Dr. Jerome Gaber, physician, dies at 88

Old-time family practitioner was also an accomplished musician who performed with the Goucher and UMBC orchestras

November 13, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun | Baltimore Sun reporter

Dr. Jerome "Jerry" Gaber, a retired Govans general practitioner who during his more than 50-year career personified the old-time family physician, died Tuesday of complications from dementia at Atrium Village in Owings Mills.

The Govans resident was 88.

Dr. Gaber, the son of a Romanian tool and die maker and a Lithuanian mother who owned and operated a sandwich shop, was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and moved with his family in the early 1920s to a home on West Pratt Street.

After graduating in 1940 from City College, he attended the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, graduating in 1944, and then served in the Navy for several years.

Dr. Gaber earned his medical degree in 1948 from Southwest Medical College in Dallas, and took additional training at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas.

He also completed internships and residencies in internal medicine at Sinai Hospital and the old Lutheran Hospital.

Dr. Gaber, who was on the staffs of Sinai and the old North Charles Street General Hospital, went into private practice when he opened an office at Cold Spring Lane and The Alameda. In the early 1960s, he moved to York Road and Bellona Avenue.

"He was an old-fashioned general practitioner who made house calls. He also ran a one-man shop with a secretary-assistant," said his son, Dr. Jeffrey Gaber of Stevenson, who followed his father into medicine and cares for many of his former patients and their children and grandchildren.

"He took his own X-rays, developed the film and read them. He had Saturday hours and basically worked seven days a week. He never took a vacation or shared a night call with another physician. He'd go out," his son said.

"When I was growing up, we'd be at the dining room table and the phone would ring, and he'd start asking questions. He was totally devoted to his career," his son said.

Dr. Jeffrey Gaber said his father was an excellent clinician because he had taken the time to thoroughly get to know his patients, who came from all walks of life.

"He knew them personally, where they worked and what they thought. He was interested in their lives, and they became a part of his. It was a common-sense approach," he said. "He addressed all aspects of a person, their work, habits, beliefs, as well as their health."

Dr. Gaber treated patients even if they couldn't pay for his services.

"Sometimes they couldn't pay, and he'd barter. He'd take fruit or vegetables from their garden, for instance," his son said.

"He was my patient for many years," said Dr. Allan S. Pristoop, a Baltimore cardiologist and longtime friend.

"He was an old-time lovable and kind general practitioner," he said. "He was mild and had a very gentile disposition."

"He was one of the first Caucasian doctors to welcome African-American patients to his practice," his son said. Dad was color-blind and ahead of his time. He didn't care who you were or where you came from."

Dr. Gaber's bedside manner could at times be rather direct and not always comforting or what the patient wanted to hear, his son said.

"He'd scold them, but they knew at least that he gave a damn and cared about them," Dr. Jeffrey Gaber said. "It certainly was a different style, and if you did that today, you'd be sued."

Dr. Gaber also devoted himself to continuing medical education.

"He was a bright guy who always wanted to learn about new things in medicine. He'd go to [Johns] Hopkins and the University of Maryland for grand rounds," his son said. "If he was working on Saturday and couldn't make it to Maryland, they rigged up a system where he could listen to it over his radio."

He retired in 2002.

In his leisure, Dr. Gaber played the violin and viola and was a member of the Goucher and University of Maryland, Baltimore County orchestras.

He met his wife of 39 years, the former Robin Rasmussen, a Baltimore dentist, through the Goucher Orchestra, where she was a piano soloist.

He was a member of the old Bonnie View Country Club, where he enjoyed playing golf. He also was a Senior Olympian in table tennis.

Since 2008, Dr. Gaber has been a resident of Atrium Village.

"He was nothing fancy and not a fancy guy. He liked nice things, but that was unimportant to him. He was a bit of an iconoclast who always spoke his mind," his son said.

In accordance with his wishes, his body was donated to the Maryland Anatomy Board.

Plans for a memorial concert to be held early next year at Holy Comforter Lutheran Church were incomplete.

In addition to his wife and son, Dr. Gaber is survived by two daughters, Jane Gaber Pomerantz Rose of Lutherville and Licia Gaber Baylis of Hillsborough, N.J.; a sister, Jennie Williamson of Tallahassee, Fla.; and three grandchildren. An earlier marriage to the former Ellen Schwaber ended in divorce.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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