Dr. Esther Edery Dibos, a retired Towson pediatrician who was a founder of the Hispanic Apostolate, a Fells Point clinic, died Dec. 8 at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
She was 78.
"She was a very soft-spoken and a very effective person," said Dr. Clayton L. Moravec, former chief of infectious diseases at Franklin Square Medical Center and a friend of 42 years. "She was a very, very special person and had been our children's pediatrician and [cared for] other doctors' children, and that says a lot."
Dr. Edery, who used her maiden name professionally and her married name in private life, was the daughter of Mayer S. Edery, a federal worker, and Lucia Warnier Edery, a homemaker. She was born in Cali, Colombia, and moved with her family to San Francisco when she was 13.
Her desire to pursue a medical career began when she was a kindergarten student.
"When she said she was going to be a doctor, the other children laughed," said her daughter, Lydia M. Dibos of Roland Park.
A graduate of the Star of the Sea Academy in San Francisco, she earned a bachelor's degree in 1957 and a master's degree in 1959 from the University of California, Berkeley.
She earned her medical degree in 1965 from the National University of Mexico in Mexico City. In 1965, she completed an internship at St. Agnes Hospital and her pediatric residency at what is now the University of Maryland Medical Center.
She served as chief resident of pediatrics at what is now Mercy Medical Center from 1968 to 1969, and established a private pediatric practice in 1970 in the Osler Medical Center professional building in Towson. From 1969 to 1974, she was assistant chief of pediatrics at Greater Baltimore Medical Center.
"Esther and I connected when we were both presidents of medical societies at the same time," said Dr. Susan R. Guarnieri, former Baltimore health commissioner and a longtime friend.
"She was a terribly organized person and always sensitive to people's needs," said Dr. Guarnieri. "She was the ultimate doctor who took care of her patients and family, and found time to volunteer and give back to the community."
"I have known her for 30-plus years. She was a very caring person who learned how to balance her family and professional life. She was very serious about this," said Dr. Suh Kim, a retired Lutherville pediatrician.
"I learned a great deal from her, and she always gave me great insight. She was an intellectually curious person and did not let go of her reading until the last minute," said Dr. Kim.
In 1995, Dr. Edery organized a pediatric clinic at the Hispanic Apostolate in Fells Point, where she invited other pediatricians to join her on rotating Saturday mornings as they provided for children with no other access to care.
Sister Mary Neil Corcoran, who retired about a decade ago, was director of the Hispanic Apostolate.
"She was one of our first volunteers, and she came every Saturday and conducted a medical clinic for our Hispanic clients," said Sister Mary Neil. "She was the most compassionate, sensitive and dedicated woman I ever met in my life. She did wonderful work."
Sister Mary Neil added that Dr. Edery was "so sensitive to the cultural differences of the people who came to see her, and that really impressed me."
Dr. Edery retired in 2005 but continued to hold the clinic once a week. The clinic is now the Catholic Charities' Esperanza Center.
Dr. Edery was honored in 1998 at the seventh annual awards gala of the Governor's Commission on Hispanic Affairs for her work in support of Baltimore's Hispanic community.
In 2010, Dr. Edery and her husband of 55 years, Dr. Pablo E. Dibos, a retired physician who had been chief of nuclear medicine at Franklin Square Medical Center and Good Samaritan Hospital and was medical director at the Esperanza Center, were recipients of the Worth B. Daniels Award for providing health care services at the Esperanza Center.
She held several positions in the Baltimore County Medical Association and served as it first female president from 1990 to 1992.
In addition, she was active in the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland, where she was a delegate, counselor and chaired the Women in Medicine Committee.
"She strongly encouraged increased participation of women physicians, whose numbers were increasing in the practice of medicine but their participation in medical associations was low," her daughter said.
In 2013, Dr. Edery and her husband were awarded the Thomas E. Hobbins Distinguished Service Award by the Baltimore County Medical Association for providing medical services to the disadvantaged in Baltimore.
The former longtime resident of the Hampton section of Baltimore County, who moved to Lutherville a decade ago, enjoyed cooking for and entertaining family and friends.
"She was a real Renaissance woman who learned German, was an excellent cook, enjoyed playing the piano and attending classical music concerts," said Dr. Moravec, who also was an Esperanza Center volunteer.
She was a patron of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Mechanic Theatre, Center Stage, Everyman Theatre and the Shriver Hall Concert Series. She also was a supporter of the Baltimore Classical Society and the Baltimore Chamber Music Society.
Dr. Edery was world traveler.
She took piano lessons at the Peabody Conservatory, and in her retirement, continued studying with a private teacher. She also enjoyed reading history and enjoyed filling her bookshelves with biographies and books on world history and culture, and taking online courses.
Dr. Edery and her husband had been regular customers at Tio Pepe since the restaurant opened in 1968, he daughter said.
Dr. Guarnieri, who broke her ankle earlier this year, would call Dr. Edery to see how she was doing.
"It was never about her problems with ALS, but it was always, 'How are you doing?' She was always consoling you," said Dr. Guarnieri. "Even though she had trouble walking, she continued to give back. She was a very special woman."
A memorial Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. Jan. 10 at the Carmelite Monastery, 1318 Dulaney Valley Road, Towson.
In addition to her husband and daughter, Dr. Edery is survived by two sons, Dr. Luis A Dibos of Towson and Paul H. Dibos of Charles Village; and five grandchildren.