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Dr. Gary Philipp Schoppert, a retired dentist and an anti-war activist, dies

Dr. Gary Philipp Schoppert was an outdoors enthusiast.
Dr. Gary Philipp Schoppert was an outdoors enthusiast.

Dr. Gary Philipp Schoppert, a retired general dentist who practiced in Roland Park for 43 years, died of Parkinson’s disease complications Saturday at his Roland Park Place home. The longtime Homeland resident was 80.

“His face would light up with a smile when he walked into a treatment room and greeted a patient,” said his daughter, Christina Schoppert Devereux. “And at the end of a long day, he’d say to his staff, ‘Well, we sure helped a lot of people today.’”

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Born in Baltimore and raised on Lyndale and later Sherwood avenues, he was the son of Doris Philipp Schoppert, a homemaker who later worked as a secretary and a telephone operator, and Harry Edward Schoppert, a postal worker.

He was a 1959 graduate of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and received the school’s Loyalty and Service Award. He was also a top tennis player.

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In 1963, he graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park, where he met his future wife, Joan Lynn Raith, who was then a Forest Park resident.

As a young man, he sold magazines, drove a Good Humor truck, operated a 20-ton dump truck, repaired watches and was a lifeguard, mailman and postal clerk. He was also a Bethlehem Steel helper.

He was a graduate of the University of Maryland Dental School and then served in the Army. He was stationed initially at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Family members said he opposed the Vietnam War but agreed to serve there from 1968 to 1969.

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“As the only dentist on the base, he volunteered to treat local Vietnamese villagers off the base,” his daughter said. “Both the helicopter base where he was stationed and the surrounding area were heavily sprayed with Agent Orange, a defoliant implicated in the development of Parkinson’s disease in Vietnam veterans.”

After leaving the military, Dr. Schoppert became active in peace and anti-war movements.

He became secretary of the Baltimore-area Physicians for Social Responsibility in the 1980s and organized meetings with legislators. He was later involved with Peace Action, Council for a Livable World and the Beyond War groups.

“He was respected by everyone I knew in the dental community,” said his friend, Dr. Melvin Kushner, dentist and chairman of the board of visitors at the University of Maryland Dental School. “He was totally honest, and had the highest morals of anyone I knew. He was a very special person.”

In 1969, Dr. Schoppert became an associate of Dr. Charles H. Schultheis at his Wyndhurst Avenue office and purchased the practice a year later.

“He was articulate, highly professional and meticulous in the way he approached the patient. He was also a gracious man who was bright and soft-spoken,” said Brooks Nobel, a former patient.

He was inducted as a fellow into the International College of Dentists and the American College of Dentists, and was chair of the Maryland section. He earned a fellowship in the Academy of General Dentistry and was a past president of the Baltimore chapter.

Dr. Schoppert was chairman of the Baltimore City Dental Society’s Patient Relations Committee.

He was president of the Baltimore City Dental Society in 1983 when the AIDS epidemic was in its early years. Some dentists were not treating patients with HIV/AIDS, which was then considered a “baffling” condition.

In an Evening Sun article, he said he would continue to render care to all patients, using the same infection-control practices he used to treat hepatitis B patients.

As the group’s president, he led an effort to require Baltimore City public and private high school athletes to wear mouthguards in high-contact sports.

“He was the definition of a true professional, a true gentleman,” said a dental colleague, Dr. Stanley H. Klein. “He always ‘Told it like it is.’ He was the consummate dentist. He had the respect of his peers as witnessed at dental meetings…”

Dr. Schoppert was a Department of Oral Diagnosis lecturer at the University of Maryland Dental School.

“I never heard anything but praise from his patients towards Dr. Schoppert. He was the definition of a true professional and a gentleman. He always told it, ‘like it is.’ He was the consummate dentist. He had the respect of his peers,” said Dr. Stanley H. Klein, a friend of 40 years.

Dr. Schoppert retired in 2012.

“My father had a zest for adventure and the outdoors,” his daughter said. “He enjoyed whitewater rafting on the Youghiogheny, the New, and the Cheat Rivers in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. He bodysurfed in the ocean into his mid-70s, and hiked in the Canadian Rockies, Swiss and French Alps, Western Turkey, Patagonia, Costa Rica and the American Southwest.”

She said he was a “totally devoted father who was unconditionally loving and supportive.”

His daughter said Dr. Schoppert had an extensive and precise vocabulary. He often tossed an obscure word into a casual conversation.

“He frequently used all of his letters in Scrabble, smiling quietly as his 50-point bonus dawned on his opponents,” his daughter said. “He attributed his interest in words and language to William Royer, his English teacher at Poly, who told students to read the Sunpapers’ editorial page every day and to look up any words they didn’t know.”

Dr. Schoppert credited his reading of Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” during his freshman year of college with opening his eyes to the world of ideas.

A tennis player, he played singles and doubles competitively at Clifton Park.

After he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2012, Dr. Schoppert and his wife, Joan, became active members of the Baltimore-area Parkinson’s community. He enjoyed practicing Rock Steady Boxing and learned tai chi.

Survivors include his wife of 57 years, Joan Raith Schoppert, a retired Notre Dame of Maryland University English professor; three daughters, Laura Schoppert Elstro of Towson, Susanne Schoppert Wallengren of Baltimore and Christina Schoppert Devereux of Baltimore and San Diego; a sister, Jean Dausch of Potomac; and seven grandchildren.

A celebration of Dr. Schoppert’s life is planned for the spring.

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