Dr. Alfred Anthony Filar, a retired ophthalmologist and early retina specialist who found the time to make house calls during a lengthy career in eye care, died in his sleep of congestive heart failure April 13 at his Glen Arm home. He was 77.
The Baltimore native was raised above his parents' florist shop at Eastern Avenue and Ann Street. As a young man he delivered floral arrangements by streetcar. He was a 1949 graduate of Polytechnic Institute, where he ran track, swam and played football. He earned a degree at Loyola College. He received his medical education at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and served in the Army.
He did an internship at Mercy Hospital from 1958 to 1959 and his residency in general surgery at Bon Secours Hospital. He had three years in the study of ophthalmology at the old Baltimore Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital on Eutaw Place, where he studied with Johns Hopkins physician Dr. Harold Pierce.
"Al used the old system wherein the patient came first and the business came second," said Dr. Thomas O'Rourk, a friend and former student.
He joined the medical practice of Dr. Charles Iliff on West Mount Vernon Place and several years later established his own on Park Avenue. He later saw patients in Towson and Timonium before retiring two years ago.
"His patients adored him," said his wife, the former Sue Ellen Fitze. "He was a humble man who was selfless and cared deeply for all of his patients. He treated them with full respect and compassion. He made many house calls over the years and would drive patients home if they had no transportation."
Colleagues said that Dr. Filar performed retinal surgery, cataract surgery, muscle surgery, corneal transplants, glaucoma surgery and laser procedures for diabetic retinopathy.
"He was a pioneer in that he brought retina care to the community in an earlier period," said a colleague, Dr. Bert M. Glaser of the National Retinal Institute.
Another medical colleague, Dr. Gregory Sophocleus, recalled that Dr. Filar taught young ophthalmologists at Greater Baltimore Medical Center and Maryland General Hospital, where he was ophthalmology chief for 17 years.
"He was a very good teacher," said Dr. Sophocleus. "And in the days before ophthalmologists specialized in one field, he did it all."
Among other professional affiliations, he was a member of the Maryland Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons and a past president of the Maryland Ophthalmological Society.
Dr. Filar was proud of his Polish heritage, family members said. He was a donor to the National Katyn Memorial in Baltimore and displayed an oil painting of the Polish-born Pope John Paul II. He was also a polka dancer.
He was a member of the Baltimore Road Runners and completed numerous Baltimore-Maryland marathons. He also competed in the Boston Marathon seven times.
He was a member of the Baltimore Yacht Club and sailed in Wednesday evening races in Middle River with GlenMar Racing Club. He named his Sea-Ray boat I LOVE IT!
His family said he scheduled vacations every four months so that he always had something to anticipate. He enjoyed snorkeling and sailing in the British Virgin Islands.
Plans for a mid-June memorial service are incomplete.
In addition to his wife of 18 years, survivors include a son, John Filar of Middle River; three daughters, Mary Jo Lewis of Middle River, Susan Filar of Towson and Lilianna Filar of Glen Arm; two stepsons, Chad Meeks of Jupiter, Fla., and Colin Meeks of Perry Hall; a brother, Paul D. Filar of Englewood, Fla.; and two grandchildren. A previous marriage ended in divorce.