Dr. Frederick Hatem

Dr. Frederick Hatem (June 16, 2011)

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.