Dr. Charles Gassaway Spicknall, 93, health officer for Frederick County

June 09, 2005|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Dr. Charles Gassaway Spicknall, former medical director of the old U.S. Public Health Hospital in Wyman Park who later was the health officer for Frederick County, died of a stroke Monday at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. He was 93.

Born on Solomons Island and raised in Hyattsville, he attended Prince George's County public schools. He began his public health career after earning his medical degree in 1936 from the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington.

In 1941, Dr. Spicknall was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Berlin as part of a group whose job was to inspect French and British prisoner-of-war camps under the Geneva Convention.

"He recalled that it took several months to reach Berlin after receiving his orders, and that at each border he was asked why he was going into rather than leaving Germany," said a son-in-law, Dr. Gary R. Pasternack, a pathologist and faculty member of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

After the United States entered the war, Dr. Spicknall was held with U.S. diplomatic personnel - including George Kennan, who had been the U.S. charge d'affaires in Berlin - and journalists for six months at Bad Nauheim, a spa near Frankfurt,

"He recalled the modest diet that consisted largely of bread, cabbage, potatoes and turnips with relatively little meat, this while Axis personnel were interned at the Greenbrier [resort] in West Virginia," Dr. Pasternack said.

While being held in Germany, he met his future wife, Gladys Marie Anderson, the daughter of an American soldier who had settled in France after World War I and joined the U.S. diplomatic corps. After being repatriated, the couple married in 1942.

During the war years, Dr. Spicknall handled domestic Public Health Service assignments and completed his residency in internal medicine.

He continued his career with the health service and, from 1962 to 1964 while living in Germany, was medical officer for U.S. consulates in Munich and Zurich, Switzerland.

In 1964, Dr. Spicknall was assigned as medical officer to Wyman Park, where he inspired young physicians.

"He was a wonderful teacher and spawned a whole generation of committed physicians," Dr. Pasternack said.

After retiring from federal service in 1968, he moved to Frederick and became the county's health officer, playing an influential role in making sure that environmental, water and sewage concerns were met for pending development.

"He was a very sound physician, and one of the best things you could say about Charlie was that he was a straight and ethical person who did not bend the rules," said Dr. Albert M. Power, a retired Frederick child psychiatrist who had worked with him. "There was a man here who was well-known for his fried chicken. He was preparing chicken for a meeting of the Frederick County Medical Society, and [Dr. Spicknall] closed him up for operating an unsafe kitchen."

One of Dr. Spicknall's interests was population growth and its effect on the environment. He and his wife were co-founders of Planned Parenthood's Frederick clinic. Its building is named for them in recognition of their efforts.

"Dr. Spicknall was held in high regard and was one of the best health officers we ever had in the county," said Alice Conley, a friend in Frederick. "His interests were wide, and in many ways he was ahead of his time."

Dr. Spicknall retired in 1983, and since the mid-1990s had lived at the Blakehurst retirement community in Towson.

He attended services at Trinity Episcopal Church in Towson. He read widely about World War II and enjoyed travel. He and his wife also liked taking courses at Oxford and Cambridge universities when traveling in England.

Graveside services will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Frederick.

In addition to his wife, Dr. Spicknall is survived by two daughters, Michelle R. Pasternack of Roland Park and Annette N. Kubinec of Ocean, N.J.; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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