Dr. Frederick Joseph Hatem, obstetrician, dies

Havre de Grace obstetrician was also active in politics and voluntarism in Harford County

June 16, 2011|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Dr. Frederick Joseph Hatem, a retired Havre de Grace obstetrician who delivered thousands of babies in Harford and Cecil counties during his four-decade career, including baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., died June 6 of heart failure at Harford Memorial Hospital.

He was 84.

Dr. Hatem, whose parents owned and operated a general store, was born in Havre de Grace, where he spent his entire life.

He was a 1942 graduate of Havre de Grace High School and served in the Army stateside as an administrative assistant to a colonel until being discharged in 1946.

A 1948 graduate of Georgetown University, Dr. Hatem earned a degree in 1951 from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where he had the reputation of always being the first in his classes to finish tests.

While completing an obstetrical residency at Peninsula General Hospital in Salisbury, Dr. Hatem fell in love with and married Arianna Frances Wheatley, an emergency room nurse who had worked at the hospital, in 1953.

In 1952, Dr. Hatem established a family practice in Aberdeen, and in 1954, he joined Dr. Richard Norment in Havre de Grace in the practice of obstetrics and gynecology.

During his career until retiring in 1992 after a second bypass surgery, Dr. Hatem delivered about 10,300 babies.

"He delivered all of the Ripken kids, Cal, Billy, Fred and Elly," said a son, Michael Hatem of Havre de Grace. "One time, Cal invited us to a game at Camden Yards and spent time with us."

Dr. Gunther D. Hirsch, a former mayor of Havre de Grace and a retired obstetrician and gynecologist, was a colleague and a longtime friend.

"Dr. Hatem was here when I arrived in Havre de Grace in 1955, and earlier had been in general practice, where he did everything, like the rest of us," Dr. Hirsch said.

"He was a prime example of what doctors of that period were like in communities. He was a typical family physician who made house calls," recalled Dr. Hirsch. "He was a local man who was very much liked and was active on the medical staff at Harford Memorial Hospital. He was also very much liked and respected by his medical colleagues."

Dr. Hirsch recalled his friend's ready laughter.

"He was outgoing and outspoken, too. He was from a family of firm Democrats who were active in Harford County politics," he said. "The whole family had what I'd call contagious laughter. You could always tell when they were in a room. It was a joyful and pronounced laughter."

He added: "They don't make doctors like Dr. Hatem today."

From the earliest days of his practice, Dr. Hatem was active in the Harford County medical community.

In 1955, he was elected president of the Harford County Medical Society, and the next year, he began what would be the first of eight terms as president and chief of the medical staff at Harford Memorial Hospital.

He was also active on the state level with the Maryland State Medical Society and the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland. He had been chair of the independent Maryland Medical Political Action Committee and had been elected to membership in the Rush Medical Club at the University of Maryland.

Dr. Leo J. Bellantoni, who retired in 1997, is a Havre de Grace obstetrician and another longtime friend.

"Fred had very firm principles about many things and had unparalleled integrity, and this shone through in his patients, colleagues and community," Dr. Bellantoni said. "He always had a ready smile and a remarkable memory for faces."

Like his brother, Thomas J. Hatem, a Harford County lawyer, Democratic Party leader and former state legislator who died in 1985 (and for whom the Susquehanna River bridge is named), Dr. Hatem loved politics.

In the late 1960s, Dr. Hatem had been a member of the Harford County Health Planning Committee, and for nearly 50 years had supported many candidates in countywide races.

In 1987, he was selected to fill the F District County Council seat once held by Frank J. Hutchins, who had died.

At the time, David W. Shrodes of the Harford County Democratic Central Committee told The Baltimore Sun that Dr. Hatem certainly had "connections" in the county.

"You can't ignore the fact that he has delivered more than 10,000 babies in Harford and Cecil counties," he said. "That transposes into a lot of connections that he has made over the years."

Dr. Hatem explained in a 1987 Sun article that he was involved in politics because he was a Harford County native and "interested in its political future," and was qualified for the job.

"First of all, you have to be reasonably intelligent, and you have to be able to get along with people and listen to people," he said. "That describes me. And I'm an independent thinker."

Dr. Hatem, who served one term on the Harford County Council, had been involved with Boy Scout Troop 966, coached in the Havre de Grace Little League and served on many nonprofit boards in the county.

He was a member of American Legion Post 47 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8126 in Havre de Grace.

Dr. Hatem, who enjoyed playing golf, was a charter member of Swan Creek Country Club.

He was a member of the Knights of Columbus and the St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church in Havre de Grace, where a Mass of Christian burial was offered June 11.

Also surviving are his wife of 58 years; two other sons, Frederick J. Hatem Jr. of Bel Air and Dr. Stephen F. Hatem of Cleveland Heights, Ohio; two daughters, Mary Beth Hatem of Takoma Park and Christine L. Hatem of Bel Air; a sister, Dr. Rose Mary Hatem of Aberdeen; and five grandchildren. Another daughter, Dr. Joanne M. Hatem, died in 1997.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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