Dr. Raymond J. Honaski, 81, Baltimore dentist, veteran

March 31, 2006|By FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN | FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN,SUN REPORTER

Dr. Raymond Joseph Honaski, a well-known East Baltimore dentist who worked seven days a week providing care for his patients whether or not they could afford his services, died of cancer Saturday at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. He was 81.

Dr. Honaski was born in Baltimore and raised on Youngstown Avenue in Dundalk. He was a 1942 graduate of City College and was drafted into the Army in 1943. He served in Europe with the infantry and later at a field hospital, and was recalled for service during the Korean War.

After the end of World War II, he returned to Baltimore, where he earned a bachelor's degree from Loyola College and graduated from the University of Maryland Dental School in 1951.

He combined his general dental practice with orthodontics and began treating patients in 1951 from a rowhouse office at Elrino Street and Eastern Avenue, where he remained until retiring in 2000.

During his nearly half-century of practice, Dr. Honaski had a second office in Ellicott City, and he maintained a fully equipped one in his home, family members said.

His workday began at 7 a.m., and it wasn't uncommon for it to end at midnight.

"He was never off, made house calls to treat invalids and saw people from all walks of life. He treated priests and nuns and the mentally handicapped. He never turned anyone away who was in need and refused to make them pay," said a daughter, Barbara S. Becker of Cockeysville. "He even had patients who drove from New York and Virginia, who would wait three hours in the waiting room to see him."

"His work was his passion. He touched the lives of many, giving tirelessly and unconditionally to his patients and friends," said another daughter, Stephanie L. Reit of Berthoud, Colo.

Dr. Honaski lived in Woodbine and, since 2001, in Timonium. He was married for 15 years to the former Marguerite A. "Johnnie" Johnson, who died in 1965.

"After her death, he became a workaholic," Mrs. Becker said.

"He was a prince of a man. I first went to him when I was 14, and that was 50 years ago," said Bob Tenaglia. "He always called his patients `Sport,' and referred to himself as `Painless Parker.' He did everything for everybody, and everyone was special. He was everybody's friend."

Added John E. Lufburrow, retired president and chairman of Heritage Savings Bank: "Ray was a very good dentist who worked constantly. He was outgoing, vivacious, kind and charitable. If I had a dental problem - it made no difference what hour - he'd say, `Come on by.' Sometimes I'd go to his home, and there were others waiting there to see him."

By today's standards, Dr. Honaski's fees were low, and he seemed unconcerned about changing them.

"If you were a patient back in the days when a filling cost $15, he charged you the same thing 20 years later. He just had a soft heart for people," said Mrs. Becker, who managed her father's office. "I remember back in the 1980s, when he was owed $66,000 from people who didn't pay."

It wasn't uncommon for Dr. Honaski to barter his dental skills for cakes, pastries or lasagna.

As a result, Dr. Honaski fell prey to unscrupulous manipulators.

"While he may have been an amazing dentist, he was not the greatest businessman and became the prime target for many fly-by-night insurance, real estate and financial schemes. He bought a lot of swampland and lined a lot of pockets during his lifetime," Mrs. Reit said.

He enjoyed fishing and crabbing.

"And he liked telling tall tales about his fishing and crabbing adventures," Mrs. Becker said.

Dr. Honaski was a member of the Sacred Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church, where a funeral Mass was offered yesterday.

Also surviving are two grandchildren; a niece; and a nephew.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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