Dr. Robert W. Gebhardt, 75, emergency room physician

March 23, 2002|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Dr. Robert W. Gebhardt, a retired emergency room physician and former big-game hunter, died of heart failure Monday at his Forest Hill home. He was 75.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Ednor Gardens, Dr. Gebhardt was a 1944 City College graduate. After beginning his college studies at Johns Hopkins, he was drafted into the Navy, where he served as a pharmacist's mate at the Great Lakes Training Station.

Returning to Baltimore, he resumed his college education and earned his bachelor's and medical degrees in 1952 from the University of Maryland Medical School.

After completing an internship and residency in internal medicine at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles and Lutheran Hospital in Baltimore, he entered private practice.

From 1954 to 1969 when he moved to Winchester, Va., he practiced medicine from an office in North Baltimore.

After moving to Winchester, he worked as an emergency room physician at Winchester Memorial Hospital until retiring in 1989. He returned to Baltimore in 1993, and later settled in Forest Hill.

"He was a darn nice guy and a good doctor. It was nothing for him to work 18 hours in the emergency room. And I think that's why he went into medicine, because he wanted to help people," said William O. Goldstein, a childhood friend and Baltimore attorney.

An adventurer and lifelong hunter, Dr. Gebhardt made the first of two safaris to Kenya in 1957, with Ted Bautro, owner of an East Baltimore sporting goods store.

They flew to Nairobi, where they met their guide, purchased the necessary licenses and were reunited with their supplies, which had been sent by steamship three months earlier.

"The basic license cost $240 and permitted them to shoot 30 different kinds of animals. They obtained special leopard permits for another $56. A permit to shoot elephants, in which the two were not interested, cost $240," said a 1957 article in The Sunday Sun Magazine.

"The hunters found nearly a thrill a minute in the month of stalking big game. Rhinos, wart hogs, Cape buffalo, zebras, dik-diks and impalas were shot."

In addition to Dr. Gebhardt and his friend, the party that traveled across Kenya in two trucks, consisted of a guide and 12 others who were cooks, trackers, beaters and drivers.

They had dangerous brushes with deadly snakes such as the black mamba cobra, a bull elephant and two startled rhinos that charged and veered away at the last moment, leaving a frightened Dr. Gebhardt and a member of the party grateful for their lives.

In his unpublished diary, Dr. Gebhardt wrote of the beauty he found in Kenya and the Masai who live there.

"As I sit here on the side of a grass-covered mountain writing the notes today, I am looking out over one of the most beautiful landscapes one could find anywhere.

"The low rounded mountains, dotted with podo and cedar trees, form the basin edge of an exquisite valley. The aviary trills and chirps are occasionally interrupted by the chattering of a monkey.

"There was a scattering of orange `morning glories' and the white ground orchid along the edge of the bush. A good, cool breeze is blowing, yet one is kept from chilling by the very warm rays of the sun. Truly the Masai, whose land this is, is a wealthy man."

"He had a great love of hunting and was a good story teller and enjoyed telling tales of Africa," said Mr. Goldstein.

"In later years, he had eight-pointers, and he enjoyed hunting elk in Wyoming or wild turkeys and grouse on his Winchester farm. However, he never shot a Maryland deer," said his sister, Frieda Schaefer-Reale of Timonium.

Other hobbies included photography, woodworking, model railroading and stamp collecting.

He was married in the early 1970s to Dorothy Orash, who died in 1986.

Services were held Friday.

In addition to his sister, he is survived by a son, Christopher Gebhardt of Ferndale, and a grandson.

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