Staffers at the practice sometimes rolled their eyes, though as the years and decades passed, Rivera’s songs became the office soundtrack.
Kathie Finley Costello spent 27 years working for Rivera, and she came to view him as family. He attended the deliveries of her two sons, she said, teasingly asking the mother-to-be whether this was the reason he had to abandon his tennis match? When his patients grew up, he’d attend their weddings and care for their children.
Costello’s mother had worked as Rivera’s office manager when he opened his practice, and back then it was just the two of them, Carrie Finley and Dr. Vic, waiting for the phone to ring.
He gradually grew his business, expanded his patient database and became a father figure to his employees. He’d bring the medical assistants and receptionists a scarf or a purse from trips overseas. After Costello’s divorce, Dr. Vic — a father of four — would slyly hand her a cash-filled envelope to make certain her sons had a good Christmas.
When another longtime staffer, Sharon Neidlein, saved enough money to take her three children to Walt Disney World, Rivera called her into his office. He handed her $100 and an instruction: Buy something for yourself.
“He just took care of us,” Neidlein recalled. “He always treated me like I was one of his children, and he did little dad things. You’d go on vacation — ‘Got enough money? Put gas in your car.’ ”
Before he retired and sold his practice in 2017, Neidlein said, Rivera negotiated employment contracts for staff members who wanted to remain with the new practice. Rivera wasn’t much good at staying away, either, continuing to take shifts between vacations with his wife, Mila.
The Riveras’ most recent trip was to Dubai. Their return flight passed through New York in early March, and Neidlin — who watered the couple’s plants while they were gone — said Rivera tested positive for covid-19 shorter after coming home.
In the spring of 2019, Costello said, Rivera paid a visit to her mother, his former office manager. Finley was 90, and by then she had dementia. Still, Costello said, her mother’s eyes widened when Dr. Vic walked in. After a few minutes of talking, Rivera did what he often did: He sang — one more rendition of an old favorite.
Everywhere that I roam
Over land or sea or foam
You can always hear me singing this song
Said show me, show me the way, to go home.
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