Dr. Taghi Modarressi, 65, Child Psychiatrist And Writer

April 25, 1997|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

Dr. Taghi Modarressi, a child psychiatrist who was the husband of novelist Anne Tyler and an accomplished fiction writer in his own right, died of lymphoma Wednesday at his Homeland residence. He was 65.

Dr. Modarressi was the founder of the Center for Infant Study at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a pioneer in exploring the psychological makeup of infants. He retired last year.

He was born in Tehran, Iran, the son of a lawyer, and grew up in a family of writers and educators. He earned a medical degree in Iran, where he started writing.

When he was doing psychological research, he ran afoul of suspicious members of the shah's security police. After being detained and questioned, his notes and tapes confiscated, he left Iran for the United States in 1959.

Dr. Modarressi served an internship in Wichita, Kan., then took a residency at Duke University, which is where he met Miss Tyler. They were married in 1963 and soon moved to Montreal, where he began a residency at McGill University.

He joined the faculty at the UM medical school in 1967, specializing in child development. In 1982, he founded the Center for Infant Study, which is one of the few that offers psychiatric care for children under 5.

"He was instrumental in educating a generation of mental health workers to work with children and families in distress," said George Cohen, a retired colleague at UM.

Mr. Cohen said many mental health professionals will only work with older children because the therapists believe that infants played too much and were difficult to work with.

"He always felt the kids were telling him a story," he said.

In the late 1980s, Dr. Modarressi founded the Coldspring Family Center Therapeutic Nursery, housed at a Head Start center in Pimlico, which attempts to intervene as early as possible in the lives of children who have suffered emotionally scarring traumas.

He published two novels in the United States, "The Book of Absent People" and "The Pilgrim's Rules of Etiquette." He completed another novel late last year.

"He would wake up around 3 or 4 in the morning and start writing, and then be off to the center. That's his routine," said his daughter Tezh Modarressi of New York City. "He wrote always on the sun porch."

Dr. Modarressi also is survived by another daughter, Mitra Modarressi of San Francisco.

No services will be held.

The family suggests memorial donations to the Center for Infant Study, 408 W. Lombard St. Baltimore 21201.

Pub Date: 4/25/97

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