A life Well-lived
We all lost a scholar and our family lost a patriarch when Alexander V. Monto, M.D., Ph.D., “Alex” passed away August 29, 2020, at 89 years, at home, following a stroke. He will be remembered for his remarkable personal warmth, love of learning and adventure, and pleasure in a good conversation. He was born in Manila, Philippine Islands (PI), April 30, 1931, to Alexander and Saimaa Monto, who were senior teachers and educational administrators with the US Department of Education in the PI. They lived in Baguio for 5 years, returned to the US for the birth of Alex’s brother, George, then returned to Legaspi, PI for two years. As World War II was approaching, the family booked passage on an Italian ocean liner, which sailed West via China, India, Palestine (Israel) Egypt, and Italy to New York City. Alex had many recollections of his time in the PI and the trip back to the US.
The family settled in Springfield, Illinois, where his father was a professor of Finnish, psychology, and the biological sciences at Concordia Seminary. Alex attended school in Springfield, where he graduated from high school at age 16, lettering in track, tennis, debate, and extemporaneous speaking. He spent many happy summers with his family at Lake Gogebic, MI. and reading “a book a day” from his local library. He then went on to the University of Illinois (U of I) graduating with a B.S. in psychology with honors in 3 years, during which time he was also in the ROTC. After a summer cycling in Mexico, he returned for graduate work at the U of I. As the Korean War was raging, he took the AFQT (Air Force Qualifying Test) in Chicago and was 1 of 7 in the history of the AFQT in Chicago, to get a perfect score. He joined the Air Force and was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base for 2 years. Through the Air Force and the GI Bill, he had the opportunity to apply to medical schools and chose Washington University in St. Louis, where he received his M.D. with AOA honors in 1957. He then joined the US Public Health Service (USPHS). After a year of Internship, in San Francisco, he went to the Graduate School of Public Health (where he was class president) and received a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) degree. Following a year of a public health residency in Dade County, FL, he was sent to Washington, DC as Chief of Traffic Safety and Accident Prevention for the USPHS, where he worked for two years on getting seat belts in cars and setting national standards for EMT/ambulance workers.
At this point in 1962, he wanted to become a psychiatrist and was offered a residency in Psychiatry at the U of Calif, SF, Langley-Porter NP Institute for 3 years. Following his residency, he moved to Albuquerque, N.M. as an Asst. Professor of Psychiatry at the University of N.M. for 2 years. Returning to California, he worked with Santa Clara and San Mateo counties in Consultation, Education, and as a Regional Chief of the county mental health systems for 7 years before taking a position as Chief of Monterey County Mental Health for 10 years. He was involved in building Community Mental Health Clinics and increasing bilingual services during that time and lived with his wife, Marian, and son Alex in the Corral de Tierra area outside of Salinas, CA. In 1978 he took a year of academic leave and obtained an M.Phil in Social Anthropology from Cambridge, University, England.
In 1984 he decided to pursue further study in Social Anthropology at Cambridge, and the family spent a second year in Cambridge as Alex did predoctoral studies. The family then moved to Aptos, CA in 1985. Following 2 years with Santa Cruz county mental health, Alex and Marian moved to a small village in Michoacan, Mexico where they studied family and social changes related to migration as doctoral fieldwork. He then spent a third year researching and preparing his thesis in Cambridge, later receiving his Ph.D. Returning to California once more, Alex was the Medical Director of Narvaez Mental Health Clinic in San Jose for 3 years. His doctoral thesis on circular migration from Mexico was later expanded and published as The Roots of Mexican Migration. From that time until his retirement in 1999, Alex was a psychiatrist with Santa Cruz County Mental Health.
He leaves a wife, Marian, a son Dr. Alex Monto (Dr. Priscilla Hsue) of San Francisco, daughters Denise Menon (Vic) of Cupertino and Nadine Feletto (Lou) of Henderson, NV, and granddaughters Vanessa Monto of San Francisco, Monica and Louisa Feletto, grandsons, Vincent Menon, of Oakland; Grant Menon, of Santa Rosa, Sebastian Monto and Nate Monto of San Francisco and nephew Martin Monto (Cecelia) of Portland, OR. He was predeceased by his brother, Dr. George Monto.
His many interests included tennis, golf, chess, mountaineering, painting, and traveling to the British Isles, continental Europe, Scandinavia, the Mediterranean, South America, North Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Turkey, Canada, and the US.
A memorial celebration will be held in the future with a private burial in a military cemetery. Mehl’s Colonial Chapel was entrusted with the arrangements. For those interested, in lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions in Alex’s name to the Cabrillo Stroke and Disability center, Hospice of Santa Cruz County, or Dominican Hospital Foundation—Acute Rehabilitation Unit.
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