Dr. Richard J. Colfer, 78, Harford medical examiner


A Mass of Christian burial for Dr. Richard J. Colfer, deputy state medical examiner for Harford County, will be offered at noon tomorrow at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church, 533 E. Jarrettsville Road, Hickory.

Dr. Colfer was killed Wednesday when the car he was driving collided with a truck on Route 136 near Churchville. He was 78.

The Darlington resident was named to the Harford position in 1986.

"He was a wonderful friend and a very concerned pathologist," said Dr. John E. Smialek, the state's chief medical examiner.

"He was the type of person who was loved by all in the office. He was admired by . . . law enforcement officers as well as his colleagues," Dr. Smialek said. Dr. Colfer was remembered for his compassionate manner in dealing with the families of victims, and for his role in local and state police investigations.

State Trooper William Schilling of the Bel Air barracks said, "The thing I remembered is that he took his time with investigations and was very thorough and conscientious."

Dr. Smialek said, "He wouldn't sit in a car or try and do his job strictly over the phone. He would go visit and study the crime or accident scene, and if it meant climbing down into a ditch or going into the water, he did it. He did what was necessary to get the job done."

Born and raised in Washington, Dr. Colfer was a 1938 graduate of Catholic University. He earned his medical degree from the Georgetown University School of Medicine in 1942.

After interning at the old Marine Hospital in Baltimore, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and served in France and Germany as a flight surgeon in World War II.

After being discharged in 1946, he returned to Gallinger Municipal Hospital in Washington, where he completed a residency in clinical pathology in 1947. In 1948, he completed a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Franklin Square Hospital, where he met Barbara Marland, a nurse. They married that year.

Dr. Colfer completed a residency and taught pathology at the University of Maryland medical school in the early 1950s.

"He often said that of all the things he did, he enjoyed most his position at the University of Maryland, where he had the opportunity to teach young medical students," said his daughter, Dr. Joan M. Colfer Kepford of Monkton.

"Throughout his career he always encouraged young people to pursue their studies. The student that struggled was always the one who got the most attention and encouragement.

"He also liked forensic medicine and made an excellent witness. He really liked testifying about his cases," Dr. Kepford said.

Dr. Colfer worked at the medical examiner's office in Philadelphia in 1958, and was on the pathology staff of Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace from 1959 to 1978. He also was on the staff of Union Hospital in Elkton from 1958 to 1965.

In 1978, he moved to Los Angeles, where he trained in forensic pathology at the Los Angeles medical examiner's office, then headed by the famed Dr. Thomas Noguchi. After working from 1980 to 1986 in pathology at a Kingsville, Tenn., hospital, he returned to Harford County.

Other survivors include a son, Richard M. Colfer of Churchville; a brother, Gerald Colfer of Silver Spring; and a sister, Mary Cosgrove of Cincinnati.

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