Dr. Oliver F. Blaker, 92, state's `grandfather of chiropractic'

November 13, 2003|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Dr. Oliver F. Blaker, a retired chiropractor who practiced in Baltimore for nearly 70 years and was called the "grandfather of chiropractic in Maryland," died in his sleep Saturday at a nursing home in Lebanon, Pa. He was 92 and had lived on Melanchton Avenue in Lutherville for 65 years before moving to Lebanon in 1999.

Born in Uniontown, Pa., the son of a barber, he was raised in Keyser, W.Va., and graduated from high school in Cumberland.

He had originally wanted to be an aeronautical engineer, but after accompanying an aunt to the office of Dr. Alton M. Bennett, a Baltimore chiropractor, he decided to pursue chiropractic after witnessing the doctor save a dying baby with a chiropractic adjustment, he said in a 1996 interview with The Sun.

In 1930, he entered the Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa - an institution established in 1895 by Dr. D.D. Palmer, founder of chiropractic.

After graduating with top academic honors in 1933, he returned to Baltimore and opened his practice in the depths of the Great Depression. He made $100 his first year.

He treated patients in their homes and, from a black suitcase that he lugged along on his visits, produced three essential tools - a stethoscope, a blood-pressure cuff and a neurocalometer, which measured variations in skin temperature.

Chiropractic is a therapy that attempts to summon the body's natural healing abilities without the use of drugs.

"The public is educated to think of a sick person as needing drugs. [Medical doctors] treat symptoms. I treat the underlying cause," Dr. Blaker said in the interview for an article in the former Sun Magazine.

"The brain sends messages to the muscles through the nerves. When nerve functions get blocked [energy diminishes and] those tissues begin to lose strength. That's when they misbehave. Misbehavior in the body is caused by stress: mechanical, chemical and emotional."

He added: "The only thing a doctor can cure is a ham."

Dr. Blaker's two most important tools were his hands and soothing voice. "Applying a corrective [thrust] of energy into the weakened tissues with my hand, the chaotic energy in the body automatically realigns. The body is happy to cooperate because it wants to survive, innately wants to survive," he said.

"He is one of the deans of the chiropractic profession. He was highly respected for his hands and the ability to heal with them," said Thomas C. Shaner, executive director of the Maryland Chiropractic Association, which awarded Dr. Blaker its Elder Statesman Award in 1996.

"He was one of the real pioneers in chiropractic and a mentor to many, including me. He was a stalwart in the profession," said Dr. William H. Adolph, a retired chiropractor and nephew by marriage.

"When he came into it, it was a relatively new field. There were not many practicing chiropractors, and there was a certain amount of medical antagonism toward it. It was actually resented by the medical profession. He battled state legislatures and public opinion. It was a tough fight in those days, but he helped get it accepted," Dr. Adolph said.

"He was also quite a humanitarian who did a lot of good for a lot of people," said a niece, Margaret "Mickey" Adolph of Owings Mills.

Dr. Blaker had an office for years on York Road in Govans and later moved to the 7800 block of York Road in Towson.

"His patients, who came from all walks of life, were 90 percent of his life. He'd leave home at 7 a.m. and return between 11 p.m. and midnight," said his daughter, Carol Lynn Morris of Lebanon, Pa.

He concluded treatments and inspired patients with a rousing: "Have a better day!"

He retired in 1999.

Inspired by Dr. Blaker's accomplishments, his son, two grandsons, a son-in-law and a grandson-in-law followed him into the profession.

Dr. Blaker was also an avid organic gardener.

In 1933, he married Beatrice Jeanette Keen, whom he lovingly called "Vitamin Bea One." She died in 1982.

Dr. Blaker was a member of Towson United Methodist Church, 501 Hampton Lane, where services will be held at 10 a.m. today.

In addition to his daughter, Dr. Blaker is survived by a son, Dr. F. Keen Blaker of Parkton; two sisters, Frances N. Walston of Dunedin, Fla., and Shirley Scott of Fayetteville, N.C.; six grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; and a great-great granddaughter.

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