Robert J. Lyden Sr.

Day or night, seven days a week, the Baltimore County general practitioner made himself available to his patients

March 13, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Robert James Lyden Sr., a longtime Baltimore County general practitioner who helped soothe jittery patients' nerves with Tootsie Roll pops, died Tuesday of cancer at his Rosedale home.

He was 84.

Dr. Lyden, the son of a tavern owner and a homemaker, was born and raised in Clarksburg, W.Va. After graduating in 1943 from St. Mary's High School in Clarksburg, he attended Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg for a year before enlisting in the Navy.

He served as a hospital corpsman in the Pacific before being discharged in 1946.

Dr. Lyden returned to Mount St. Mary's for his sophomore and junior years before skipping his senior year and transferring in 1948 to St. Louis University Medical School in St. Louis, Mo., where he earned his medical degree in 1952.

He then returned to Baltimore, where he completed an internship and residency at what is now Mercy Medical Center.

Dr. Lyden went into private practice in 1955 when he opened an office on Eastern Avenue in Essex; seven years later, he moved his office to Rosedale.

His wife, the former Anita Louise Freiert, whom he met during his student days at Mount St. Mary's and married in 1948, worked alongside him in his practice.

He also maintained privileges at Mercy Medical Center and Franklin Square Hospital Center.

"He was recognized as a brilliant diagnostician and a dedicated doctor who cared deeply for his patients, and his practice grew significantly," said a daughter, Maria A. "Mia" Talarigo of Finksburg. "Many patients who had moved out of the area, even to Pennsylvania, would still go to him if they were sick."

It was Dr. Lyden's custom not to make appointments with patients, and he continued making house calls long after the practice fell out of fashion.

"He did not want anyone to think that their time with him was limited," Ms. Talarigo said. "He stayed until the last patient had been treated, regardless of the hour. He always gave his home phone number to patients and asked them to call him, so he could keep track of their treatment and recovery."

Day or night, seven days a week, Dr. Lyden made himself available to his patients.

"It was not unusual for him to meet patients at his office on Sundays and holidays, so they didn't have to wait until the next day or go to the emergency room," Ms. Talarigo said.

"Dr. Lyden was a distinctly wonderful man. He was the man you wanted to have as your physician. He lived in the neighborhood, knew everyone, and gave them the best care possible," said Dr. Kenneth Margolis, a Franklin Square Hospital Center gastroenterologist and a longtime friend.

"He was the kind of doctor unfortunately we no longer have. He is an extinct species. He is the kind of physician that you read about in books or see in old 1940s movies," Dr. Margolis said.

"When you came to his office, he not only knew who you were but your entire family. He didn't care about time because he took the time to listen. Today, it's 15 minutes and out," he said. "He was an extraordinary physician and gentleman."

For patients who seemed anxious, Dr. Lyden had a ready cure at hand.

"He had drawers and drawers full of Tootsie Roll pops, which he gave to patients. He knew they hated coming to the doctor, and when he gave them a Tootsie Roll pop, they felt better," said Ms. Talarigo.

Dr. Louis C. Breschi, a Baltimore County urologist, was another longtime friend.

"He always referred patients to me who had urologic problems," said Dr. Breschi. "He was one of the vanishing breed of family practitioners who worked day and night for his patients. He was a great counselor, and he did so many things for his patients, who loved him."

Dr. Philip P. Nolan, a Rosedale dentist, had his office near Dr. Lyden's.

"I had him for myself and the whole family. I had lots of confidence in him, and he was one helluva doctor," Dr. Nolan said.

Dr. Lyden also served as a team physician at Chesapeake High School during the 1970s and 1980s, and was designated to give flu shots to Baltimore County public school employees during the 1990s.

Dr. Lyden continued seeing patients until a week before he was diagnosed in 2007 with cancer and forced to retire.

"He never envisioned a time when he would not be taking care of his patients and his retirement was very difficult for him," said Ms. Talarigo.

He was a member of the Knights of Columbus and was proud of his Irish heritage and West Virginia roots, family members said.

A devout Roman Catholic who attended daily Mass, he was a member of St. Clement Mary Hofbauer Church in Rosedale, where he was a lector. He also attended devotions at the Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciation.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. today at his church, 1220 Chesaco Ave.

Also surviving are three sons, Robert J. Lyden Jr. of Baltimore, Michael A. Lyden of Rosedale and Patrick J. Lyden of Washington; five daughters, A. Susan Lyden of Towson, Deborah A. Nizer of Silver Run, Rebecca S. Dietrich and Camille A. Kane, both of Parkville, and Noel V. Adamski of Baltimore; nine grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

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