By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun
5:48 PM EDT, June 25, 2013
Dr. Joseph Charles Matchar, a retired internist who practiced for decades in Pikesville, died of congestive heart failure Sunday at his home in Deerfield Beach, Fla. He was 94.
Born in Baltimore and raised on East Baltimore Street, he was the son of a Russian-born paperhanger and a homemaker.
"My grandfather came of age during the Great Depression, and this certainly informed much of who he was and his understanding and perspectives on the world," said a granddaughter, Laura Berg of Baltimore. "He understood that life could at times be difficult. As a result, he committed himself to his schooling and working hard toward his goals."
A 1936 City College graduate, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from the Johns Hopkins University, where he was named to the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. To help put himself though school, he wrapped gifts for a department store.
"He wanted to attend medical school at Hopkins, but there was a quota with regard to how many Jews they would accept," said a daughter, Judith Matchar Berg of Baltimore. "He was denied admittance. Instead, he attended University of Maryland and received his medical degree."
He earned his medical degree in 1943 in a wartime accelerated program. Assigned overseas during World War II, Dr. Matchar was a physician in an Army psychiatric unit based in France. He left military service as a captain.
In the early 1940s, he met his future wife, Evelyn Wegman, a designer and dressmaker, at the Peabody Book Store on Charles Street.
Dr. Matchar did a residency in internal medicine at Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
He established a private practice at his home on Liberty Heights Avenue and later on Milford Mill Road. He made a specialty of gerontology.
"He was an old-time doctor. Medicine was his life. It was his identity," another daughter, Dr. Deborah Shlian of Boca Raton, Fla. "He certainly influenced me to enter medical school."
He also had privileges at Sinai Hospital and Northwest Hospital Center. At Sinai, he worked with Dr. Frank Furstenberg in a center focused on the medical needs of the elderly.
"His patients loved him," said his granddaughter. "He made house calls. He would spend his evenings calling patients with their test results or speaking about their concerns."
Dr. Matchar, who later had offices on Reisterstown Road and on Old Court Road, retired in 1996 and was honored by Sinai Hospital for a life of service.
"He was a smart guy and was totally dedicated to his patients," said a friend, Dr. Albert Hahum of Baltimore. "He was a gentle fellow."
Another Baltimore medical colleague, Dr. Gerald Oster, recalled his personality. "He was easygoing and friendly," said Dr. Oster, of Baltimore. "His patients loved to sit and chat and spill out their guts."
Family members said he could speak fluent Yiddish and attracted some patients who had fled Nazi Germany.
"They liked my dad because he could speak to them so easily," said Judith Matchar Berg. "He told me he had a lot of patients who were Holocaust survivors. He saw the numbers on their arms."
A staunch Democrat, Dr. Matchar enjoyed discussing current events with friends. He read newspapers and also works of fiction and history.
"Though he was agnostic and not particularly religious, he was very much a cultural Jew," his granddaughter said. "He had an understanding and appreciation for Jewish culture and a great passion for it as well."
Family members said he kept up on events in Israel and was a proponent of a Middle East peace.
He supported and served on the board of the Central Scholarship Bureau to help underprivileged students get an education.
Dr. Matchar moved to Florida in 2002 and turned to writing. Family members said he wrote short stories with themes from life or about Judaism, history, family, relationships and love.
"He was open to the changes in the world that came with living as long as he did. He emailed regularly," his granddaughter said. "And while he embraced social progress, he had an appreciation for the simplicities in life and the old ways of doing things. He was very much a Renaissance man."
Graveside services will be held at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Eternal Light Memorial Garden in Boynton Beach, Fla.
In addition to his two daughters and granddaughter, survivors include a son, Dr. David B. Matchar of Singapore, and three other grandchildren. His wife of 67 years died in 2010.
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