Fifty years on, doctor is still in Optometrist: At age 75, Robert Schwartz continues to see some of his devoted patients on a part-time basis.

June 05, 1996|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,SUN STAFF

More than a half-century ago, teen-ager Robert Schwartz picked a job he thought would improve his social life.

What he got instead was a lifetime of loyal patients who have been seeing the optometrist since Glen Burnie was just a crossroads and a traffic light.

Now 75, Schwartz still keeps office hours, even if only part-time. Although some of his patients have moved as far away as Florida and West Virginia, they make appointments when they're in town.

Take Richard Dooley.

In about a week and a half, Dooley and his wife, Patricia, 51, will make the 1,000-mile drive from Orlando, Fla., to Baltimore to visit relatives. Dooley will see Schwartz to get a new pair of contact lenses.

"I need new lenses, so I decided, 'Why not go back to the source?' " said Richard Dooley, 62, who moved to Orlando, Fla., nine years ago. The retired electrical engineer has been going to Schwartz for 35 years.

Charles Harle, 65, of Dundalk has gone to Schwartz since 1951.

Harle said the doctor is an easy man to like and takes time out for conversation, swapping stories with patients about their families.

"I've examined the mothers, the daughters, the granddaughters. It's been a thrill," said Schwartz, who lives in a spacious home on a tree-lined street in Annapolis.

When his practice was just starting, he worked 12 to 14 hours every day. Now he puts in eight hours over three days a week at the Aquahart Road practice run by his son, Dr. Robert Schwartz Jr.

He came to optometry in an unexpected way. A cousin married an optometrist who seemed "suave, professional, was a doctor, got pretty girls. It involved eyes and lenses," said Schwartz. "I was very impressed with him. I decided early on that this was going to be my profession."

He almost didn't realize his dream. He was a troubled youth who got kicked out of Baltimore's City College in 1936, during the Depression. His parents sought to save their only child from himself by sending him to Calvert Hall College High School, where he graduated in 1939.

"I was a behavior problem," said Schwartz. "The school was parochial. My Christian Brothers, they were very tough. They were disciplinarians. They turned my life around. If it wasn't for them, I would have been on a slab somewhere, probably 40 years or so ago."

He attended the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in Philadelphia, where he met his wife, Lila. They both graduated in 1943. He served in the Army and was discharged as a first lieutenant in 1945.

Schwartz is active in several civic associations, including the Glen Burnie Lions Club. Fourteen years ago, he and his wife founded the Maryland chapter of Volunteer Optometric Service to Humanity, which provides vision care to Third World countries.

"We work for four days and examine 2,000 people and give them glasses right on the spot," said Schwartz, who has provided the service in Honduras and Guatemala. The eyeglasses are donated by the Glen Burnie Lions and others.

Pub Date: 6/05/96

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