Dr. Henry B. 'Harry' Wilson, retired Baltimore ophthalmologist and bibliophile, dies

Dr Henry Beatty Wilson was an ophthalmologist whose patients included H.L. Mencken, Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver.
Dr Henry Beatty Wilson was an ophthalmologist whose patients included H.L. Mencken, Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver. (Handout)

Dr. Henry B. “Harry” Wilson, a retired Baltimore ophthalmologist and bibliophile whose collecting instincts ranged from Golden Books for children to histories of Baltimore and Maryland, died Jan. 28 at Oak Crest Village from a heart attack.

The former longtime Roland Park resident was 94.


“Harry had an excellent reputation and was a very plain, nice person,” said Dr. Robert Bond Welch, a retired Baltimore ophthalmologist and author of “The Wilmer Ophthalmological Institute, 1925-2000.”

“He was just a grand and solid person, and his patients were very fond of him,” Dr. Welch said.


The son of Dr. Harry Eugene Wilson, a physician, and Angela Kehoe Wilson, a registered nurse, Henry Beatty Wilson was born in Baltimore and raised on West Biddle Street and at Bembe Beach, a family summer cottage near Annapolis that overlooks the Chesapeake Bay.

“Harry was older than I was, and they way I met him was because he summered at Bembe Beach and his family knew my dad,” said Dr. Welch.

Dr. Wilson was a 1940 graduate of City College. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa at the University of Virginia, from which he graduated in 1943 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.

He was the third member of his family to pursue a medical career when he entered the Johns Hopkins University Medical School. He graduated there in 1947, then completed an internship and residency in ophthalmology at the Wilmer Ophthalmological Institute at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

He enlisted in the Air Force in 1951 and practiced ophthalmology at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorgae, Alaska, and at the Fort Richardson Army Hospital, also in Anchorage.

He married the former Eleanor Gudrun-Halla Sigurdson in 1951.

After being discharged from the Air Force in 1954, he and his wife returned to Baltimore and established his ophthalmological practice at 6 Eager Street.

Dr. Wilson joined the staff of the old Maryland General Hospital and Church Home and Hospital. Through the years, some of his patients included journalist H.L. Mencken, Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver.

“On a dark note, in the 1960s, he was the doctor who took care of the patient who poked his eyes out when he was under the influence of PCP,” a daughter, Jennifer Louise “Jenny” Nelson of New York City, wrote in an email about her father. “A story about the incident was featured in the book ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ by Hunter Thompson.’”

Hallmarks of Dr. Wilson’s career were his work to provide free and low cost services for patients, and visiting penitentiary inmates several days a week, family members said.

He retired in 1988.

Dr. Wilson had lived on Loch Raven Boulevard and Kenneth Square in Govans before moving to Club Road in Roland Park. He lived there for more than 50 years before moving to Oak Crest Village in 2011.


Dr. Wilson enjoyed taking one- to two-mile swims in the Severn River and Chesapeake Bay and spending summers at Bembe Beach. He also liked to sail Hamptons and Mobjacks and was a member of the Severn Sailing Association.

“Harry was interested in a lot of things. He enjoyed being on the water and sailing. He loved history,” Dr. Welch said.

He was an inveterate collector of books, art and vintage toys. His personal library held some 40,000 volumes, family members said, and represented his interest in Maryland and Baltimore history, as well as Alaska, Canada, Iceland, art, children’s literature and medical books. He was a member of the Baltimore Bibliophiles.

Interested in the performing arts, Dr. Wilson attended the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Center Stage and the Lyric. He was a world traveler.

He studied painting at the Renaissance Institute at Notre Dame of Maryland University and preferred watercolors.

He was also a fan of the Orioles, Ravens and Baltimore Colts, the old Baltimore Bullets and the Naval Academy football and basketball teams.

Some of the philanthropic interests pursued by Dr. Wilson and his wife included the Baltimore Museum of Art, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, the Roland Park Branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the Baltimore Fire Department, Maryland Historical Society, Johns Hopkins University and Hospital, Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, Maryland Kidney Foundation, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Boys and Girl Scouts.

His wife of 69 years, a registered Hopkins Hospital OB/GYN head nurse, died in 2016.

Dr. Wilson donated his body to the Maryland Anatomy Board, and plans for a memorial service to be held this spring are incomplete.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by two sons, Henry B. Wilson Jr. of Pikesville and Robert D. Wilson of Washington; four other daughters, Kristin Friant and Hillary Cosby, both of Towson, Lindsey Minchella of West Lafayette, Ind., and Eleanor Derenge of Arlington, Va.; 13 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

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