Dr. Joseph LiPira, who worked as a physician in the Towson area for almost 50 years, died of congestive heart failure Wednesday at the Gilchrest Hospice in Towson. He was 85.
Dr. LiPira was born and raised in Baltimore to a father who had emigrated from Italy and worked as a barber and a mother who worked as a homemaker. He graduated from City College in 1941. He received his bachelor's degree in 1945 from the University of Maryland and earned his medical degree from the school two years later.
While in medical school, he met the woman who would eventually become his wife, Ellen Sirman, in 1945. She was working as a nurse at the University Of Maryland Medical Center, where he was being treated for spinal meningitis. It was love at first sight, according to the couple's eldest son, Joe, who lives in Perry Hall.
After completing an internship and residency at Mercy Hospital, Dr. LiPira went to work as a physician at Bethlehem Steel. After one year with the company, he joined the Air Force as a physician from 1954 to 1955, based in Sacramento, Calif.
After his military stint, Dr. LiPira moved back to Maryland, where he resumed work for Bethlehem Steel until starting a private practice as a family practitioner in 1958. While operating the practice, Dr. LiPira was the first doctor in Maryland to perform an emergency open-heart massage and save the life of an infant, according to Joe LiPira.
"He just liked helping people," Mr. LiPira said of his father. "He was a very good doctor. He really cared for his patients. He made house calls."
Dr. LiPira's patients included the priests of Calvert Hall School and the sisters and priests of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. Dr. LiPira semi-retired from practicing medicine in 1978. He still made house calls for his older patients even after he retired, according to his son.
In his spare time, Dr. LiPira enjoyed horse racing.
"He loved his horses," Mr. LiPira said. "He would always go to Timonium, Charlestown, Pimlico, and Laurel."
Dr. LiPira also enjoyed discussing politics, attending Colts games and visiting the Eastern shore, according to his daughter, Mary Lippenholz of Cockeysville.
"Family and friends were the most important things in his life," she said.
Services will be held 11 a.m. today at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, in Loch Raven. He will be buried at Delaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium.
In addition to his wife, son and daughter, Dr. LiPira is survived by his sister, Theresa LiPira of Reisterstown; four other sons, Francis LiPira of Jacksonville, Fla., and Jim LiPira, John LiPira, and Mark LiPira, all of Perry Hall; four other daughters, Connie Getz of Glen Arm, Linda Vitt of New Orleans, Donna Holland of Towson and Joellen Hurley of Carney; and 27 grandchildren.