Dr. Gordon G. Heiner III, 81, ophthalmologist, reporter


Dr. Gordon G. Heiner III, a retired Towson ophthalmologist who earlier had been a Foreign Service officer and reporter, died of cancer Friday at his home in the Charlesbrook neighborhood of Baltimore County. He was 81.

Born in West Point, N.Y., the son of a career military officer, Dr. Heiner was raised at several military installations around the country and graduated in 1940 from Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H.

He was 16 when he began his college studies at Harvard University, and after completing ROTC training, he enlisted in the Army in 1943. He served in intelligence with the Office of Strategic Services and landed in France a week after the D-Day invasion in 1944.

He returned to Harvard, where he earned a bachelor's degree in history and literature in 1947, and two years later he earned a master's degree in international relations from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

In 1950, Dr. Heiner took a post in the operations sector of the Central Intelligence Agency in Berlin, where he remained until 1953, when he joined the Foreign Service.

He was sent to consulates in the Italian cities of Palermo and Naples, where was a visa officer and reported and wrote on economic and political affairs. In 1956, he was posted to Cambodia, where he again reported on political and economic matters.

In 1959, he left the Foreign Service and moved to New York City and went to work as a reporter for Newsweek. Two years later, at 37, he began medical school at Temple University in Philadelphia, where he earned his medical degree in 1965.

During his internship at Philadelphia Presbyterian Hospital, he met and married Dr. Jutta Dugge in 1966. She survives him.

In 1967, the couple moved to Lahore, Pakistan, where they conducted smallpox research for three years for the department of international medicine at the University of Maryland Medical School.

"He became interested in ophthalmology while in Pakistan, where he observed many people who were suffering from eye problems," said Dr. Allen E. Silver, a longtime friend and Baltimore ophthalmologist.

After returning from Pakistan, Dr. Heiner decided to study ophthalmology at Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

Dr. Allan G. Scott, an ophthalmologist, knew him from 1971 to 1975 at a GBMC training program.

"I've often told people that Gordon had one of the most interesting curriculum vitae of anyone I've ever known," Dr. Scott said. "He was a Renaissance man of sorts and absolutely beyond reproach. I've always had the utmost respect for him."

In 1976, Dr. Heiner established his ophthalmology practice in the Investment Building in Towson, and later moved to GBMC, where he continued working and seeing patients until retiring in 1997.

Dr. Heiner was also an instructor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, GBMC and the Wilmer Eye Institute, and had served as president of the Maryland Ophthalmological Society from 1987 to 1988.

"He had a very sound mind and great clinical acumen. He was also a moral compass for us and had an excellent sense of fairness," Dr. Silver said. "And his patients absolutely adored him. He was always behind schedule because he gave them more time than he had. He was always extremely thorough and wasn't about to be rushed."

Colleagues recalled Dr. Heiner's highly detailed notes, which he wrote with a fountain pen.

"Gordon's notes were so meticulous and precise that you could follow a patient from their first visit to the last. He believed in keeping good records because they are very important when they are passed on to another physician," Dr. Scott said.

Dr. Heiner was also known for a finely honed sense of humor. "However, he hated puns. We used to block the door so he wouldn't have to listen to the puns we came up with," Dr. Silver recalled with a laugh.

In his retirement, Dr. Heiner enrolled at the Maryland Institute College of Art, where he studied painting. In 2003, he spent a month with a landscape-painting class on Italy's Amalfi coast.

"He will be remembered as a deeply loyal and devoted friend, husband and father," his wife said.

A memorial service was held Tuesday at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Baltimore.

Also surviving are a son, Michael Gordon Heiner of Beijing; and a daughter, Eleanor Heiner Fulton of Williamsburg, Va.


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