Howard Essex Hall, a retired physician who practiced family medicine for 30 years in Carroll County and started out treating patients in a makeshift office in his Sykesville farmhouse, died of liver cancer Monday at Fairhaven Retirement Community in Sykesville. He was 82.
Born in Barstow in Calvert County, he attended Western Maryland College and Yale University, earning a college degree after his education was interrupted by World War II.
He earned a medical degree from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore in 1947 and completed his residency there. All the while, he served in the Army, attaining the rank of first lieutenant before being discharged in 1953. Part of his time in the Army was spent researching tropical diseases in Puerto Rico.
After completing his military service, Dr. Hall moved his family to Sykesville, where he was one of few doctors. Patients arrived in droves at the small waiting and examining rooms on the first floor of a house; the Halls lived upstairs.
Years later, after building another home on the property, Dr. Hall tore down the farmhouse and built an office with X-ray machines, a drug room and multiple examination rooms.
"The patients just came," said his daughter Sandra de Britain of Richardson, Texas. "They really needed a doctor there."
Dr. Hall drove the winding country roads making house calls. He kept office hours late into the night to accommodate people working odd shifts. His daughter said her father was shaped by his upbringing, growing up on a tobacco farm with very little, as one of seven children.
"My dad never forgot that you need a doctor whether you have money or not," she said.
When what is now Carroll Hospital Center opened in the 1960s, Dr. Hall was its first chief of staff. He left the job after a year or two because the long trip to Westminster took him away from his patients too much, his daughter said.
"He had hundreds and hundreds of patients," said his daughter Terry L. Renehan of Union Bridge. "He treated generations of families. He had an incredible memory for details as far as knowing people's names, who they were related to, who they married, what their medical problems were.
Recalling that Dr. Hall was always on call, she said, "Many times we'd be having family gatherings or Christmas dinners and he'd get a phone call and off he'd be."
Dr. Hall was active in the local chapter of the American Heart Association and the Carroll County Medical Society. He also supported local Pony League Baseball.
Dr. Hall was on a quest to grow the "perfect Maryland tomato." He grew softball-size beefsteak tomatoes, using a secret manure-based mixture that produced more tomatoes than he could eat. There was a garden next to his Sykesville practice, and he often sent patients away with medical advice topped off with a bag of tomatoes and cucumbers.
In 1985, Dr. Hall moved to Fort Pierce, Fla., where he played golf, which he loved, and read. He kept current on advances in medicine and read about the Civil War and World War II.
A public memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Jan. 8 at Haight's Funeral Home, 6416 Sykesville Road in Eldersburg.
Dr. Hall is also survived by his wife, the former Bertha Lopez of Fort Pierce; a son, Michael E. Hall of Sykesville; two other daughters, Lillian Aparicio of Jupiter, Fla., and Rebecca Silvestri of Palm Bay, Fla.; two brothers, Guy Henry Hall of Barstow and Robert Lee Hall of Dares Beach; two sisters, Emma Mae Steinbach of Beaverton, Ore., and Lucille Malone of Federalsburg; nine grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
His marriage to the former Charlotte MacConney of Westminster ended in divorce.