Dr. Dorsey R. Tipton, 85, neighborhood dentist, veteran, photographer

March 11, 2002|By Todd Richissin | Todd Richissin,SUN STAFF

For more than 47 years, Dr. Dorsey R. Tipton repeated the same approach with his patients: He'd sit them in his dentist's chair but before he'd even think about dealing with their teeth, he'd be sure to treat their jittery nerves.

He accomplished that with a soothing story or a gentle joke, and sometimes by assuring cash-poor patients that they needn't worry, he'd do the work for free - and then give them bus fare home.

Dr. Tipton, known to generations of patients in the Catonsville area for his mild manner and skill as a dentist, died Thursday of heart failure while en route to Baltimore from Philadelphia. He was 85.

His office was in a rowhouse on Westowne Place. A solo practitioner, he never had a secretary. He treated many of his patients from baby teeth to dentures, and they adored his easy manner, never complaining when the phone rang and they heard his familiar, "Hold on a second while I get that."

"He was the neighborhood dentist, and he had a story for everybody," said one of his three daughters, Kathleen O'Connor Donnelly of Baltimore. "They were stories that would make you laugh, but never at anybody else's expense."

With typical kindness, Dr. Tipton once inquired about his mail carrier's sudden sadness and learned that the man's mother recently had suffered a stroke.

Dr Tipton "sat down with him for 20 minutes," his daughter said. "Dad just said some words, and the mailman wrapped them around his heart. And when he walked away, he had a lighter step."

Dr. Tipton was a 1934 graduate of Mount St. Joseph High School. He graduated from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry in 1939 and later taught there.

He married Helen Hyle, whom he met at a neighborhood dance, in 1941.

"It took him a week after the dance to call me," Mrs. Tipton recalled. "He told me it took him a while to get up the nerve."

Drafted into the Army during the Korean War, Dr. Tipton served in a surgical-and-medical unit from 1953 to 1955 and attained the rank of major.

After returning home, he loved nothing more than squeezing into the car with his wife and their four children to take vacations to whichever destination he fancied at the moment. "I think we were the only kids in the area who had toured a pretzel factory," his daughter recalled with a laugh.

Dr. Tipton was an avid gardener, and he played doubles tennis until his death. Despite his pace, he often preached the benefits of a leisurely stroll - a healthy way to breathe in life, he would say.

Among his passions was taking and developing black-and-white photographs.

"He kept a photographic journal of all our lives," Ms. Donnelly said.

Dr. Tipton was a lector at St. William of York Roman Catholic Church for years. He was fascinated by all churches and snapped pictures of them, often stopping inside to chat or attend services, regardless of denomination.

A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 1 p.m. today at St. William of York Church, at Edmondson Avenue and Cooks Lane.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Dr. Tipton is survived by a son, Terrence Tipton, and daughters Barbara Tipton and Eileen Clements, all of Baltimore.

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