After five decades of marriage and research, couple shared 'senseless' death

August 16, 1994|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,Sun Staff Writer

Through 52 years of marriage, five children and reams of medical research, Walter E. and Mary H. Loch did almost everything together. Yesterday, the only solace their oldest daughter could find in their slayings was that they died together.

"The only good thing about it is that neither one will be alone," said the daughter, Helen Reiriz of Hampstead.

The elderly couple were found dead about 1 p.m. Sunday at their Guilford mansion. Ms. Reiriz alerted police after attempting to check on her parents and finding signs of forced entry at the rear of their home in the 200 block of Stratford Road.

Dr. Loch, a retired Johns Hopkins Hospital surgeon, was a pioneer in the field of ear and nose surgery, colleagues said. Mrs. Loch, also a physician when she met her husband, gave up her obstetrics practice to raise a family.

Through her tears yesterday, Ms. Reiriz recalled an elderly couple who were stubbornly independent: An 81-year-old mother who walked to volunteer at a soup kitchen though she was very hard of hearing; an 88-year-old father who insisted on driving to Hechinger's for gadgets to fix up the house. Both ignored their children's pleas to install an electronic security alarm at their home across from the neighborhood's lush Sherwood Gardens, she said.

"Medicine was his mistress, and my mother was his wife," Ms. Reiriz said of her father. "He was very devoted to her.

"Dad was not a good businessman, but he was a real physician. I can't tell you how many patients he saw without charge."

Born in what is now Poland and educated in Germany and Austria, Dr. Loch was described by colleagues as a courtly European, a "gentleman" who could be drawn into a yodeling demonstration. He joined the Hopkins faculty in 1943 as an instructor of otolaryngology, retiring in 1978 as an associate professor emeritus.

Dr. Loch was one of the first presidents of the American Rhinologic Society and traveled with a group of 10 to 20 physicians who went from university to university teaching ear, nose and throat courses before many medical schools had instructors in the specialty. Colleagues said his work developing medication therapy for sinus problems and in microsurgery on the ears was groundbreaking.

"He's a very brilliant man. What I really remember about him was, at times, he would sing Swiss songs," said one of his early teaching companions from the society, retired Dr. Ralph Riggs of Shreveport, La.

Even after retirement, he sometimes saw patients in his home and kept a cluttered basement office and laboratory, colleagues said. The Lochs often were spotted sitting in the front rows at East Coast medical conferences, taking notes on the latest research as recently as last year.

Mary Loch practiced as an obstetrician in England and was a research fellow at Hopkins when she met her future husband, who, legend has it, began dating her at the prodding of his landlady, Ms. Reiriz said. After they married in 1942, Mrs. Loch gave up her practice to raise her children.

Mrs. Loch assisted her husband in research. As they grew older, the couple became even more dependent on each other -- Mrs. Loch's two best friends died within the past year, Ms. Reiriz said.

Dr. Haskins Kashima, a Johns Hopkins professor of otolaryngology and a neighbor and friend of the couple, recalled Mrs. Loch as looking "very much like a schoolteacher -- short in stature with a twinkle in her eye, quiet, strong and supportive.

"I would see them at gatherings," Dr. Kashima said. "He was simply a very, very devoted professional. She was very pleasant -- from the old tradition. . . . They were both in excellent health; very, very bright of mind. They hadn't lost a step."

One of the couple's two sons, Dr. W. Eric Loch, established his own ear, nose and throat practice in Lutherville and was living at his parents' home, Ms. Reiriz said. He was on vacation at the time of the slayings, she said.

In addition to Eric Loch and Ms. Reiriz, the couple left daughters Anita Benson of Fort Wayne, Ind., and Barbara Ireland of South Hamilton, Mass., and son John Loch of Godfrey, Ill. They had seven grandchildren.

Ms. Reiriz said police had told her almost nothing about the circumstances of her parents' deaths.

"It's just stupid and senseless, the whole thing," she said.

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