Dr. Joseph Deckelbaum, 75, Northwest Baltimore internist

March 26, 2002|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Dr. Joseph Deckelbaum, a Northwest Baltimore internist whose 50-year practice of medicine was defined by a caring and easygoing concern for his patients, died Saturday at Sinai Hospital of complications from a fall. The Pikesville resident was 75.

Dr. Deckelbaum's interest in medicine began as a youth in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he was born the son of Jewish immigrant parents from Russia and Poland.

"He had injured his knee and it was slow in healing. A neighbor, an Italian woman, made a salve of potato skins, which she wrapped around the wound and told him not to take it off for a week," said Marlene Judith Shapiro, a daughter who lives in Gaithersburg.

"It was summer, and it smelled awful, but after a week, a penicillin-like mold had formed over the wound, and when the bandages were removed, it was healed," she said.

After moving to Baltimore with his family in 1941 and graduating from City College in 1944, Dr. Deckelbaum attended the University of Maryland in College Park, where he earned his bachelor's degree in three years. He was a 1951 graduate of the University of Maryland Medical School and completed an internship and residency in internal medicine at Sinai Hospital.

While an undergraduate, Dr. Deckelbaum participated in one of the most celebrated rescue attempts of Testudo, the school's official bronze terrapin mascot, which had been abducted by students at the Johns Hopkins University and hidden on the Homewood campus before the 1947 national lacrosse championship game.

A two-hour battle between the students was brought under control only with the arrival of Baltimore police.

"They were met by Hopkins athletes, who soaped up the halls to slide the Maryland students into rooms where they were shaving heads. My father, who had a big pompadour, was getting married the next week, and he managed to escape because he knew his future wife would kill him if he showed up at the wedding with a bald head," said Mrs. Shapiro, laughing.

Dr. Deckelbaum joined the Air Force in 1951 and was stationed in Laredo, Texas, where he was a flight surgeon. He was discharged with the rank of captain in 1955.

After returning to Baltimore, he converted the front porch and living room of his father-in-law's home at Liberty Heights Avenue and Garrison Boulevard into a medical office. From 1960 until 1975, his practice was in the West Rogers Avenue Medical Center.

In 1975, he formed a partnership with Drs. Stanford Malinow, H. Gerald Oster, Joseph Matcher and later David Penn. He also was one of the founders and planners of Northwest Hospital Center in Randallstown, which was originally called the Liberty Court Rehabilitation Center.

"We practiced together for over 25 years, and it was like being married. And we were literally a happy family," said Dr. Malinow, a Baltimore internist.

"He was like the old-time physician who knew his patients intimately, so it just wasn't a medical visit but also a social one," he said.

Dr. Deckelbaum retired from the full-time practice of medicine two years ago, but he retained an avid interest in medicine and continued making grand rounds at Sinai and Johns Hopkins hospitals.

He was a member of Beth El Congregation in Northwest Baltimore.

Services were held yesterday.

In addition to his daughter, Dr. Deckelbaum is survived by his wife of 55 years, the former Edythe Gordon; two sons, Robert A. Deckelbaum of Pikesville and Jack I. Deckelbaum of Owings Mills; a brother, Rabbi Mordechai Deckelbaum of Brooklyn, N.Y.; a sister, Evelyn Cushner of Pikesville; and seven grandchildren.

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