Dr. Richard J. Otenasek Jr., 63, neurosurgeon and volunteer

July 05, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Dr. Richard J. Otenasek Jr., a Baltimore neurosurgeon and volunteer who was ill with cancer, had stood humbly on the stage at Loyola High School's commencement to hear his life praised as a model for others.

Dr. Otenasek, 63, who was presented the Rev. Joseph M. Kelley, S.J., Medal by the school's alumni association last month, died Monday at his Homeland residence surrounded by his family.

In a letter to the alumni association, a son wrote: "My father has spent a lifetime embracing the spirit of St. Ignatius and being a man for others. Our family, our friends, the Loyola community, the patients he administered to, the people's lives he has touched through the Archdiocese and through Catholic Charities are all far richer because of Richard J. Otenasek Jr.

"I know my father would say that it is he who is richer because of what his love and faith in God, his family and friends and the communities he serves have provided him," wrote the son.

Said the school's president, the Rev. James F. McAndrews, S.J., "He was a very spiritual man, and he had such goodness and enthusiasm, and despite his illness he never lost that enthusiasm. He loved life so much and never faltered."

Born in Baltimore, Dr. Otenasek was raised on Chesterfield Avenue and later in Northwood. He was a 1950 graduate of Loyola High.

He was greatly influenced by his uncle, Dr. Frank Otenasek, an eminent neurosurgeon who was on staff at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and a member of the Hopkins faculty. He died in 1975.

The young man decided to pursue a career in neurosurgery and earned his bachelor's degree in 1954 from Loyola College and his medical degree from Hopkins in 1958. He completed a surgical internship in 1959. He completed his residency in neurological surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1964.

In addition to maintaining a busy private practice, Dr. Otenasek was a part-time associate professor and instructor in neurological surgery as well as a member of the staff at Hopkins Hospital.

At St. Joseph Medical Center, he was chief of neurological surgery and a member of the board of trustees. He also was affiliated with Greater Baltimore Medical Center and Church Hospital.

"He was purely a clinician and an old-fashioned general neurosurgeon who dealt with back problems, brain tumors, spinal cord injuries and other related problems," said Dr. Donlin Long, chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at Hopkins and a friend for 30 years.

"He looked dispassionately at his work and he didn't do things to patients just because it was good for his ego. He had a strong moral and ethical sense about the way they were to be treated, and he refused to be swayed by current fads. He always tried to do what was right for his patients," said Dr. Long.

The Richard J. Otenasek Jr. Award for excellence in teaching, "for his unfailing advocacy for the welfare of patients," was created at Hopkins this year to honor his long tenure and work there.

"He was a real role model for us and taught us that compassion and consideration for the patient came first," said Dr. Edward R. Laws, professor of neurosurgery at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and a former student who will be a pallbearer at his funeral today.

A deeply religious man, Dr. Otenasek was invested as a Knight of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a Catholic organization, in 1991.

In May, Dr. Otenasek and his wife, the former Margaret D. Bagli, whom he married in 1954, were awarded Archdiocesan Medals of Honor for establishing the Anne Lindsey Otenasek Scholarship at the Gallagher Center in Timonium for developmentally disabled teen-agers and adults.

Miss Otenasek, a Western Maryland College student who had spent a semester studying in London, was a volunteer at the center. She was 21 when she was killed in the 1988 terrorist attack on Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

"We didn't speak of it much," recalled Dr. Long, "but I know after his daughter's death that it made him more dedicated than ever to helping those in need."

Dr. Donald Urbancic, headmaster of Loyola High School, said at the award ceremony: "The family's tragedies and hardships have left our Kelley medalist with a deeper faith and love for God."

In his leisure, Dr. Otenasek enjoyed gardening and raising vegetables, but mostly he loved being with his family.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10: 30 a.m. today at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5200 N. Charles St.

Surviving in addition to his wife are three sons, Richard J. Otenasek III of Bel Air, Francis H. Otenasek of Wilmington, Del., and John H. Otenasek of Monterey, Mass.; two daughters, Catherine O. Levitas of Cumberland and Page O. Kozak of Hummelstown, Pa.; his mother, Mary Catherine Otenasek of Towson; and seven grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to the Gallagher Center, 2520 Pot Spring Road, Timonium 21093, or Gould Farm, Monterey, Mass. 01245.

Pub Date: 7/05/96

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