Dr. William D. Lynn

Surgeon became the director of the emergency room at University Hospital and taught at the medical school

March 09, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Dr. William Dawson Lynn, a retired Baltimore surgeon and medical school professor who was an avid collector of flags, died March 2 at the Brightwood Center in Lutherville from complications of a fall. He was 91.

Dr. Lynn, the son of a surgeon and a registered nurse, was born in Baltimore and spent his early years on Preston Street before moving to Rugby Road.

Dr. Lynn's interest in medicine began early in his life.

"He used to go to the hospital and watch his father operate and go on rounds," said a son, James Nelson Lynn, who lives in Lutherville.

He attended Boys' Latin School before enrolling at Gilman School, from which he graduated in 1936.

Growing up, one of Dr. Lynn's closest friends was Walter Lord, who would later become the celebrated author of "A Night to Remember," about the Titanic disaster.

Mr. Lord was a year ahead of Dr. Lynn at Gilman School, and later both men attended Princeton University, where they continued their friendship.

"They remained friends for the rest of Walter's life," said Mr. Lynn. "One summer day when they were college age, they thought it might be neat to get in Walter's car, he had some big car, and drive to the North Pole. They stopped somewhere way up in Canada when the road became a path."

Dr. Lynn enjoyed recounting college experiences from his years at Princeton during the late 1930s.

"He would tell us how they'd throw snowballs at Albert Einstein as he walked to the chemical building and he'd thrown one back, or they'd yell, 'Get a haircut!' " his son said.

An outstanding lacrosse player at Princeton, Dr. Lynn was a two-time All American defenseman who played in the first North-South all-star game.

In a 1965 article in the old Sunday Sun Magazine that Dr. Lynn wrote in collaboration with another player, Charles T. Turner, he recalled the first North-South game that was held June 14, 1940, at the old Baltimore Municipal Stadium, on East 33rd Street.

"There were 3,500 spectators on hand, which was a pretty good crowd for lacrosse at that time," Dr. Lynn and Mr. Turner wrote. "Except for the fact that the North won the game 6-5, the spectators got what they came for - a good, fast, tight game."

After graduating from Princeton in 1940, Dr. Lynn entered medical school and graduated in 1943 from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

He interrupted a residency at what was then University Hospital to enlist in the Navy in June 1945. He served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Antietam in the Pacific theater as a ship's physician.

After being discharged with the rank of lieutenant commander, Dr. Lynn resumed his surgical residency at University Hospital.

In 1950, he became an attending surgeon at the hospital, where he later became the director of its emergency room.

It was in the emergency room that Dr. Lynn met and fell in love with his future wife, Eleanor Virginia Key, a registered nurse whom he married in 1949. She died in 2001.

"When he first met her, he turned to a friend and said, 'That's the girl I'm going to marry,' " his son said.

In addition to his work at what is now the University of Maryland Medical Center, Dr. Lynn maintained a private surgical practice in the Medical Arts Building and was a professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

"Billy was an excellent general surgeon whom I knew from his time as a resident at University Hospital. He contributed much over the years to the hospital and medical school," said Dr. John M. Dennis, retired dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

"He also served on many committees, including the admission committee, which is a pretty important one," Dr. Dennis recalled.

"He was a wonderful person, and each year he gave a Christmas party for us. He gave us humorous presents that touched our lives, and he got so much fun watching us unwrap them," Dr. Dennis said. "I think he had more fun than we did."

At the time of his retirement in 1985, Dr. Lynn was director of outpatient services and head of the Utilization Review Board at the hospital.

He had been a member of the board of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland during the 1960s and 1970s and a member of the board of the Gilman School.

He also had been a member of both the Medical and Chirurgical Society of Maryland and Baltimore City Medical Society. He was also a fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

For 50 years, Dr. Lynn resided in the 5000 block of St. Albans Way in Homeland, where he enjoyed working in his garden and lawn.

"His grass was like a manicured putting green. There wasn't a weed in it," his son said.

Dr. Lynn had an interest in flags that went back to his student days at Princeton when he and Mr. Lord gained entry to the off-limits turreted buildings, whose doors were locked, to fly the Confederate battle flag, much to the consternation of college officials.

Dr. Lynn's collection of 40 flags, which he flew from the second story of his fieldstone home, were kept in a wooden flag chest that had been built by a son.

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