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470 Massachusetts Avenue
PO Box 882
Acton, MA 01720
Phone: 978-263-5333
Fax: 978-263-8193
Robert Alan First, M.D.

Robert Alan First, M.D.

Saturday, February 9th, 2019
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Harvard, MA

Dr. Robert Alan First, M.D. of Harvard, MA former longtime resident of Concord, MA died on Saturday, February 9, 2019.

He is survived by his wife and soul mate of 21 years Susan (Abatsis) First; his biological children, Robert, Timothy and Cynthia First; his two grandsons, Andrew and Nicholas First; his sister, Flora Greenberg; his cherished chosen daughters, Heidi Thorndike, Jessica Shlasko and Christina Bethke, along with many friends and colleagues. He was predeceased by his beloved son, helicopter pilot Lt. Andrew G. First, U.S. Marine Corps.

Dr. First was born in Beverly, MA, son of the late Melvin and Hilda (Weil) First. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Kenyon College in Gambier, OH in 1955 and a Doctor of Medicine from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1959. He served both his surgery internship and residency with Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (Brigham & Woman’s) in from 1959-61. For the next three years he completed his orthopedic residency with Children’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital. A Vietnam veteran and Bronze Star recipient, Dr. First was a Major in the U.S. Army Medical Corps from January 1968 to January 1970, serving in-country for a year with the 2nd MASH unit in Chu Lai from February 1968-69.

Following his honorable discharge in 1970, Dr. First returned to his private practice at Orthopedic Affiliates Inc. in Concord, MA. He served as Chief of Orthopedics at Emerson Hospital from 1971-75; Chairman of the Department of Surgery from 1975-77. Fellowships include Teaching Fellow at Harvard Medical School, 1965- 1970; Teaching Fellow at Tufts Medical School from 1970-1999 and Fellow of American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. He spent most of his professional life in Concord from 1969 until he moved to Harvard in 1998.

In addition to his distinguished medical career, Dr. First enjoyed many hobbies throughout his life including woodworking, gardening and long rides on his BMW motorcycle. Spending a day golfing with friends was always a treasure. His pack of Westies (West Highland Terriers) held a special place in his heart. He was truly devoted to his country, his career, his family and to all who knew him.

A celebration of life memorial service will be held in early summer with the date and location to be decided.

In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Dr. First may be made to: the Mass General Home Base Program Fund, 125 Nashua Street, Suite 540, Boston, MA 02114-1101 (

Arrangements are under the thoughtful guidance of Acton Funeral Home, 470 Massachusetts Avenue, Acton, MA 01720. For life story or online condolence visit
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Service Details

A celebration of life memorial service will be held in early summer with the date and location to be decided. In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Dr. First may be made to: the Mass General Home Base Program Fund, 125 Nashua Street, Suite 540, Boston, MA 02114-1101 (


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Private Condolence

Susan Stafford

Posted at 01:12pm
Dr. First was a generous colleague and friend. He truly was a unique and powerful force. Deepest condolences to all of his family, friends, and colleagues.
Susan Stafford

Ron Cannon

Posted at 08:31pm
Dr. Robert First and I crossed paths on April 21, 1968 when I arrived at the 2nd Surgical Hospital in Chu Lai Vietnam. My legs were mangled and I lost a LOT of blood. I was not expected to survive but Dr. First and the other professionals of the 2nd Surg would not allow me to die on there shift! He saved my life. As a result of his heroic actions I have been blessed with a full productive life and a beautiful family. I had the honor and privilege of meeting Dr. First about 25 years ago as I paid a surprise visit to his practice in Concord. I am thankful that I got to hug him and thank him for being in the right place at the right time. I am so grateful that I have been able to visit with him and his beautiful bride Sue on several occasions. Rest in peace my brother - and WELCOM HOME!

Ron Cannon

Chilian Family

Posted at 12:20pm
I am sincerely sorry for your loss of a loved one. It's never easy to say goodbye under any circumstances. 1 Corinthians 15:26 speaks of a time when the "last enemy, death, will be brought to nothing." From that point on we will never have to experience the pangs of death again. I pray this message from the Bible brings you some comfort. 

Scott Paparello

Posted at 12:06pm
Bob was a true gentleman and the utmost professional. My sincere condolences to his family.
Scott Paparello

Elaine Dupuis

Posted at 12:39pm
Friends at Concord Country Club remember Dr. First well and send support and sympathy to his loved ones.
-Elaine Dupuis, on behalf of the staff at CCC

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