Dr. Z. J. Toth, obstetrician and seafarer

March 19, 1994|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Sun Staff Writer

Dr. Zsigmund J. Toth, a Baltimore obstetrician and gynecologist who temporarily gave up his practice to sail the Atlantic Ocean, died Monday of heart failure at his Bolton Hill residence. He was 77.

Against the advice of friends, Dr. Toth fulfilled a lifelong dream when he set sail in October 1971 with his family from Pier 4 in the Ishtar, a 42-foot ketch named for the goddess of fertility.

"This was something he wanted to do all of his life. So he gave his practice to a friend, and we were gone for nearly three years," said his wife, the former Helen Opuda of Girardville, Pa., whom he married in 1941.

"His doctor friends said, 'What are you doing? Think of all the money you're going to lose.' And he said, 'What's money?' " Mrs. Toth said.

The couple began preparing for the trans-Atlantic crossing in 1968 by studying navigation and other techniques they would need to cross the ocean.

"I was the chief cook and bottle washer, and it seemed that every other day we hit a storm," Mrs. Toth said, describing their autumn crossing of the North Atlantic.

"I had to stand my watch, and the waves were so high that I had to be lashed to a chair on the deck. But it was simply marvelous."

The Toths sailed to Bermuda, toured the Caribbean and stopped at the Azores. Then they passed through the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea in June 1972.

"We toured the Greek Islands, the Adriatic Sea and sailed up the Dalmatian coast and stopped for a while in Dubrovnik," Mrs. Toth said.

"And once people found out that my husband was a doctor, they lined up for appointments," she said with a laugh.

Dr. Toth was a native of New York City and a 1936 graduate of Stuyvesant High School. In 1940, he graduated from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and from the LSU medical school in 1943. He completed his internship at the Chelsea Naval Hospital near Boston.

He served in the Navy in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

Dr. Toth practiced general medicine in Green Bay, Wis., from 1946 to 1948, when he moved to Seattle. After completing a residency in obstetrics and gynecology in 1954, he opened an office on Park Avenue in Baltimore, where he practiced until he retired in 1984.

An accomplished musician, he played violin, viola and oboe and for many years appeared with the Hopkins Symphony Orchestra and the UMBC Orchestra. During the Toths' cruise, he made a guest appearance with the Athens Symphony.

Other survivors include a son, Matthew A. Toth, and a daughter, Melanie A. Toth, both of Baltimore; four grandchildren and two nephews.

Memorial donations may be made to the Hopkins Orchestra, Shriver Hall, 3400 N. Charles St., Baltimore 21218.

Services were held yesterday.

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