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Obituaries

Dr. Constantine J. ‘Connie’ Sakles, retired professor of psychiatry and pharmacology who was an expert in psychodrama, dies

Dr. Constantine J. “Connie” Sakles, a retired University of Maryland Medical School professor of psychiatry and pharmacology who was an expert in psychodrama, died of kidney failure May 25 at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center. The Timonium resident was 87.

“It’s a pleasure to speak about my dear friend,” said Dr. Carlos A. Millan, who retired several years from the University of Maryland Medical School where he had been a professor of psychiatry. “He was a very friendly and likable man who always had something good to say about what you were doing or had done, and he was always so supportive of the residents.”

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Constantine John Sakles, son of John Sakles, a restaurateur, and his wife, Evelyn Sakles, a homemaker, was born and raised in Astoria, Queens, New York. After the death of his father when he was 3, his mother married Frank Syrianos, a chef.

An accomplished student, Dr. Sakles, who was known as “Connie” and later as “CJ,” attended Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan’s East Village on a full scholarship.

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“One of the requirements of the school was that each student had to get an annual TB test at New York’s Presbyterian Hospital,” wrote a son, Christopher C. Sakles, of Timonium, in a biographical profile of his father. “When he was 13 and went for his annual test, they thought that they saw a spot on his lungs and made him see a doctor. There was no TB, thank God, but during that hospital visit he met a few doctors that influenced him to become a doctor.”

In high school, Dr. Sakles scored a 98 on the science aptitude test and on the New York State Regents examination, scored a 100 on the chemistry potion, and a 98 on the Latin exam.

After graduation from high school, he earned a full scholarship to attend Rochester University where he majored in liberal arts. Following graduation from Rochester, he interviewed at Yale University.

“Usually, it takes several months after the interview to learn if you were accepted,” his son wrote, “but at the end of the interview, he was immediately told that he was accepted.”

Dr. Sakles attended Yale University Medical School on a full scholarship and earned his medical degree in 1959.

He came to Baltimore where he completed his medical internship at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. In 1967, after completing his residency, he began a psychiatric residency at the University of Maryland Psychiatric Institute.

He then joined the faculty at the University of Maryland Medical School where he taught psychiatry and pharmacology and was considered an expert in the field of psychodrama.

“Dr. Sakles was a brilliant young man when I met him when he was teaching downtown at the University of Maryland Medical School. I’m from Columbia and I came here to Maryland pursue my specialty which is psychiatry, and he became my supervisor and guide when I was in training and then we started a very long friendship,” recalled Dr. Millan.

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“We worked together for nearly 50 years. He was a remarkable fellow, very well-liked and an excellent teacher. I followed his career and he followed my career,” he said.

A highly-sought after teacher, Dr. Sakles was the recipient of many awards for his excellence in teaching and also was published widely.

After retiring in 1999, he worked for the Anne Arundel County Department of Corrections from 2005 to 2010, and Locum Tenens, substituting for physicians across the country who were on sabbatical. His work with the organization took him to Alaska, Santa Rosa, California, Annapolis and Cambridge.

He also maintained a private practice and continued to see patients into his 80s.

After his first marriage to the former Bess Pappas ended in divorce in the 1960s, a mutual friend of his and his future wife, the former Evangeline “Van” Souris, who was the manager of the Child Guidance Clinic at what was then the old University Hospital, now the University of Maryland Medical Center, thought they should meet each other because of their shared Greek heritage.

“Van wasn’t that interested, neither was Connie, but eventually they did meet,” his son wrote. “Neither was really impressed with the other and neither expressed an interest in seeing each other socially.”

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The couple would bump into each other at social functions and “slowly, to like each other as friends,” his son wrote. “They were acquaintances for years before they ever went out on a date. By then they had gotten to know each other and were starting to fall in love.”

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In 1970, the couple married in a ceremony at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation where they were both members.

“Connie was an extremely dignified professional person,” his wife said.

Dr. Sakles, who earlier had lived in Riderwood before moving to Timonium, was an avid reader and traveler.

“My wife and I and Connie and his wife went together to my home country in South America and he had no trouble fitting in culturally because he was Greek,” Dr. Millan said. “And he talked and talked about that trip for years — he had such a good time.”

“He had a wide-ranging taste when it came to reading, and our house is filled with hundreds and hundreds of books,” his wife said, who added his other interests included winemaking, photography and listening to classical music.

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Funeral services were held Tuesday in the Chapel of the Holy Resurrection at the Greek Orthodox Cemetery in Woodlawn.

In addition to his wife of 52 years and his son, Dr. Sakles is survived by another son, Dr. John C. Sakles of Tucson, Arizona; a daughter, Evangeline “Gigi” Sakles of Woodside, Queens, New York; a brother, John Sakles of New York City; two sisters, Pauline Zavalas and Mary Syrianos, both of New York City; and seven grandchildren.


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