Dr. Robert E. Schwartz, 78, optometrist, humanitarian


Dr. Robert E. Schwartz, a retired Glen Burnie optometrist, died Tuesday of complications of pancreatic disease at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was 78 and lived in Annapolis.

Dr. Schwartz, who was named Maryland Optometrist of the Year in 1978, found time to provide eye care for the poor during his 51-year professional practice.

He opened an office in Brooklyn in 1946 with his wife, the former Lila Rose Heimlich, also an optometrist, who survives him. A year later, they moved the practice to Glen Burnie, where it continues through their son, Dr. Robert E. Schwartz Jr., of Baltimore.

The elder Dr. Schwartz was widely known in Anne Arundel County, serving as president of the Glen Burnie Chamber of Commerce, the Glen Burnie Lions Club and the Belvedere Elementary School PTA. A former president of the Maryland Optometric Association, he had been a member since 1946.

"He was a leader -- he threw his entire essence into whatever he was doing," said Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, a friend and religious leader of Temple B'nai Tzedek in Potomac. "He would always be the point person."

Friends described Dr. Schwartz as a warm man who possessed an outgoing disposition and enjoyed meeting and mixing with people.

"He knew how to enjoy life," Rabbi Weinblatt said, adding, "He was committed to Judaism."

In the 1980s, he led -- and sought donations for -- medical missions to impoverished areas of Central America through Maryland Volunteer Optometric Service to Humanity.

"He saw it as a responsibility to serve those with a high degree of need," said Dr. Paul Brant, a Cambridge optometrist and friend.

Dr. Schwartz served as president of Temple Beth Shalom in Arnold and was a former member of Temple Beth Solel in Bowie.

In the 1950s and 1960s, he was director of the Maryland Workshop for the Blind's rehabilitation center and was associate director of the optical clinic at the old Presbyterian Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital in East Baltimore.

In the 1970s, Dr. Schwartz became director of clinics for the Optometric Center of Maryland, a community service project to bring low-cost eye care to Baltimore's poor.

He also served as clinical chief at then-Rosewood State Hospital in Owings Mills and at the old Provident Hospital in Northwest Baltimore.

Born in Baltimore, he attended local schools and was a graduate of Calvert Hall College. He received his medical degree with honors from the Pennsylvania State College of Optometry in Philadelphia.

He served in the Army during World War II.

Funeral services were held yesterday at the Pascal Arts Center at Anne Arundel Community College.

In addition to his wife and son, he is survived by a second son, Stephen Schwartz of Sedona, Ariz.; two daughters, Beatrice Keats of Arnold and Dr. Janet Schwartz of Philadelphia; eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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