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Dr. Charles O’Donovan III, a retired Baltimore internist and infectious disease specialist, dies

Charles O'Donovan III was a longtime member of the Maryland Club.
Charles O'Donovan III was a longtime member of the Maryland Club.

Dr. Charles O’Donovan III, a retired Baltimore internist and infectious disease expert, died of stage four lung cancer Nov. 6 at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital. The Tuscany-Canterbury resident, who had lived for many years in Ruxton, was 85.

Charles O’Donovan III, son of Dr. Charles O’Donovan Jr., a physician, and his wife, Eleanora Cooper, was born in Baltimore and raised on Wyndhurst Avenue in Roland Park until moving with his family to Ruscombe Lane.

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He was a 1954 graduate of Gilman School and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1958 from Yale University. He was a 1963 graduate of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where his father and brother had obtained their medical degrees, and was the seventh member of his family to become a physician.

After completing his medical internship at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and a residency at Baltimore City Hospitals, now the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, he served in the Army Medical Corps from 1965 to 1967 at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

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Dr. William M. Schreiber, a retired physician who lives in Louisville, Kentucky, had been a resident with Dr. O’Donovan at Vanderbilt.

“We were at Vanderbilt together and remained close friends for the rest of our lives,” Dr. Schreiber said. “Charlie was a paragon among physicians and one of the best docs I’ve ever known. He had a beautiful education — Gilman, Yale and Hopkins — and it doesn’t get any better than that.”

He added: “Charlie was unflappable and a wonderful doctor. I can’t say enough good things about him. Besides being a great doctor and close friend, he was a very good person as well.”

Dr. O’Donovan joined a medical practice that was known as 9 East Chase Street, next door to the Belvedere Hotel, and then went into private practice. For the next 40 years, he practiced internal medicine with a specialty in infectious diseases at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Keswick Multi-Care Center and Union Memorial Hospital, where he chaired the Infectious Disease Committee from 1977 to 1996.

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He was awarded a mug by Union Memorial Hospital that read: “He never met a bug that he could not kill.”

Betty McDonnell, a retired social worker who worked in health care for 40 years, worked closely with Dr. O’Donovan at Keswick.

“Charlie was a wonderful sympathetic and empathetic physician who never turned me down when I asked him to meet with a family when it was convenient for them but maybe not for him,” Ms. McDonnell said. “He was a very caring physician and I cherished working with him. I worked with a lot of physicians for 40 years and Charlie always stood out.”

She added: “He was so special and was always so encouraging to the patients. He was just an all-around wonderful person.”

Dr. O’Donovan was known for his “spot-on diagnostic capabilities and for his capacity to be a physician and a friend,” said his wife of 14 years, the former Katherine Alban. “He was a beloved physician who became [his patients’] friends.”

Dr. O’Donovan, who retired in 2003, had been a member for many years of the Johns Hopkins-Eudowood Committee and served on its finance committee.

A longtime active member of the Maryland Club, he served on its board of governors from 1989 to 1999, and was also a member of the Society of Colonial Wars.

“He liked the Maryland Club because of the variety of people he met there,” Mrs. O’Donovan said.

For many years, Dr. O’Donovan lived on Greenwood Road in Ruxton where he was an avid gardener and enjoyed cultivating tea roses and working on home improvement projects.

In his adolescence, his father introduced him to waterfowl hunting on the Eastern Shore, a tradition he later passed on to his two sons. In retirement, he fully embraced golf and played courses in Baltimore, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Bermuda. He was also a two time Pine Ridge Senior Men’s Club golf champion.

“Charlie took up golf later in life and while he couldn’t hit the ball very far, he could hit it straight down the fairway,” said Michael E. Yaggy, a retired lawyer and Dr. O’Donovan’s brother-in law. “And that was like his life plan. He could reduce to a few words a difficult situation by being very direct, like hitting that golf ball straight down the fairway.”

Mr. Yaggy also praised his sense of humor.

“Charlie had a wonderful dry sense of humor and could see humor in places where others couldn’t,” he said.

In addition to golf, Dr. O’Donovan liked dining out, visiting art museums, traveling and volunteering for nonprofits with his wife.

His first wife, the former Gail Brewington, whom he married in 1960, was a community activist and preservationist. She died in 2004.

“He met me after Gail died and I’m 15 years younger than Charlie. I think he thought it might be a little scandalous, but it wasn’t because he was such a gentleman,” Mrs. O’Donovan said, with a laugh. “I went to a lot of dinner parties where his friends checked me out but in the end they were thrilled for me.”

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Dec. 10 at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St.

In addition to his wife, who is development director at the Edward A. Myerberg Center, Dr. O’Donovan is survived by two sons, Charles O’Donovan IV of Ruxton and Edmund Patrick Harrison O’Donovan of Rodgers Forge; a brother, Dr. John Crossan “Crossie” O’Donovan of Raleigh, North Carolina; a sister, Eleanore “Nora” O’Donovan Yaggy of Hunt Valley; and three grandchildren.

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