Dr. R. Donald Eney, a longtime Baltimore pediatrician and allergist known for his gentle manner with children and tireless work with the poor, died of cancer Thursday at Edenwald nursing home in Towson. He was 79.
Dr. Eney was known to generations of children who came to his offices in Towson for allergy shots or saw him as their primary physician. Careful to put his young patients at ease, Dr. Eney shunned the traditional white coat in favor of a disarming shirt and tie.
"Of course, many were frightened when they came to the doctor," said his son Richard D. Eney of Towson. "He never wore a white coat, sensing that would frighten the children."
He also volunteered at the Shepherd's Clinic, a free clinic for the uninsured on St. Paul Street near North Avenue, and advised a charitable group that designs mechanical devices for people with disabilities.
Dr. Eney was born in Baltimore and raised on Monroe Street. He was the son of William I. Eney, a carpenter, and Minnie Hush Eney, a homemaker. Dr. Eney was the last survivor among six children. Among his siblings was H. Vernon Eney, a prominent Baltimore attorney who was an adviser to governors, mayors and legislators and who headed the 1967 Maryland Constitutional Convention.
Dr. Eney was a graduate of City College and earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from the Johns Hopkins University. During World War II, he was drafted into the Army and served two years in the medical corps at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington.
Later, he became chief resident in pediatrics at Union Memorial Hospital before opening his first pediatric office in Towson.
He and his wife, the former Jean R. Shores, were married for 57 years.
For many years, he maintained office hours six days a week and made house calls on Sundays.
"Mother and my brothers and I would often go in the car while he made those house calls," said his son. "He liked doing house calls, liked that personal touch."
After receiving advanced training during the 1960s, Dr. Eney expanded his practice to include diagnosis and treatment of allergies. He also conducted clinical research in the field, publishing his findings in medical journals.
During the years, he moved his office to various locations in Towson, practicing last in Ruxton Towers on North Charles Street.
"He was an excellent pediatrician who was loved by his patients very much," said Dr. Norman Freeman, who trained with Dr. Eney at Union Memorial.
Richard Eney described his father as a "kind, soft-spoken and religious man who had a good sense of humor."
Dr. Eney closed his practice in 1992, but continued to work on a volunteer basis. "The joke was, after he closed down his practice, he went down to a 40-hour week," Richard Eney said.
In recent years, he treated children and adults at Shepherd's Clinic, continuing his volunteer work there through the fall despite his illness.
John Staehlin, a mechanical engineer who met Dr. Eney 20 years ago at the church they attended, Grace United Methodist on Charles Street, said he enlisted the pediatrician's help with an organization that assists people with disabilities.
The organization, Volunteers for Medical Engineering, designs such devices as wheelchair lifts, "blink systems" that help paralyzed people communicate, and mechanical devices that enable quadriplegics to close their hands.
Although he was not an engineer, Dr. Eney advised the group on the nature of a patient's disability and how that person could be helped.
"He was one of my mentors," said Mr. Staehlin, the group's president. "He understood what people needed."
One of Dr. Eney's first acts was to refer the group to two brothers who suffered from muscular dystrophy. Later, he helped Mr. Staehlin design a device that locates hard-to-find veins from which blood could be drawn.
In 1993, Gov. William Donald Schaefer recognized Dr. Eney for "caring and concern above and beyond the call of duty by serving others in the community."
Services will be held at 10 a.m. today at Mitchell-Wiedefeld Funeral Home, 6500 York Road in Rodgers Forge.
In addition to his wife and son, Dr. Eney is survived by another son, Donald W. Eney of Perry Hall; and four grandchildren.