Dr. Annie Martha Bestebreurtje Fitzpatrick, a well-known Baltimore County pediatrician who fled the Nazi-occupied Netherlands during World War II, died Thursday of natural causes at her home in Ruxton. She was 74.
"She was more than a doctor, she was a friend," said Anne Whitman, whose three sons were patients of Dr. Bestebreurtje.
Known as "Dr. Annie," she treated two generations of patients over the past 39 years at her private practice in Ruxton.
"You could call her any time of the day or night. It's hard to find physicians like her in this day and age," Mrs. Whitman said.
Relatives praised the way Dr. Bestebreurtje balanced the demands of a career and family.
"She was a ferociously and very energetically devoted mother of six. She shaped this busy schedule around a family life," said her daughter, Dr. Carol Fitzpatrick Bache of Poland, Ohio.
Last spring, during the week of the 50th anniversary of her graduation from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, more than 200 people gathered for a cookout in her honor at Roland Park Country School. Former patients, parents of patients and friends set up an appreciation fund for the event and raised more than $3,000, which Dr. Bestebreurtje donated to the House of Ruth and the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center.
Born in Rotterdam, she moved with her family to Berlin in 1923 when her father, a corporate officer for Unilever in Eastern Europe, was transferred to the firm's headquarters. When she was 14, the family fled to Zurich after her father was blacklisted by the Nazis as a Jewish sympathizer.
She graduated from the Freiesgymnasium in Zurich in 1937.
She entered the University of Zurich medical school, but returned to Rotterdam in the spring of 1940 to explore attending school there. Her family remained in Zurich. She witnessed the Nazi bombing of the Netherlands and was trapped there during the occupation.
"She was 20 years old living off ration cards of relatives," said another daughter, Martha Fitzpatrick Bishai of Baltimore. The family was bombed out of one house and had to move, she said.
After eight months she was granted a visa. She was changing trains on her return trip to Switzerland and boarded a Nazi troop train by mistake. She went virtually unnoticed and was reunited with her family in Zurich. The family immigrated to the United States in 1941.
Dr. Bestebreurtje resumed her medical training at the Johns Hopkins medical school, one of the few at the time that admitted women, and graduated in 1943. She was a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society.
She completed her residency at the University of Pittsburgh Hospital and Duke Hospital and received training in pathology and pediatrics. Dr. Bestebreurtje was fluent in German, Dutch and French. She learned English while attending Johns Hopkins.
She was an assistant professor of pediatrics emeritus at Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland. From 1963 to 1977, she was director of health services at Goucher College. She was a member of Brown Memorial Woodbrook Presbyterian Church, where she also was a ruling elder.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. tomorrow at Brown Memorial Woodbrook Presbyterian, 6200 N. Charles St.
In addition to her daughters, she is survived by her husband of
42 years, Dr. William N. Fitzpatrick; a sister, Dr. Hendrieka Cantwell of Denver; another daughter, Dr. Hendrieka Fitzpatrick Reininga of Poland, Ohio; three sons, William N. Fitzpatrick Jr. of Baltimore, A. Dirk Fitzpatrick of Takoma Park and Thomas V. Fitzpatrick of Morristown, N.J.; and nine grandchildren.
The family suggested contributions to the House of Ruth or the Johns Hopkins University Children's Oncology Center.