Bernard Lobe, 65, helped recovering alcoholics


Bernard R. Lobe, a recovering alcoholic whose compassionate nature and boundless encouragement helped put others on the road to recovery and a life of sobriety, died of cancer Sunday at Union Memorial Hospital. The Pikesville resident was 65.

Mr. Lobe -- known as Bernie to the innumerable people he helped through the years -- combined a sense of humor and a straightforward message that helped them regain their lives without alcohol or drugs. He had been in recovery since 1986.

"Bernie had been given a second chance in life. He had a lifetime of love and only 18 years to express it. Everyone he met was touched some way. A hole has been torn in our hearts because of his death," said Bill Caltrider, a longtime friend and former board member of Tuerk House Inc., a West Baltimore treatment facility for alcoholics and drug addicts.

"He was absolutely without guile. If you met him, you were his friend. He believed if he worked hard enough, he could change lives. I'm willing to say there are a thousand people in Baltimore who've memorized Bernie's phone number," Mr. Caltrider said.

"He lived his life by the adage: 'Do something nice for someone without being found out.' He was always there for the troubled and looking for the lonely soul," said his wife of 10 years, the former Elizabeth R. Vogel, a teacher at Baltimore County's Wellwood International School.

"He put on a happy face and in serving others, that gave him joy. He did what others would like to do," she said.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Forest Park, he was a graduate of Milford Mill High School and attended the University of Maryland. During the mid-1950s, he served as a medical technician with the Army Medical Corps in Korea.

In the early 1960s, he worked as a laboratory technician before taking over as manager of Herman's of Eutaw Street, a women's clothing store. In the late 1970s, he established Mini-Medical, a company that purchases and refurbishes used medical equipment for resale.

In 1986, at the recommendation of friends, Mr. Lobe sought treatment for alcoholism and joined Alcoholics Anonymous.

"There were two things about Bernie. He was an incredibly honest person and he was determined to give back what had been given to him," said Dr. John Hickey, executive director of Tuerk House.

About eight years ago, Mr. Lobe instituted a weekly substance abuse program for troubled youths living at the Maryland Youth Resident Center on Woodbourne Avenue in Northeast Baltimore.

"I was trying to find some way to reach the kids, and Bernie said, 'I'll find a way.' I knew he'd been involved with substance abuse and recovery issues. He'd get people to come and talk to delinquent kids about drugs, alcohol, violence and sex. He called the program Way Up and Way Out," said Joe Meyer, director of case management for residential services of the state Department of Juvenile Services.

"The meetings are held on Wednesdays, and the people he brought in were from inner-city neighborhoods that they could relate to. They showed the residents their scars and gunshot wounds. They told them their stories," Mr. Meyer said.

Mr. Lobe -- whose vanity license plate was LAUGH -- was also known for coins engraved with the words "Expect Miracles," which he liberally dispensed to those who were troubled.

"If a recovering alcoholic told him they felt a need for a drink, he'd say, 'Put the coin under your tongue. If it melts, then you can have a drink,' " Mr. Meyer said.

When his cancer was diagnosed more than a decade ago, Mr. Lobe turned his fears into hope and courage for others in similar circumstances.

"He was our guardian angel. He'd come in and see patients at the time of their surgery. He'd talk with their families. And afterward, he kept up with them," said Dr. John R. Saunders, a surgeon and medical director of the Milton J. Dance Jr. Head & Neck Rehabilitation Center at Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

Once a week, Mr. Lobe, who was an active member of Pets on Wheels, would take his Greater Swiss mountain dog Boogie Woogie to cheer the developmentally disabled residents of The Chimes in Mount Washington.

"When a neighborhood child knocked on his door one day and asked if he would be her substitute grandfather for Park School's Grandparents' Day, Bernie quickly agreed," Mrs. Lobe said. "Another time, our mail carrier was having a difficult time so, in order to brighten her day, he ordered pizza and Cokes for her lunch."

"Bernie was simply beloved by all. Even in today's world, where neighbors don't know each other, he created a community. That was his magic," Mr. Meyer said.

Services were held yesterday.

Mr. Lobe also is survived by a son, Richard Lobe of Perry Hall; a stepson, Laurence A. Webster IV of Charleston, S.C.; a stepdaughter, Elizabeth Webster of Austin, Texas; two brothers, John Lobe of Ellicott City and Dr. Thomas Lobe of Memphis; and two grandchildren. His marriage to the former Sarah Fine ended in divorce.

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