Dr. Joshua Breschkin, a retired optometrist whose early work with contact lenses earned him the respect of well-known Baltimore Colts and Orioles players, died of stroke complications Nov. 6 at his Cross Keys home. He was 94.
"He saved my career in pro football," said former Baltimore Colts wide receiver Raymond Berry. "Dr. Breschkin was on the cutting edge of contact lens technology. He came up with something that was stable enough to take the hits during a game. He was a dear man to me."
Born in Baltimore and raised on Woodhaven Avenue in Northwest Baltimore, he was the son of Meyer and Lillian Schuchat Breschkin. He was a 1936 graduate of Forest Park High School, where he was a member of the tennis team, and earned a diploma at the Chicago School of Optometry. During World War II he served in the Army as a medic and was stationed in North Africa.
Family members said that Dr. Breschkin established an optometry office at 107 W. Saratoga St. in downtown Baltimore and practiced for 51 years before retiring in 1989.
"He took an early interest in the development of contact lenses and became a pioneer in that field. He soon developed a national reputation although he remained a modest and private man," said William Fox, who lives in Pikesville and is married to Dr. Breschkin's niece. "He was extremely meticulous in using them."
A former patient, Jonathan Acton II, an assistant attorney general, recalled, "He was really a fixture on Saratoga Street in the days of Louis Booke, Marconi's, Kunkel piano and Saint Alphonsus. On his first floor was a quaint waiting room, and his office manager, Kathea Jacobson, really kept the place running smoothly. He gave each patient all the time they needed. It was as if they didn't have a clock."
Mr. Acton said he was 12 years old when he was first treated by Dr. Breschkin. He said that when he had finished his education and taken his first apartment, on Calvert Street, Dr. Breschkin strolled by one evening, unannounced, to offer his stamp of approval.
"He was one of those practitioners for whom treating a patient was a sign of affection," Mr. Acton said.
Family members said that Dr. Breschkin had a lengthy association with Baltimore's sports teams.
"A lot of athletes sought his services and he was the official Baltimore Colts optometrist for years," said former Evening Sun sports reporter Larry Harris. "When the games at old Memorial Stadium were over on Sundays, Dr. Breschkin would be the first guy equipment manager Fred Schubach would give entrance to the dressing room. He even fitted me up with an unbreakable set of goggles in the late '70s when the racquetball craze hit Baltimore. They saved me more than once from some beautiful shiners."
Dr. Breschkin found that athletes had to contend with glare and lighting issues.
"The modern football player not only can depend on contact lenses, but has what amounts to sunglasses for day games," Dr. Breschkin said in a 1967 Sun article. "Raymond Berry has a special set for wear in sunny weather to filter bright light and wears amber lenses to filter haze on cloudy and rainy days."
Mr. Berry, who played on the Colts' 1958 championship team and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, recalled that Dr. Breschkin experimented with the size and the shading of contact lenses for him.
"The sun moved to a lower spot in the sky during the West Coast games played at the Los Angeles Coliseum," said Mr. Berry, who lives in Murfreesboro, Tenn. "It was blinding me. He came with the tinted lenses and during the game as the sun changed position, I would go to the bench and put them in."
Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer said he also visited the Saratoga Street office.
"He sent me to Chicago to a contact lens maker where I tested a set of lenses for four hours. He wanted me to get the absolute perfect lens," Mr. Palmer said.
In 1954 Dr. Breschkin was elected president of the Maryland Optometric Association and held the post for two years. In 1961 Maryland Gov. J. Millard Tawes named Dr. Breschkin to the Maryland Board of Examiners in Optometry. He had been chairman of the board's contact lens section. He was elected president of the State Board of Examiners in 1967.
Services were Nov. 8 at Sol Levinson and Brothers.
Survivors include nieces and a nephew.