Dr. Theodore H. Wilson Jr., former chief of surgery at Union Memorial Hospital who earlier had been chief of surgery at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda and a captain in the Navy Medical Corps, died Dec. 16 of cancer at the Broadmead retirement community in Cockeysville. He was 91.
“Ted was an amazing man and was just pure class from the way he ran the department to the way he treated people,” said Dr. William H.B. Howard, a longtime Union Memorial Hospital surgeon and friend. “There is no greater compliment a surgeon can say to another than he was a great cutter. He was just one terrific surgeon.”
The son of Dr. Theodore H. Wilson, an educator and Congregational minister, and Faith Evelyn Harris Wilson, a homemaker, Theodore Halbert Wilson Jr. was born in St. Johnsbury, Vt., and enjoyed vacationing in Ocean Park, Maine, and at North Pond in Smithfield, Maine.
He moved with his family to Chevy Chase in 1929 and later to Forest Glen. They finally settled in Catonsville in 1935, when his father was appointed head of the upper school at McDonogh School and later became president of the University of Baltimore.
After graduating from McDonogh School in 1940, he attended Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, where he joined the Navy’s V-12 program in 1942 that was designed to educate future officers.
After earning his medical degree from Harvard in 1946, he interned at the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville, and completed his surgical residency training at the Naval Hospital in Chelsea, Mass.
During the Korean War, Wilson served as a medical officer aboard the heavy cruiser USS Rochester, which was sent to Korean waters in support of Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s successful Inchon Landing in September 1950.
Wilson also served with the 1st Marine Division in Korea, where he was a regimental surgeon, commanding officer of a field hospital, and executive officer of the medical battalion. Early in the war, he had been decorated with a Bronze Star.
“He initiated and tested new methods of medical support for Marine warfare,” said his son, Theodore H. “Ted” Wilson III of Winchester, Mass.
After the Korean War, Wilson served on the surgical staff of naval hospitals in Boston, Oakland, Calif., and Bethesda.
When the hospital ship USS Repose was activated during the Vietnam War, he was appointed as the hospital’s executive officer and chief of surgery. For his achievements in caring for casualties, he was awarded the Legion of Merit.
In 1966, he was appointed chief of surgery at the Naval Hospital in Bethesda, and in 1970, was named to the position of clinical professor of surgery at Georgetown University School of Medicine.
Wilson was appointed chief of surgery at Union Memorial Hospital in 1972, and was also appointed associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He retired in the late 1980s.
“We had a number of cases together over the years, and I was always glad he was there next to me,” said Howard. “He was unflappable in the operating room and in life. I never saw him upset, but you could tell when he was annoyed, he would hesitate and talk slower, but never raised his voice.”
Howard recalled the time when it looked as though Wilson was going to be replaced as chief of surgery at Union Memorial.
“There was some kind of coup going on and Ted was on vacation in Florida. I called him, explained what was going on, and said, ‘You better get back here,’” recalled Howard. “He sighed and said, ‘I’m going to enjoy my vacation for the next two weeks,’ and that was that. He was just completely unflappable.”
Howard added with a laugh: “He was an absolute gentleman even if he was a Navy guy. I was an Army guy.”
Wilson had served as a delegate to the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of the State of Maryland, and had been president of the Baltimore Academy of Surgery. He had also been a member of the Eastern Surgical Society and was a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.
He also had been a prolific contributor to a number of surgical publications.
The former Greenway resident had moved to Broadmead in 2000. He enjoyed caring for the community rose garden and maintaining a system of walking trails on the nearby surrounding hills.
His wife of 54 years, the former Carolyn B. Sewell, died in 1999.
He was a member of Second Presbyterian Church in Guilford, where he had been an elder and clerk of the Session for many years.
“He is remembered as a loving, generous person, a gifted teacher, a lover of music, a man of faith, integrity and compassion,” said his son. “He was a gentle soul with a twinkle in his eyes and an endless supply of jokes, stories and puns on his lips.”
In addition to his son, Wilson is survived by another son, Kenneth B. Wilson of Roanoke, Va.; two daughters, Nancy H. Wilson of Elizabethtown, N.Y., and Deborah S. Wilson of Salisbury, Mass.; a sister, Faith E. LaVelle of Elmhurst, Ill.; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Distributed by MCT Information Services