Dr. Lawrence R. Wharton Jr., 80, gynecologist

December 09, 2003|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Dr. Lawrence Richardson Wharton Jr., a retired gynecologist and former faculty member at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, died of congestive heart failure Thursday at his Ruxton home. He was 80.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Roland Park, Dr. Wharton was the great-great-grandson of William Wallace Spence, a Baltimore coffee and sugar merchant who donated the "Divine Healer" statue of Christ that stands in the Johns Hopkins Hospital's entry rotunda.

He was a 1941 graduate of Gilman School, where he played on the football, baseball and wrestling teams. He studied chemistry and played football at Princeton University, and to earn tuition money delivered trunks for the old Railway Express Agency and moved pianos.

Family members said that he wanted to join the Navy during World War II but was too tall.

He joined the Army before earning his Princeton diploma and spent his wartime career at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where he was assigned to study to become a military physician - following the path of his father, also a Hopkins gynecologist, who treated wounded World War I soldiers in France.

The younger Dr. Wharton served in the medical corps during the Korean War, but spent much of the time recovering from tuberculosis.

Beginning in 1954, Dr. Wharton pursued the specialty of gynecology, studying under Dr. Richard W. TeLinde, a well-known Johns Hopkins gynecologist who had an international following. Dr. Wharton was the author of a chapter in a medical text written by his mentor.

The two established a medical office together in the 800 block of Cathedral St. in Mount Vernon. Dr. Wharton later moved the practice to Lutherville and retired in 1994.

"He was a great clinician," said Dr. Theodore A. Baramki, an associate professor at the medical school. "He was also an excellent surgeon, a real gentleman and a scholar. I had so much confidence in his abilities, I sent my wife to be his patient."

Dr. Wharton joined the faculty of the Hopkins School of Medicine in the mid-1950s and taught there until the 1970s - giving it up because he had so many patients. Colleagues said he had a large practice in gynecology and female urology.

"He was a caring and gentle man. He had an even temper and a tremendous amount of patience," said Dr. James Henderson Dorsey, retired chairman of Greater Baltimore Medical Center's department of gynecology.

"He loved his teaching and gave excellent homework help to his children in Latin, history, biology and chemistry," said a daughter, Louise Wharton Pistell of Stevenson. "His patients found his ability to listen and his sense of compassion a welcome relief."

He was a member and surgeon general of the Society of Colonial Wars, and the Elkridge Club. He also raised Labrador retrievers.

He was a vestry member at St. David's Episcopal Church in Roland Park.

Services are private.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of 56 years, the former Alison Arden de Ropp; a son, Lawrence R. Wharton II of Falmouth, Maine; another daughter, Margaret Wharton Noonan of Windham, Maine; two brothers, John Gill Wharton and Bladgen Hazlehurst Wharton, both of Baltimore; and two grandchildren.

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