The procedure wasn't approved in the U.S. till 1972. So Art moved to London to practice, where it was allowed. He performed the first such surgery in Sweden and several other countries. "In those days it was extremely rare that a surgeon could do that operation," he shrugs.
He operated. Within a few days, a patient would be walking with no pain. Some even ran. "It was very gratifying to me," he says.
Eventually, he settled and practiced in the Bay Area. He did well enough to retire early. And so in 1987 he moved to Merced and started the ranch.
Why Merced? "I really love Merced and Merced people," he says. "I've helped as much as I can."
He's traveled the world, including a recent ski trip to France (because our nearby mountains didn't have enough snow), but he hasn't been back to Iran since the revolution.
Hesitating to drop a name, he concedes that his friend Bill Hewlett, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, "used to tell me that he enjoyed Iran among all the countries he visited."
He credits his parents for his success: "They helped me the best by disciplining me." The virtues he values most: honesty and hard work.
Art speaks English, Farsi and "a bit of" Swedish, French and Spanish. He keeps lean by snow and water skiing and playing tennis.
For him, during his lifetime the most important event was the fall of communism. "It's amazing how East and West Germany recuperated to become the strongest economy in Europe," he says with a small shake of his head. "And so many of the Soviet countries have done well."
Over lunch he consults a handwritten piece of paper, with notes on both sides. He wants to be sure to mention everybody who has helped bring the dream of a restored Merced Theatre to reality. (Katherine Crookham, chair; Andrea Stoddard, foundation manager; L. Carmen Ramirez, a director; Grey Roberts, treasurer ... many others. The Sun-Star will cite them in our stories, columns, blogs, photos and videos leading up to the grand gala.)
As for his $1 million contribution, "if we would have not had the funding, we would lose the matching funds," he says, "and the restoration wouldn't have been possible."
To him, the theatre is now "a national treasure."
Even more important are his children. "When I call them, I say, 'Do your best and be happy!' I retired early, much younger than most of my colleagues, so I could spend time with them."
Dr. Art Kamangar is a Mercedian. The Iranian-born immigrant who helped revolutionize hip surgery is one of us. He moved here. He lives here. He loves Merced and its people.
One recent afternoon he had a flat tire. It happened near a local gas station. A young man came over, changed the tire, fixed the old one and declined Art's offer of money. "He told me, 'You have done so much for us.' But people in Merced have helped me generously."
And at the corner of Main and Martin Luther King Jr. Way stands proof that Dr. Art Kamangar's big heart has helped us even more.
Executive Editor Mike Tharp can be reached at (209) 385-2456 or email@example.com