Dr. Ronald G. Michels, the renowned Baltimore ophthalmologist who died Tuesday, was remembered by his peers today at a standing-room-only funeral as a teacher of thousands of physicians and a healer who restored sight without peer but a man who at the end considered himself "the least of men."
Mylan Van Newkirk, one of five eye doctors who spoke at the funeral attended by more than 800 people, including many physicians from around the country, ended the service by reading an obituary found in Michels' briefcase after he died. He asked mourners at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Towson to picture Michels reading it.
"I knew a man who in the prime of his life faced a terrifying diagnosis of certain death," Michels, 47, wrote. The message went on to describe in third person the man's experiences as a restorer of sight locally and on the world stage and as a loving family man.
The statement noted, "He was a man who was indeed rich in the things of the world . . . a man who had religious and philosophical questions all people have, a man who was at peace with himself and with most of the world.
"He had healed the sick" and considered himself "invigorated and invincible. Faced with his own immortality, this man would learn he was the least of men. . . . "
The statement concluded by saying, "I was that man."
The dramatic reading came toward the end of the emotional, tear-filled funeral also attended by former patients who could see again because of Michels.
Also praising Michels were Dr. Walter J. Stark and Dr. Bert M. Glaser, of Baltimore, colleagues for years at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Dr. Charles P. Wilkinson of Oklahoma City, and Dr. Stephen Ryan of Los Angeles. All are ophthalmologists.
Dr. Dennis L. Michels, of Kinston, N.C., Ron Michels' brother, delivered the eulogy and elicited one of the few laughs during the service when he said, "There are a large number of eye surgeons here, but let me tell you, Ron was the best."
xTC It was an opinion that the five speaking doctors, one after another and each in his own way, agreed with in intense personal memories of their friend, "a man of many gifts." They said that a joyous Michels in the past two weeks talked individually with his closest friends and thanked them for their friendship. He died of cardiac complications while awaiting a heart transplant.