was too much work.

Dr. Leighton is survived by a daughter, Kimberly Leighton Wolboldt, MD, MPH, of Woodforest, Texas, and two sons, Brian Leighton of Philadelphia and Fred Leighton of Fort Atkinson, Wis. His wife of 55 years, Frances Scaggs Leighton, died in 2009. He had three grandchildren, Fran Leighton of Houston; Abigail Leighton, a senior at Yale University; and Henry Leighton, a sophomore at Wesleyan University, and one great-granddaughter, Layla Berlin Rothwell.

In the last 13 years, Sylvia Kleiman Fields, a nurse, educator, and author, became his partner and companion, enriching his life by her presence.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, at Skidaway Island United Methodist Church, 54 Diamond Causeway, Savannah, Ga. 31411. Friends and family can call from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday at Fox & Weeks Funeral Directors, 7200 Hodgson Memorial Drive, Savannah, Ga. 31406.


In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Richard F. and Frances S. Leighton Scholarship at or 4510 Dorr St., MS #820 Toledo, OH 43615-4040. Or emails can be sent to




Sincere condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Richard Leighton from a friend of his brother Dr. Herbert Leighton who is also deceased.

- Joan Lambert, Oakland , MD

When I was a medical resident at Ohio State in 1982, faculty encouraged me to apply for a fellowship at the Medical College of Ohio, where Dr. Leighton was Chief. It was clear that OSU docs held him in high regard. He offered me a position, starting my 41 year career in cardiovascular medicine. He was both brilliant and humble. One day as a fellow in training, I was struggling to understand a complex formula to calculate how much the heart was pumping with each beat. He was sitting nearby, so I asked him if he knew the formula and could explain it to me. He said he understood the formula and helped me solve the problem. It was only later that I noticed the author of the paper defining the formula: Richard F. Leighton, MD. He hadn't bothered to point that out. After he did a sabbatical in France, he arranged for me to follow in his footsteps, connecting me with Jean Marco, MD, a true pioneer in the new technique called angioplasty. Dr. Leighton facilitated the arrangement in which I finished my fellowship under Dr. Marco's world-class mentorship in Toulouse, France. After that I had the privilege of joining the Cardiovascular faculty at MCO with Dr. Leighton as Chief. He set a trajectory for the Division that lasted for decades. What a role model!

- Mark Burket, Maumee, OH

Your father and grandfather was an amazing man. Both as a colleague and friend, he is unforgettable. He and your mother remained dear friends for years after I moved away. Thank you for sharing him with the world. His contributions to his patients, students, colleagues, and friends will stay with them for as long as they live. What an inspiration he will continue to be! I can see his smile and hear his laugh now. Kathy

- Kathy Franco Bronson, Cleveland , Ohio

Prayers for Sylvia and Richard’s children. Barbara and I always enjoyed her Uncle Dick’s visits when he came to Oakland. He and Sylvia were a joy to talk to. He truly was a gentleman and a scholar

- Mark Salsgiver, Oakland , MD

With my broken heart, and the sadness of not having seen him, my memory is eternal, my gratitude for everything received from his hands and from his family lives eternally in me and my children, I only have the security that his soul rest in the spring of the crystal clear waters of heaven.

- Dario Vanegas , Cali (colombia), Colombia

My husband and I lived at The Landings where I was fortunate to know your parents. I am an artist who they commissioned to paint in their home. We together planned the unusual, colorful, and fun mural in a small powder bathroom. They had a wonderful home and great art collection. We became friends through the process and I treasure the time we spent together. I’m so sorry for the terrible accident that led to your father’s death. Prayers to your family.

- Becky Frame, Madison , Mississippi

My sincere condolences to your entire family. I was shocked when I received the sad news. Rachel and I were always appreciating the new books that were released right before Christmas and sent to us to Germany (every year). I am glad Rachel can be there with you during this difficult Time and me and my family are sending you love and our best wishes from Germany. Dan.

- Dan Reese, Munich, Germany.

Services under the direction of:

Fox & Weeks Funeral Directors, Hodgson Chapel