Aideh Wu Kobler

[Age 85] A pathologist who fled China as a young medical school graduate, she worked on three continents.

"She led a normal life, and she did not discuss her disability," said daughter Sonja Kobler Rose.

May 23, 2007|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,sun reporter

Dr. Aideh Wu Kobler, a retired Baltimore hospital pathologist who fled Communist China as a young medical school graduate, died of complications from stomach cancer May 15 at Howard County General Hospital. The Columbia resident was 85.

Born and raised in Nanjing, China, she attended an English boarding school where she became known as Edith.

When she was a child, she was struck by a car. She developed an infection that forced the amputation of her right leg. She later learned to walk with a prosthetic.

"She led a normal life, and she did not discuss her disability," said her daughter, Sonja Kobler Rose of London.

Ms. Rose said that her mother vividly recalled the 1930s military occupation of Nanjing by Japan and how her school's headmistress was made to bow and kiss the feet of a Japanese captain.

Following her parents' wishes, she attended Nanjing's National Central University Medical College and was one of seven women in the 1945 graduating class.

"Her father was very modern in his thinking and sent all his children to be chemists, physicians or physicians," her daughter said. "My mother was progressive and wore lipstick and contemporary Western dress with shoulder pads."

She trained in pathology, but as part of her medical education, Dr. Kobler delivered more than 200 babies.

While attending a party and playing the piano - she had wanted to study music, but her father disagreed - she met her future husband, Dr. Fritz Kobler, a Vienna-born Jewish psychiatrist who had fled his homeland in 1938 and whose family perished in the Holocaust.

They married in 1947.

After the Communist Revolution, Chinese officials pressured the Koblers to leave the country. In 1952, the couple and their infant son, Benjamin, obtained help from the World Jewish Relief Agency, which paid for their ocean trip around Africa's Cape of Good Hope to Vienna via Marseille, France.

She practiced medicine in Vienna while her husband, who had medical contacts in the U.S., worked for permission for them to move here.

He found he could work as a psychiatrist in Danville, Ky., but her Communist-issued Chinese passport initially delayed her departure from Austria.

Kentucky's Republican Sen. John Sherman Cooper had an amendment attached to a bill, which allowed her to enter the country. She left Vienna in 1962 and settled in Catonsville. Her husband worked initially at the former Spring Grove State Hospital there, and was later clinical director at what is now the state's Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville.

She worked in pathology at what is now Mercy Medical Center and the old Lutheran Hospital before retiring many years ago.

In 1980, she returned to Nanjing and was welcomed as a rich American, her daughter said.

"Until 1980, she was homesick. She saw her two brothers and their children, but her parents had died," her daughter recalled. "She realized she had made the right decision to leave China."

Her daughter said that to her mother, nothing was impossible.

"My mother had her leg amputated as a child but became a doctor, married, had children, learned German and English, and worked in three continents and learned to drive at 40 and use a laptop at 83. She was amazing," her daughter added. "She never complained."

Services will be held at 10 a.m. Sunday at the Slack Funeral Home, 3871 Old Columbia Pike in Ellicott City.

In addition to her daughter and son, who lives in Columbia, survivors include a brother in Nanjing and six grandchildren. Her husband died in 2001.

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