Dr. Abraham Lewis Kolodny, 87, rheumatologist, Army veteran


Dr. Abraham Lewis Kolodny, a retired rheumatologist and a member of the storied Merrill's Marauders who operated in the Burmese jungle during World War II, died Friday of pneumonia at St. Joseph Medical Center after an illness from chronic pulmonary and congestive heart disease.

Dr. Kolodny was 87 and had lived for 37 years in Green Spring Valley. He moved to a daughter's home in Glen Arm in 1999.

Born in Norfolk, Va., Dr. Kolodny earned his medical degree in 1941 from the University of Virginia. He completed his medical internship at South Baltimore General Hospital and his residency with the Army Arthritis Center.

Dr. Kolodny was a captain in the Army Medical Corps when he volunteered with about 3,000 others to serve in Burma with the U.S. Army Rangers 5307th Composite Unit Provisional - later known as Merrill's Marauders.

Commanded by Brig. Gen. Frank D. Merrill, the all-volunteer outfit fought behind the Japanese lines in Burma to re-establish a supply line to China, fighting along a 1,100-mile trail through the jungles.

They fought veteran Japanese soldiers in 35 major and minor engagements, said a son, Douglas M. Kolodny-Hirsch of Baltimore.

"He was there from the beginning to the end, including the thousand-mile trek. He was one of the few who came out alive and disease-free," his son said.

Dr. Kolodny was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation and a Bronze Star. He and his fellow soldiers' adventures were recounted in numerous books and articles, as well as the 1962 film Merrill's Marauders, with Jeff Chandler as the general and Andrew Duggan portraying him.

In March 1963, according to an article in The Sun, a leader of anti-Castro guerrilla teams in Florida visited Dr. Kolodny and said he had studied their World War II accounts.

Dr. Kolodny, a past commander of the Merrill's Marauders Association, told the newspaper that the government should support the movement because "they are accomplishing a worthwhile thing and should have support from every possible source."

After his discharge from the Army in 1947 with the rank of major, Dr. Kolodny began his medical career in Baltimore.

He served as chief of rheumatology at the former North Charles Hospital from 1951 to 1990, and was co-chief of rheumatology at Franklin Square Hospital from 1970 to 1995. He was on the staff at Franklin Square, North Charles and Sinai hospitals. He retired in 1999.

A former colleague, Dr. Kevin Schendel, said, "His specialty was arthritis, and he really was noted for his treatment of arthritic patients. He was really one of the people that was responsible for getting the rheumatology program started at Franklin Square."

Dr. Kolodny had a large practice near the hospital on the east side of town and continued to see patients into his 80s.

Dr. Howard Hauptman, another friend and a colleague of nearly 20 years, recalled that when Dr. Kolodny's health began to fail, he went in half-days to see patients - hauling his portable oxygen tank. "He was incredibly loyal to each of his patients."

Dr. Kolodny "was one of the first rheumatologists in Baltimore, when the science of rheumatology was first developing," Dr. Hauptman said.

Dr. Kolodny's professional associations included the American College of Rheumatology, the New York Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association and the American Society of Clinical Pharmacology.

He served as a director of the Maryland Arthritis Foundation from 1975 to 1991, and co-founded the Maryland Society for Rheumatic Diseases, which encompasses lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, gout and osteoarthritis.

A graveside service for Dr. Kolodny will be held at 1 p.m. today at Arlington Cemetery of Chizuk Amuno Congregation, 4300 N. Rogers Ave. in Northwest Baltimore.

In addition to his son, Dr. Kolodny is survived by his wife of 62 years, the former Mildred Alberta Fiske; another son, David Greene Kolodny of Columbia; two daughters, Sue Carol "Sukie" McCormick of Richmond, Va., and Peggy Kolodny of Towson; five granddaughters; and one great-granddaughter.

Sun staff researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

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