Remembering Dr. Bob: Robert Zufall, MD, Obituary

“We all have sins we’d rather not confess
But if there were a god I’m sure he’d bless
Our efforts to increase human happiness”
Robert B Zufall

Robert Bunger Zufall, MD, of Denville and formerly of Mountain Lakes, who is best known for founding the community health center Zufall Health with his wife, Kathryn, passed away peacefully at Saint Clare’s Hospital in Denville on March 5, 2024.

Zufall was born in Middletown, NY on June 3, 1924 to Merle Eugene Zufall, a teacher, and Gertrude Bunger Zufall, a teacher, women’s suffrage supporter, and graduate of Barnard College. He grew up in Irvington, NJ. As a youngster, Zufall and his three siblings worked summers at Bunger’s Boarding House and Farm, owned by their grandparents, in Sullivan County, NY. One of his earliest and most formative childhood memories was being stuck in the snow on a pair of wooden skis until a passerby helped him regain mobility by applying beeswax to the skis. “I think that stranger’s helping out some kid really did something to give me a positive view of the goodness of human nature,” he said.

In 1941, Zufall enrolled as an engineering and pre-med major at Princeton University, where he discovered his talents and interests beyond math and science. He regarded getting the highest mark in his freshman year Shakespeare class as his greatest academic achievement. He also played the trumpet in the Princeton band and was on the freshman rowing team. Before the end of World War II, Zufall joined the Navy V-12 program which paid for his tuition at Harvard Medical School. He earned his doctor of medicine in 1947.

While in medical school, his friend sold him a motorcycle that he rode on one of his dates with his future wife, Kathryn “Kay” Schwindt. Even though the pair coasted to safety when the brakes gave out, she never let him ride a motorcycle again. He married Kay on December 27, 1947. The couple went skiing on their honeymoon in Stowe, VT, and became lifelong skiers.

Zufall interned at the Cornell Surgical Service at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, where he was Chief Urology Resident, finishing in 1954. He was an instructor there until 1967. From 1950 to 1952, he was a US Army First Lieutenant and Captain in the medical corps at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO. He practiced urology at Dover General Hospital in Dover, NJ from 1954 to 1990, serving as Chairman of the Surgical Department from 1978 to 1979 and President of the Medical Staff from 1968 to 1969. He found great joy in performing surgery.

In 1956, Zufall and Kay moved to Mountain Lakes with their young children. Here, they built a brick house on a hill surrounded by woods. He and his father did a lot of the construction themselves. The house had a small medical office downstairs which mostly was used for music lessons for his kids and the neighborhood. Zufall had a knack for tinkering, using unconventional items for repairs, like surgical sutures to sew on buttons. He enjoyed sailing, gliding, and even creating a zip line for his children. He honed his love for writing and poetry and published a small poetry book, Communications, as well as several medical articles. In the 70s, he had a weekly column, “The Doctor’s Notebook,” in The Citizen.

In the 1950s, Zufall’s brother-in-law’s wallpaper cleaning compound company, Kutol, was going out of business. Kay found some and gave it to her kids and their friends in the nursery school she was running who became the first to play with it. When the name “Rainbow Modeling Compound” was suggested, Zufall and Kay went home and came up with “Play-Doh,” a name now recognized worldwide

When Zufall retired from urology at age 65, he and Kay began medical volunteer work. During several trips to Peru, they taught urology and English. Ultimately, the pair decided to help people closer to home. Zufall studied primary care and Kay managed fundraising and administration as they founded the Dover Free Clinic in 1990. It was renamed to honor the Zufalls in 2006. “In a happy and productive life, [building the clinic] was the most satisfying thing that we did,” Zufall said.

The Dover Free Clinic attracted many physician volunteers, most of whom were the Zufalls’ retired friends. The health center received many awards, including the prestigious Jefferson Award given to both of them by Gov. Corzine in 2009.

Today, Zufall Health is a nationally recognized nonprofit community health center serving more than 48,000 patients annually at service sites and on two mobile units in seven New Jersey counties. Its services have grown beyond its namesake’s “wildest dreams” to encompass dental, behavioral health, pharmacy, nutrition, and more, provided and administered by 500 employees. Once a tiny and sparsely resourced one-room clinic, Zufall Health now repeatedly ranks within the top 10 percent of health centers in the country for quality and has received accolades for excellence in improving access, reducing disparities, and managing chronic disease.

Zufall is predeceased by his wife, Kay, and his siblings John Zufall and Martha Zufall Smith. He is survived by his sister Alice Fellenzer, daughters Kathryn, Margaret, Ellen, and Nancy, son David, nine grandchildren, and 11 great grandchildren.

Per Zufall’s wishes, his body has been donated to the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School for research. A memorial service will be held on Sunday, April 21 at 1:30 PM at County College of Morris (214 Center Grove Rd. Randolph, NJ 07869) in the Davidson Rooms in the Student Community Center. Parking is available in Parking Lot 6. See a campus map here: The family welcomes all those who have been touched by Zufall’s legacy to join in this celebration of his life.

Donations in Zufall’s memory can be made to:

1. Zufall Health: Online at; or by check payable to Zufall Health Foundation and mailed to Zufall Health Foundation at 18 West Blackwell Street Dover, NJ 07801.

2. Gertrude Bunger Zufall Scholarship Fund, Barnard College: Online at; or by check payable to Barnard College with “Gertrude Bunger Zufall Scholarship Fund” in the gift memo and mailed to Barnard College, Box AS, 3009 Broadway, New York, 10027.

  • Nancy Melham--Avenoso
    March 19, 2024 at 9:55 pm

    I am amazed how much Mr.Zufall has accomplished in his life along with his wife. I know for myself…I went to Zufall health center in Morristown N.J. along with my children. This is a wonderful asset to the community….especially for those who could not afford health insurance. We were always treated with respect and dignity. My doctor who is still there is the best,Dr.Douglas Bishop! Thank you Mr.Zufall for all you have done!Rest in peace!!!

  • Stephen Richer
    March 20, 2024 at 4:30 pm

    Bob Zufall had an amazing life that touched thousands of others. He will be remembered for all his good works. As a fellow Princetonian, we join his family andI friends to celebrate the life of Dr. Bob.

  • bonnie brady lavoie
    March 21, 2024 at 5:19 pm

    The best human being ever!! Smart, funny, kind, and generous We should all aspire to be like him. I worked with him at Dover General and it was always a pleasure . Dr Zufall it was an honor to know you ! Bonnie RN

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