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August 30, 2014

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Longtime Las Vegas doctor, physician to boxers, dies

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Dr. Donald "Doc" Romeo

The longtime Las Vegas doctor who could be seen on the sidelines of both Las Vegas’ most famous boxing matches and its Pop Warner football games has died.

Dr. Donald “Doc” Romeo, who was inducted into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame, died Sunday in Las Vegas.

He was at the big title fights, such as Muhammad Ali-Floyd Patterson in 1965, and the 100-fight nights at the Golden Gloves. He served as U.S. Olympic boxing team physician in 1984 at Los Angeles and was instrumental in establishing the Ringside Physicians Association in Nevada. He estimated he served as ringside physician for more than 10,000 fights in his career. He was a lifetime/gold card member of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, his family said.

“When you think about boxing in Las Vegas, Doc is one of a handful of people you think of,” Marc Ratner, then-executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, told the Las Vegas Sun in 2001 before Romeo’s induction into the Hall of Fame.

He had such a solid reputation in Las Vegas as house physician at the Desert Inn, Tropicana, Sahara and Hilton International that he took care of the biggest stars, including Elvis, Red Skelton, Ann-Margret and Debbie Reynolds, his family said.

The father of 11 children, Romeo was active in children’s athletics throughout his career. He coached Pop Warner football for 13 years, Central Little League Baseball for 13 years and CYO basketball for St. Anne’s grade school for seven years. He served as Central Little League’s commissioner for three years.

But he may have been best known for his practice as team physician at Bishop Gorman High School for 30 years. He did physicals for student athletes for 50 cents apiece. When he was told he should be charging more, he raised the price to $1 and donated the money back to the school, his daughter Patty Romeo said.

Former Gorman football coach Chuck Gerber recalled Romeo’s reputation at the school grew quickly. The family moved to Las Vegas in 1960, but by the time Gerber joined the Gorman staff in 1964, “Doc was already a legend,” he said.

On the day when players would pick up their equipment, Romeo would just show up and do physicals, staying as late as it took to get them all done, Gerber said.

Romeo was a constant presence on the sidelines during the games, he said.

“He always had a special play for you to run,” Gerber said. “He was always positive, always up.”

Romeo was born Dec. 6, 1923, in Brockway, Pa., and received his bachelor’s degree from Boston College and his medical degree from Loyola Medical School in Chicago. He served as a private in the Army during World War II.

He married Barbara Byrnes in 1951 in Cheyenne, Wyo., and began practicing medicine in Denver, then in Hugo, Colo., before moving to California. He moved to Las Vegas in 1960 after being offered a full partnership in a medical practice.

In addition to sports, Romeo served as the doctor for the Union Pacific Railroad and the Clark County Detention Center.

He served on the board of directors for the California State Automobile Association for 22 years and the Las Vegas Parks and Recreation Committee since 1977. A park at Cheyenne Avenue and Buffalo Drive was named after him in 2002.

Romeo belonged to Our Lady of Las Vegas Catholic Parish and was a fourth-degree member of the Knights of Columbus.

He is survived by children Marcy Humm and her husband, Tom, Michael Romeo, Patty Romeo, Thomas Romeo, Richard Romeo, Donald Romeo Jr. and his wife, Teri, Mark Romeo, Katie Jones, and Polly Becker and her husband, Robin; grandchildren Steve, Joe and Jimmy Humm, Amanda Kelsey, Tommy, Hyatt, Ian, Hope, Cassie, Christina and Nicholas Romeo, Derek and Kaylee Jones and Erick Becker; and great-grandson, Deegan.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Barbara, and children Dr. Stephen Romeo and Terry Romeo.

Visitation will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Feb. 20 at Christ the King Catholic Church, 4925 S. Torrey Pines Drive, Las Vegas, with a vigil following at 6 p.m.

Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Feb. 21 at Christ the King Catholic Church.

Interment will follow at Palm Mortuary, 7600 S. Eastern Ave.

The family requests that memorial donations be made to Bishop Gorman High School, 732-1945 or BishopGorman.org.

Palm Mortuary handled the arrangements.

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