LAWRENCE — When people think of Lawrence natives who achieved national recognition, often the composer Leonard Bernstein and singer Robert Goulet come to mind. But for the late Dr. Fred Arrigg’s colleagues, friends and family, he was a “real icon of the community,” on the same level as Bernstein and Goulet.
Merrimack Valley physician and Lawrence native Fred Arrigg Sr. died on Tuesday, March 15, at the age of 93. Arrigg practiced medicine in the Merrimack Valley for 60 years, and was one of the first surgeons in the world to perform the stapedectomy procedure, an operation that has restored the hearing of thousands of patients.
Born in Lawrence, Arrigg was the son of Lebanese immigrants. A product of the Lawrence school system, Arrigg graduated with honors from Lawrence High in 1940 and went on to pursue his higher education at Harvard and received his M.D. from Tufts University School of Medicine in 1947.
Arrigg served on the Tufts Medical Alumni Association as president, where friend and fellow Tufts Medical graduate Dr. Elias Dow succeeded him.
“He was an excellent physician, well liked by peers and patients,” Dow said. “He was always a gentleman, had high moral character and impeccable integrity. He was a strong supporter of Tufts Medical School, both in his activities and financial gifts.”
Arrigg opened his private practice in Lawrence in 1950, and continued to see patients for 60 years, until the age of 89. His legacy, with the support of his wife of 67 years, Emily, is continued by his children, who continue their work at Arrigg Eye and Ear Associates, Dr. Fred Arrigg Jr., Dr. Paul Arrigg, and Dr. Claudia Arrigg.
“When I was younger, few women were even entering medicine as a profession,” Claudia Arrigg said. “But my father encouraged me, with his love and support, to enter the field of medicine and become a surgeon.”
Fred and Emily Arrigg were very much a team, and Claudia affectionately refers to her mother as “Emily Arrigg, MD, mother of doctors” as a loving tribute to the support her parents bestowed on the family.
“In many ways, Arrigg Eye and Ear Associates really reflects his commitment to his community, his practice, and his family,” said Claudia Arrigg’s husband, Dr. Howard Koh, who has served as assistant secretary for health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Over his decades of service, Arrigg made lifelong friends and colleagues in and around the Merrimack Valley.
Dr. Kenneth Macoul was friends with Arrigg for over 50 years and considered him a mentor in both his professional and personal life.
“When my father died, he became like a surrogate father to me,” Macoul said. “Whenever I would see him, I wouldn’t shake his hand — and I never shook my father’s hand — I always hugged my father and gave him a kiss on the cheek, and I did the same with Fred. Sometimes it would embarrass him, but I used to tell him ‘I don’t care, you’re my father.’”
Arrigg practiced in many local hospitals, including Lawrence General and Holy Family, as well as Boston City Hospital and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston.
In 2001, in recognition of Arrigg’s decades of dedication and service, he was awarded the St. Luke’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Medicine.
At the time of the award, then Holy Family Hospital President William Lane described Arrigg as the “heart and soul of our medical community.”
Arrigg was also a volunteer and benefactor, supporting many local and international organizations. He served on the Board of Trustees of Tufts University for 10 years, as well as the Board of Trustees at Holy Family Hospital, and internationally as Trustee of Lebanese American University in Beirut, Lebanon.
In 1984, Dr. Elias Dow started a private endowment trust, which gave a $10,000 minimum gift in support of students at Tufts Medical.
“Fred gave the second (gift), and really got the ball rolling,” said Dow. “We wound up getting successive donors because of his commitment, and now the fund is up to $1.7 million.”
The fund lives on in Arrigg’s name, as the Dr. Fred and Emily Arrigg and Family Scholarship Fund, named after the doctor and his wife.
Published on  March 30, 2016