Dr. Gino Zarbin

[Age 83] An `old-fashioned doctor,' the pediatrician grew up in Italy, practiced for 40 years in Baltimore

Dr. Zarbin was an Alfa Romeo enthusiast and built a 12-by-18-foot HO-gauge model train layout.

August 10, 2007|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,sun reporter

Dr. Gino Franco Luigi Zarbin, a Baltimore pediatrician whose love of children was equaled only by his enthusiasm for Alfa Romeo sports cars and model trains, died Monday of cancer at his Hillendale home. He was 83.

Dr. Zarbin, the son of a dentist, was born and raised in Vittorio Veneto, Italy, and raised in Milan.

Educated at the University of Milan, where he earned his medical degree in 1948, Dr. Zarbin escaped conscription into the German army during World War II when he missed his regular train.

"The Nazis stopped the train, conscripted the men on board and shipped them off to the Russian front. When his parents learned of the event, they were horrified," said a son, Dr. Marco A. Zarbin, a Chatham, N.J., ophthalmologist. "He had simply taken a later train to the city and returned later that day, to his parents' amazement and great relief."

Subsequently, Dr. Zarbin completed additional training in pediatrics and anesthesia at the University of Milan. He then joined its staff, where he researched and wrote articles on pediatric disease.

In 1952, he met Adriana Corasaniti, a Baltimore opera singer, whom he married in 1955. They lived in Milan until they moved to Baltimore in 1957.

Dr. Zarbin completed a second residency in pediatrics at what is now University of Maryland Medical Center in 1960 so that he could be licensed to practice medicine in the United States.

He was certified by the American Board of Pediatrics in 1961 and the next year was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

For more than 40 years, Dr. Zarbin practiced medicine at offices in his Loch Raven Boulevard home and on Foster Avenue in Highlandtown.

"He was so old-school and still made house calls to visit the sick," said Dr. Thomas F. Lansdale III, a Baltimore internist and friend who cared for Dr. Zarbin in his final illness.

"When I visited him, I got a glimpse of his office that was attached to his house. There was an old sign that said `Dr. G. Zarbin, Pediatrics' and a side door where the patients came in and another that led to his kitchen," Dr. Lansdale said. "There were two examining rooms and an ancient scale which he used to weigh newborns."

Days began early for Dr. Zarbin, who, after dressing in one of his trademark three-piece Milanese suits, could be found sipping a latte no later than 6:30 a.m., family members said.

"The phone started ringing regularly at 7 a.m. and didn't stop until 7 p.m.," his son said.

After seeing the infants and children who packed his waiting room, Dr. Zarbin ate lunch with his wife nearly every day and then headed to Highlandtown, where he saw 20 to 40 more patients.

He ended his day with hospital rounds before heading home at 7 p.m. to have dinner with his wife. His days off, except for a medical emergency, were Thursdays and Sundays.

"He was an old-fashioned doctor," Dr. Lansdale said. "He'd tumble out of bed to see a sick child day or night. There wasn't anyone who was more devoted to his patients. He lived for and with them. He was very warmhearted, had a kind sparkle to his face and a lovely sense of humor."

In June, Dr. Zarbin was forced to retire when he could no longer stand.

"He never ever complained and was very courageous," Dr. Lansdale said.

"This was his life for 50 years, and he loved it," his son said.

Through the years, he enjoyed driving one of the three Alfa Romeos he owned, accompanied by his wife.

Several months ago, when one of his cars broke down, Dr. Zarbin and his wife got out and pushed it up the street to their home.

"They must have looked like people from a Barry Levinson film set in the 1940s, dressed to the nines," said Susanna Craine, a friend and Dr. Lansdale's office manager.

Dr. Zarbin's third passion was model railroading.

"He built an HO-gauge model railroad that measured 12 feet by 18 feet. He did everything," Mrs. Zarbin said.

Dr. Zarbin was a communicant of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church in Baynesville.

A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. today at Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church, Baltimore and Ware avenues in Towson.

Also surviving are two other sons, Dr. Sergio C. Zarbin of Baltimore and Robert J. Zarbin of Annapolis; and three grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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