Dr. Henry Joseph Zeiter, beloved husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, and uncle, passed peacefully into Eternal Life early Sunday, December 20, 2020. He died of congestive heart failure in his Lodi home, and having said goodbye to his children and grandchildren in the previous days, he took his last breath with his wife, Carol, and daughter Suzie beside him holding his hand. He was 86 years old.
Henry, a pillar of every community to which he belonged, was born in Serhel, Lebanon, on July 31, 1934, to Yousef (Joseph) and Budwyeh (Antoinette) Zeiter and was baptized a Maronite (Eastern rite) Catholic in the village church. The youngest of 7, he attended the Christian Brothers primary school, where he learned French (his second language after Arabic). At 14, he and his parents moved to Caracas, Venezuela, where his brothers Tony and Philip lived, and at the Christian Brothers school there he added Spanish to his repertoire.
At 16, Henry with his parents joined brothers Dr. Mike and Edmund in Windsor, Ontario, where he completed secondary school at Assumption High School and learned English. (Later as an adult he became fluent in his fifth language, Italian.) He attended Assumption College in Windsor, where he studied philosophy and literature as well as the sciences, which led him into the field of medicine at the University of Western Ontario Medical School. He did his internship and residency in ophthalmology at Harper Hospital and the Kresge Eye Institute in Detroit, Michigan.
At Harper Hospital Henry met the love of his life, Carol Joyce Schooff. It can be argued that he had many true loves: his Catholic Faith, his family, nature, the fine arts, ophthalmology, and the list goes on. But in this list of great loves, not only in his life but in the course of history, his love with Carol ranks high indeed.
They met, he took her to a concert which featured a mutual favorite, Verdi’s Requiem, and he told her on that first date, “Carol, you know something? I’m going to marry you!” She said, “You’re crazy! You don’t even know me!” and thus their feisty lifelong love began. They married eight months later on January 21, 1961, in St. Matthew’s Church in Detroit. Their oldest son, John Henry, was born the following December in Detroit, with son Philip Joseph and daughters Suzanne Antoinette and Camille Marie subsequently born in Stockton.
After completing residency, they moved to Stockton, California in 1962 where Henry began a surgical practice in downtown Stockton. He was later joined by his nephew Dr. Joe, then by his son Dr. John, and later still by his great nephew Dr. Joseph. The Zeiter Eye Medical Group continues to thrive nearly 60 years later, currently employing 6 ophthalmologists, 8 optometrists, and 100 staff. As a “Jiddo” (Arabic for grandfather), Henry was happily anticipating his grandson Dr. John Henry, Jr., joining the family business in two years. Dr. Henry himself practiced ophthalmology for 40 years, never tiring of the intricacy of the eye and helping people to see.
Throughout his life, another of Henry’s passions was classical music, which he knew and loved from childhood. Thanks to Carol, he also learned to love tennis and skiing, but an even bigger pleasure for him was travel. He and Carol enjoyed visiting with her family around the country, and his family around the world, and he took his children on trips which were to produce lifelong memories (and education) for all of them. His love of the liberal arts and the Catholic Church led Henry, along with Carol, to embrace the mission of Thomas Aquinas College, where he was a member of the Board of Governors for 33 years.
In his retirement, Henry reveled in spending time with his 13 grandchildren and, most recently, his first great grandchild. A parishioner at St. Anne’s in Lodi, he became a Discalced Carmelite Secular (a lay member of the Carmelite Order) and was honored to be a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre. He was a longtime member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, the American College of Surgeons, and the San Joaquin Medical Society (past president). He belonged to the Stockton Symphony Association (past president), and finally the International Order of Odd Fellows, Lodi Chapter.
Henry was predeceased by his six siblings and his daughter-in-law Alicia Zeiter. He is survived by his wife, Carol; his children John Henry (Lynette), Philip, Suzie (Tony Andres), and Camille; his grandchildren John Henry, Jr. (Amy), Danielle, Paul, and Sierra Zeiter, Joseph and Dominic Andres, and Tyler, Zachary, Christia, Alisandra, Joseph, Michael, and Mariana Zeiter; and his great granddaughter Liliana Mae Zeiter.
A public viewing with open casket and outdoor visitation will be held at DeYoung Memorial Chapel (601 N. California St., Stockton) from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday, January 3, 2021.
A private Rosary and Funeral Mass will be at St. Anne’s Roman Catholic Church in Lodi at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, January 4, 2021, with private interment to follow at San Joaquin Catholic Cemetery.
Due to COVID-19, the Rosary and Funeral Mass are private but will be livestreamed, and all are invited to join in commending Henry’s soul to God.
Henry and Carol’s support of the arts and charities is well known. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Stockton Symphony, 4629 Quail Lakes Dr., Stockton, CA, 95207, or the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless, 411 S. Harrison St., Stockton, CA, 95203.