Dr. Joseph J. Reidy, 84, psychiatrist directed center for children


Dr. Joseph James Reidy, a retired psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who was director of the state's first treatment center for emotionally disturbed children and also taught at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, died of stroke complications Sunday at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The Towson resident was 84.

Born in Chicago, he studied at the old Mount Carmel College in Niagara, Canada, and at Catholic University of America before receiving his medical degree from the Loyola University School of Medicine in Chicago.

Dr. Reidy drew on his Air Force experiences in Alaska during the Korean War to write later on the effects of climate and extreme winter light deprivation on military personnel.

After finishing his psychiatric training at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Dr. Reidy became medical director at the Astor Home for Children in Rhinebeck, N.Y., in 1954. He moved to Baltimore four years later after being named director of the new Esther L. Richardson Children's Center in Owings Mills. He also was an assistant commissioner of the state Department of Mental Hygiene.

"This will not be a regimented place where children toe the line as they would in a military barracks," Dr. Reidy told The Evening Sun in 1958. "The idea is to make it as homelike and pleasant as possible. But the kids will not be allowed to run wild."

In 1962, he was named the state's director of child psychiatry and filled in for about a year as acting director of Springfield State Hospital in Sykesville.

That year he also established a private practice, and in 1964 completed additional psychoanalytic training and received certification from the American Psychoanalytic Association.

He also was director of child psychiatry at Seton Psychiatric Institute in Northwest Baltimore before it closed more than two decades ago.

Dr. Reidy published nearly 50 scientific papers and a 1973 book, The Sensitivity Phenomenon, in which he criticized psychoanalytic methods then in vogue.

He had been an associate professor of psychiatry and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Hopkins School of Medicine.

"He was a remarkably sound person," said Dr. Paul McHugh, a Johns Hopkins professor of psychiatry and former psychiatrist-in-chief of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. "If you raised a question, he would often say, 'I've seen this before and this is how it worked.'"

Dr. Reidy had been on the staff of Sheppard Pratt Hospital, and was a board member of Woodbourne Center and the Childrens Guild. He was a consultant in foster care to the old Baltimore City Hospitals, Big Brothers of Baltimore and the Jewish Family and Children's Association, among many agencies.

"He was a bright and steadfast man," said Dr. Thomas Lynch, a friend and fellow psychoanalyst. "He was a great resource for people who had problems. Joe looked at the science of psychiatry with a realistic sense. He did not get carried away with fads. He had sound judgment and was a man of high ethical principles. He knew where he stood on issues."

Dr. Reidy retired in 1988.

A memorial Mass will be offered at 12:10 p.m. today at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church, Calvert and Madison streets, where he was a member.

Survivors include his wife of more than 53 years, the former Adele-Ethel Kaczkowski; four sons, Christopher M. Reidy of Newport, R.I., Terrence J. Reidy of Bunker Hill, W.Va., Jonathan K. Reidy of Miami and Timothy S. Reidy of Hedgesville, W.Va.; two brothers, Edward Reidy of Chicago and Gerald Reidy of St. Louis; four sisters, Dorothea Gilligan of Edina, Minn., and Margaret Church, Mary Reidy and Patricia McNamara, all of Chicago; and eight grandchildren.

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