Dr. James Burch Brooks, a retired orthopedic surgeon who spent his more than four-decade career with the Four East Madison Orthopedic Association, died Sunday of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at Union Memorial Hospital.
The Cross Keys resident was 85.
"He was extremely capable and humble, and he was well liked by his patients and all of those who worked around him," said Dr. Charles E. "Chick" Silberstein, a longtime friend and Baltimore orthopedic surgeon. "His patients just adored him."
The son of insurance executives, Dr. Brooks was born in Baltimore and raised in Forest Park. After graduating from Loyola High School in 1943, he enlisted in the Army and served with the infantry in Austria.
He earned his bachelor's degree in 1949 from Loyola College and his medical degree from the University of Maryland in 1953.
After completing an orthopedic residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital, he joined the practice of Bennett, Johnson and Eaton in 1956, which later became Four East Madison Orthopedic Association.
The historic practice had been established in 1903 by Dr. William Stevenson Baer, a pioneering orthopedic surgeon at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and Dr. Frederick Baetjer, Maryland's first radiologist.
The practice had an international clientele that included Eleanor Roosevelt, actress Billie Burke (Mrs. Florence Ziegfeld), Katharine Hepburn and Evalyn Walsh McLean, owner of the Hope Diamond.
Dr. Brooks also saw patients at Union Memorial, Church Home Hospital, Children's Hospital on Greenspring Avenue, Greater Baltimore Medical Center and Keswick Multi-Care Center.
"He was a real patient's doc," said his wife of 54 years, the former Laetitia Wiley "Tish" Martin.
"He'd go out in the middle of the night to the emergency rooms at GBMC and Union Memorial when patients were brought in. They could be automobile accident victims or people who had fallen, broken their legs or fell off ladders."
"He was very low-key and a perfect gentleman. There were never any airs about him," said Dr. Silberstein, who joined Four East Madison in 1971.
"He was also very skilled. He was extremely unflappable, and I never saw him lose his cool or get angry about anything, which is really rare," he said.
"In all the years I knew Dr. Brooks, he never had more than one secretary, and that really tells you a lot about the kind of individual he was," said Dr. Silberstein.
A former patient wrote a note of appreciation to Mrs. Brooks after learning of her husband's death.
"He wrote, 'I broke my neck in an accident on the Jones Falls Expressway in 1972. Dr. Brooks saved my life, and I will be eternally indebted to him. I've had a successful career following that,'" said Mrs. Brooks.
A longtime resident of Elmwood Road in Roland Park, Dr. Brooks had lived at Cross Keys since 2010. He also had spent summers for more than 40 years in Rehoboth Beach, Del., where he had a second home.
Dr. Brooks was a world traveler and especially liked to visit France, Bermuda, Australia and England. Other favorite destinations included Palm Springs, Calif., and the American Southwest.
Dr. Brooks was also a dog lover.
He was a communicant of the Shrine of the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, Smith and Greely avenues in Mount Washington, where a memorial Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. April 2.
In addition to his wife, Dr. Brooks is survived by two daughters, Susan B. Richards of Cross Keys and Ellie Brooks-Vizard of Los Angeles; and three grandchildren.