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Dr. James Joseph Nolan, 87, family physician


Dr. James Joseph Nolan, a Catonsville physician and former chief of medicine at Bon Secours Hospital, died Friday of congestive heart failure at Brightview Assisted Living. The former Ten Hills resident was 87.

Dr. Nolan was born at his parents' home in Catonsville, not far from his father's Frederick Road pharmacy. Family members said he developed an interest in medicine from a local physician, Dr. J. Charles Macgill, who encouraged him to pursue a career in the healing arts while attending members of the Nolan family.

He was the president of his graduating class at Catonsville High School and earned a degree at Loyola College and graduated from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1941. He did internships and residencies at Union Memorial, Mercy and the old Baltimore City Hospitals. Dr. Nolan, who was an internist, also studied diseases of the heart after his father died of coronary heart disease at the age of 51.

During World War II, he joined the Army Air Forces and studied at the College of Tropical Medicine in Calcutta, India. A flight surgeon, he made numerous trips on the China-Burma-India route. He was awarded two Bronze Stars and later served in the Maryland National Guard.

After returning to Baltimore, he opened a private practice, then worked briefly as a physician at Fort Howard Veterans Administration Hospital in eastern Baltimore County. After that, he joined Dr. Leo Gaver at his practice on Mallow Hill Road in the North Bend section. They practiced together until 1976, when Dr. Gaver retired.

"He was very much an old-fashioned doctor," said Mary Nolan Tracy, a daughter who lives in Port Charlotte, Fla. "He made house calls, held long office hours and always stopped at the hospital."

"He was a talented, gifted and warm physician. He was admired for his intelligence and medical knowledge," said Dr. David Strobel, a dermatologist who trained under him as a resident about 25 years ago. "His patients loved him, adored him. He was a guy who always had time - both in his teaching at the hospital, and with the issues and concerns of his patients and their families. He was also a good role model for a lot of us young guys."

He volunteered his services to the Visitation nuns at the Mount de Sales Academy, among other religious orders he attended.

"He was my physician when I was in medical school," said Dr. Jay Grochmal, a Catonsville ophthalmologist who treated Dr. Nolan. "And, in later life, he was as good a patient as he was a physician. In his retirement, he retained his thirst for knowledge and continued to go to the hospitals for grand rounds."

After retiring in 1993, Dr. Nolan became a physician emeritus at St. Agnes and joined its hospice program.

"He was a lovely, compassionate, humble man who would go to patients' homes," said Cynthia Polcak, St. Agnes Hospice supervisor. "He would sit by the bed or stay so that the patients' spouse could go to the grocery store or get a haircut. He was a very faithful volunteer. He was so empathetic."

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. Mark Roman Catholic Church, 26 Melvin Ave., Catonsville.

Survivors include his wife of 61 years, the former Nancy Lines; a son, James Joseph Nolan Jr. of Towson; another daughter, Nancy Nolan Stojinski of Catonsville; a sister, Mary Catherine O'Donnell of Catonsville; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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