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Dentist and record store owner Dr. Anton Grobani dies from coronavirus

Dr. Anton Grobani retired from dentistry three times.
Dr. Anton Grobani retired from dentistry three times. (Handout)

The contrast between Dr. Anton Grobani’s two careers often took people by surprise.

The day after Keith Moon died, the Annapolis dentist took out the 1975 record “Two Sides of the Moon” and put it on prominent display in his record shop.

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“Dr. Grobani would not be the first guess as the sort of person to pay homage to a member of the band that regularly smashed its equipment at the end of performances," a Sun writer remarked in 1978.

A father of five, Dr. Grobani was a dentist by trade as well as a music lover who ran record stores in Maryland and Virginia. A longtime baseball fan, he wrote a book on the sport some refer to as “The Grobani Bible.” His friends call him a “Renaissance Mensch.”

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Dr. Grobani died April 15 in Baltimore of complications from the coronavirus. He contracted the virus while a patient at Levindale’s subacute rehabilitation center, owned by LifeBridge Health. The 87-year-old was one of multiple patients in the unit to test positive for COVID-19.

His wife and two daughters chose to care for him at home in his final days rather than risk having him die alone at the hospital, said his daughter, Abby Grobani.

“Ultimately we were just very alone with him,” Ms. Grobani said. They remain in quarantine days after his death.

Born in Philadelphia in 1932, Dr. Grobani moved to Baltimore with his family at age 9. His father, a Russian-born opera singer named Benjamin Grobani, worked as a cantor at Oheb Shalom in Baltimore. “A lot of people of a certain age were tutored for their bar or bat mitzvah by him," recalled Ms. Grobani. His mother, Pauline Grobani, was a pianist.

As a boy, he dreamed of becoming a baseball announcer, but his father urged him to do something more practical. After graduating from City College in 1949, Dr. Grobani headed to the University of Maryland, where he received his undergraduate degree before attending the school of dentistry there. He would spend two years in the Air Force.

Though he left Philadelphia at age 9, Dr. Grobani remained a lifelong Phillies fan and wrote bibliographies of football and baseball literature. His 1975 ″Guide to Baseball Literature" is a household name among baseball literature fans, according to his daughter. “People refer to them as ‘The Grobani Bible,’” Ms. Grobani said.

His passion for music shaped his life. In addition to the record stores he owned, for several years he hosted a weekly radio show at the University of Maryland’s college radio station.

One Sunday, while courting his future wife, the violinist Sally Weintraub, he dedicated a three-hour episode to her, calling it “The Sally Show.” Confused listeners called in to ask who “Sally” was.

The couple married in 1985. Together they had two daughters, Neely and Abby. In addition, Dr. Grobani had three sons, Daniel, David and Jonathan, from a previous marriage.

Dr. Grobani’s career as a record shop owner began in the 1970s, when he purchased The Record Exchange in Annapolis. He later branched out to shops in College Park, Bowie and Fairfax. On Facebook, former employees remembered at first writing him off as a grouchy old man, only later discovering his vast knowledge of and appreciation for music.

One former employee remembered how he drove a vintage car with a license plate, “Cpl593h.” It was a reference to a song by Roxy Music, one of his favorite bands. “I remember being really young, in my late teens or early 20s, and just thinking, ‘Wow, that old man is cooler than I ever will be,’ ” the employee wrote.

At home, Dr. Grobani kept thousands of records, organizing them by genre and then alphabetically. “He always, always, always said that records would make a comeback,” Ms. Grobani said. It was with great reluctance that he began carrying cassette tapes and, later, CDs in stores.

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Dr. Grobani’s broad appreciation for music extended to his family. He attended each of his wife’s violin performances, whether at the symphony or a local church, and chaperoned his daughters to concerts and on multiple trips to Hot Topic during Ms. Grobani’s goth phase.

In Annapolis, Dr. Grobani founded the city’s first conservative Jewish congregation, Kol Ami.

At various stages of life he returned to his work as a dentist to support his family. He owned dental practices in Annapolis and then later in Dundalk, where he strove to make dental care affordable to all. “He retired from dentistry officially three times,” Ms. Grobani said. The last time was in 2015, when Dr. Grobani was 82.

He was a quiet, unassuming man at social gatherings. “He would be laughing more than he was talking,” Ms. Grobani said. But his laugh made his presence known: it was loud, booming, and went on and on.

Before he died, Ms. Grobani called her father at Levindale’s subacute rehabilitation center, where he was being treated for Parkinson’s. “As a joke I asked him if he had made any friends. And he burst out laughing for over a minute. He appreciated any sort of good humor."

It was during that stay that he contracted the coronavirus.

Dr. Grobani was tested as he was being discharged. His family believed that it was a formality; medical staff told them there was only a slight chance he actually had it. It wasn’t until after Dr. Grobani had returned home that his family learned that he had the virus.

At home, Dr. Grobani developed psychosis and hallucinations before slipping into a coma. His family members, dressed in protective gear, administered morphine at three-hour intervals to ensure he was comfortable. They cooled him down if he had a fever.

Ms. Grobani said, “We had a lot of time to be able to talk to him and to slowly come to terms with what was happening.”

As he died, they read from the Haggadah for Passover and played some of his favorite music — Bach, the Beatles, and, of course, Roxy Music.

The family hosted a shiva via Zoom. In addition to his wife and children, Dr. Grobani is survived by his sister, Nina Davis, formerly of Baltimore, three grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

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