PSR-LA is saddened by the loss of Dr. Richard Saxon, who passed away on August 1, 2014 at the age of 90. Richard and his wife Pauline co-founded our chapter in 1980, after attending a PSR conference about the medical consequences of nuclear weapons in San Francisco. Upon their return, the Saxons began to build PSR-LA from their home, writing individual letters to all of the physicians they knew. Richard served as the first Board President, and Pauline was the first Executive Director. Since then, our organization has grown to become the largest chapter of PSR and a leader in local, state, and national policy.
The Saxons led PSR-LA during the harrowing years of the Cold War, and helped establish our chapter as a strong and innovative organization. Under their leadership, PSR-LA held a conference on the medical consequences of nuclear weapons that was attended by over 3,000 people. Richard and Pauline also led physician delegations to the Soviet Union, Germany, England, China, and Japan, helping encourage doctors in those countries to form their own groups and build a larger movement for nuclear abolition. The Saxons’ efforts contributed to the work for which PSR’s parent organization, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985. They also led PSR-LA’s efforts to clean up the radiological and chemical contamination at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory.
Richard attended medical school at the University of Illinois in Chicago, after which he served in the army for two years, and completed his residency in Virginia. Richard and Pauline moved back to Los Angeles in 1953 where he began his practice as an orthopedic surgeon. He also volunteered at the Venice Family Clinic and was an avid tennis player and painter. In 2005 he was honored alongside his wife with PSR-LA’s Sol Londe Award, named after longtime PSR-LA doctor and prolific peace activist. Reflecting upon his work with PSR-LA, Richard said, “It gave me great satisfaction to step out and do something that was making a social change – hopefully. Even though I was trained as orthopedic surgeon, I got the greatest pleasure and sense of accomplishment from doing work with PSR – PSR work was by far the most satisfying.”
PSR-LA members responded to news of Richard’s passing with fond recollections of their time together. “He was a hero,” said Dr. Felix Aguilar. Dr. Bill Perkin’s remembers Richard as, “Such a thoughtful, knowledgeable, scientific, artistic, considerate, humorous man! He led our little group at the exciting time when the strong American peace movement pushed back at Ronald Reagan’s militant challenge to the Soviet Union hard enough to lead to the start of agreements between the U.S. and Russia’s Gorbachev to reverse the nuclear arms race to human annihilation.” Jeanne Londe, Sol’s widow and longtime PSR member, remarked with love and humor, “I think Sol is pointing his arthritic finger at Richard and saying “we need to tell everybody to tell the president to take his hand off the hair trigger alert!”
PSR-LA Board Member Dr. Felix Aguilar said, “He was a hero.”
All of us at PSR-LA are deeply grateful to Richard for his incredible devotion to a safer, healthier world, an ideal upon which he built our organization and to which we remain dedicated.