Dr. J. Nelson McKay, 74, family physician in Catonsville


Dr. J. Nelson McKay, a family physician who made house calls until his retirement five years ago, died at Johns Hopkins Hospital Tuesday of complications from heart surgery. The Ellicott City resident was 74.

For nearly 43 years, Dr. McKay was a familiar figure in his Oldsmobile or Cadillac as he traveled throughout Catonsville and Hunting Ridge calling at the homes of his patients.

"He used a black doctor's bag. It's still in the trunk of his car," said his son, Drew N. McKay of Millersville. "His life was his medicine. He had no hobbies. I thought of him as an old country doctor who still took chickens for his fee."

A tall man with considerable patience, Dr. McKay remained a popular figure with his patients, who liked his hard-working ways and long office hours.

"He never seemed to watch the clock. He would take the extra time with people who needed it," said Dr. James R. Evans, who worked with Dr. McKay in 1979. "His patients knew that he took the extra time with them and that if he were running an hour late, they tolerated it."

Dr. McKay established his medical practice in the basement of an Edmondson Avenue home in Academy Heights in the 1950s, living with his family upstairs.

"There were some Catonsville families where he'd delivered two generations of babies," his son said.

Born in Baltimore, Dr. McKay was a graduate of Polytechnic Institute and Gettysburg College. He was a 1952 graduate of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. During World War II, he served in the Navy and remained in the Navy Reserves until 1954.

A Mason, he was a member of the Scottish Rite, the Palestine Lodge and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. At Baltimore's Boumi Temple, he was medical director and a member of its drum and bugle corps and its Shepherds and Ambassadors.

In 1975 and 1976, he was president of the Maryland Academy of Family Physicians. He was a member of the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland and the American Board of Family Practice.

In 1949, he married R. Elaine Drewanz, who survives him.

Funeral services were held yesterday at St. John's Episcopal Church in Ellicott City.

In addition to his wife and son, Dr. McKay is survived by a daughter, Joyce M. Davis of Chestertown; two brothers, Millard McKay of Street and Paul McKay of Ventnor, N.J.; a sister, Rosella Leach of Riderwood; and three grandchildren.

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