Dr. John Earl “Skipper” Stokes IV, a physician known for his sense of humor and strong rapport with patients, died of heart disease Sept. 15 at the Washington Hospital Center. The Woodstock resident was 66.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Ashburton, he was the son of John Earl Stokes III, a salesman at the A.D. Anderson Oldsmobile agency. His mother was Merita Stokes, a Baltimore City schools physical education teacher and pioneer African American basketball referee.
He spent his boyhood summers at Oyster Bay in Anne Arundel County. His parents encouraged him to become a competitive swimmer and tennis player.
Dr. Stokes attended Friends School and Garrison Junior High School and was a 1970 graduate of Northwestern High School, where he was an award-winning member of the swimming team.
Family members said his parents were strong role models. They impressed upon him the importance of education and getting good grades.
He earned a bachelor’s degree at Hampton Institute, now known as Hampton University, where he was swimming team captain.
He served in the Navy and the Naval Reserves. He was a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and did his internship and residency at the Union Memorial Hospital.
“He was a great clinician and was a warm and personable guy who was well liked,” said Dr. J.D. Shamp, a Union Memorial physician. “I doubt he had an enemy.”
While in medical school and working at the old Provident Hospital in the intensive-care unit, he met his future wife, Deirdre “Dee” Hooper. who was then a nurse. After their initial meeting, he waited four years before reconnecting. “It took a while, but it was a fantastic first date,” his wife said.
Dr. Stokes was a board-certified physician in internal medicine who served on the staff of Union Memorial Hospital, where he cultivated a wide circle of friends.
Dr. Dawn Kershner, a Union Memorial colleague and his personal physician, said, “It was fun to have him as a colleague and to have him a as patient as well. He was funny, joyful and he enjoyed life. He had a good-hearted orneriness.”
His wife said her husband was ideally suited to his profession. “He loved what he did, and his patients adored him,” she said. “He had a knack for getting them to relax and open up to him. He took his time with them and they respected that.
“John was passionate about medicine and was committed to teaching his patients how to fully understand their condition and treatment,” she also said. “He was gifted in making science and medical arts easy to grasp in lay terms. He was deeply respected for this.”
Dr. Stokes practiced internal medicine at Union Memorial Hospital and later joined Salujah Medical on Reisterstown Road.
“He was well liked by his comrades and by his patients. He was always upbeat. He was a music lover and had a big vinyl collection. He was somebody you wanted to be your friend,” said Dr. Paul Eder, a specialist in infectious diseases.
Dr. Stuart Bell, the Union Memorial chief medical officer, said, “He was a well-known and beloved internist at Union Memorial and in the local community. He trained at Union and was a longtime time staff member. He had a sunny personality with a good word for everyone.”
Dr. Philip Buescher, a Union Memorial pulmonary critical care physician, said, “He was an old-time doctor. He was upbeat and took great care of his patients. He was also a great colleague.”
Dr. Stokes had been active in Jack and Jill of America Inc., a cultural and educational organization for African American families.
Dr. Stokes and his wife traveled together and believed in taking cruises as often as possible.
“Music was his sanctuary,” said his wife. “He shared that love of music in all its genres. He also had the ability to tell a joke with a straight face. People would beg him to tell those jokes. He never had a harsh word about people, and most always he had a smile too.”
In addition to his wife of 33 years, a Baltimore City Community College assistant professor and coordinator of the nursing program; he is survived by a son, John V. “Skeeter” Stokes of Woodstock; and a daughter, Camille Stokes, also of Woodstock. A son, John Earl Stokes III, died in 2016.