Dr. Walter B. Buck, 89, internist, outdoorsman, World War II veteran

September 15, 2000|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Dr. Walter Bayly Buck, a retired internist who practiced medicine in Baltimore for nearly 50 years, died in his sleep Tuesday at his Brooklandville home. He was 89.

With his carefully hand-tied bow ties, oxford button-down shirts, tweed jackets and seersucker suits, and thick hair, Dr. Buck had the look and demeanor of the quintessential country doctor as painted by Norman Rockwell.

For many years, until he moved to an office at Union Memorial Hospital, Dr. Buck conducted his practice from an 1880sbrownstone at St. Paul and Biddle streets, and earlier at 18 E. Eager St. He retired in 1981.

Calmly and in practical terms, he dispensed medical advice with ample doses of understanding and empathy. He believed in the recuperative value of visiting patients at home and had a certain frankness when answering their complaints.

"Hurts like hell, doesn't it?" was a typical comment.

"He was a gentle kind of a man, and his patients just adored him," said Mary D. Tilghman of Ruxton, a longtime friend whose husband, the late Dr. R. Carmichael Tilghman, served with Dr. Buck during World War II, when both were members of the 18th General Hospital Unit of Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Gwinn Owens, retired Evening Sun op-ed page editor and Baltimore writer, said, "Walter was extraordinarily kind and insightful. When you came in with a problem, he could assess it and its nonmedical aspects. He was amazing. Most doctors are so authoritative, but he would admit it if he didn't know something."

"He was dignified, well-liked and highly respected," said retired Baltimore physician Dr. J. Dixon Hills.

He was described by Dr. Kirby L. vonKessler, a retired Glyndon physician, as "a classic internist and a marvelous man."

Dr. Buck was born and raised at Buckton, his father's Brooklandville estate, near the old Greenspring Valley branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

He was a 1929 graduate of Gilman and earned his bachelor's degree from Princeton University in 1933. He earned his medical degree in 1937 from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and began practicing in the late 1930s.

During World War II, he served with the Hopkins unit in the Fiji Islands, Asia and Egypt and was discharged with the rank of major.

"He was the last of the old Brooklandville boys," said Bud Hatfield, owner of the Valley Inn, where Dr. Buck liked to dine on lamb chops and crab cakes while enjoying a glass of Maryland rye whiskey. "He used to tell stories of sitting on the bank at the old Brooklandville station waiting for the Pennsy train to take him to school at Gilman. He'd get off at Melvale and then take a jitney."

An outdoorsman, Dr. Buck enjoyed goose and duck hunting as well as eating the classic Maryland wild game dishes. He also was an avid fisherman and rock collector.

For years, until the 1970s, when he moved into a cottage on his father's estate, Dr. Buck lived on Merryman Court in Roland Park.

He was a former member of the Bachelors Cotillon and a member of the Elkridge Club.

A memorial service will be held at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow at St. Stephens Traditional Episcopal Church, 11856 Mays Chapel Road, Timonium.

He is survived by his wife of 64 years, the former Caroline Pattison Cromwell; two sons, Walter B. Buck Jr. of Albuquerque, N.M., and Thomas B. Buck of Carney; a daughter, Mary Cromwell Buck of Washington; and six grandchildren.

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