Dr. Kenneth J. Murray, a retired neurosurgeon who had been chief of surgery for cancers of the brain at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, died May 3 from respiratory failure at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.
The Ruxton resident was 73.
“When I first started practicing medicine in Maryland 30 years ago, I asked people where to send patients, and Ken’s name was at the top of the list, and I’ve been sending him patients for decades,” said Dr. Ann C. Morrill, who is a Nottingham internist and endocrinologist.
“He was beloved by his patients and did a wonderful job taking care of them,” said the Cockeysville resident. “He was extremely intelligent and was like ‘Marcus Welby, M.D.’ He was an exceptional doctor and a really incredibly wonderful person.”
Dr. Laurence H. Ross is a general and vascular surgeon at GBMC and a longtime colleague and friend.
“Ken was just a wonderful guy. He was a physician’s physician,” said Dr. Ross, a Monkton resident. “He would listen to people and was technically superb. He was a true gentleman.”
Kenneth James Murray, the son of Kermit Murray, a mechanic and filling station owner, and his wife, Ann Murray, a typing pool supervisor for the state of Illinois, was born and raised in Ashland, Ill., a farming town 50 miles from Springfield.
Dr. Murray was 9 when his father was killed in an automobile accident, and it was then that he made the decision to pursue a medical career and help people.
After graduating from Ashland High School, he attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine from 1964 to 1965, and finally Northwestern University, from which he earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and mathematics in 1967.
Dr. Murray received his medical degree in 1970, also from Northwestern, and his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Minnesota in 1977.
He completed an internship in surgery in 1971 at Northwestern University Medical School and his neurosurgery residency, also at Northwestern, in 1972.
Dr. Murray was a neurology and neuropathology resident at Northwestern in 1972, and completed a postdoctoral medical fellowship in neurology in 1977 at the University of Minnesota Health Sciences.
He served in the Army Medical Corps from 1971 to 1977, attaining the rank of major.
From 1975 to 1977, he was a research fellow in immunology, also at the University of Minnesota Health Sciences in Minneapolis.
Dr. Murray was an instructor and a member of the neurology faculty at the University of Minnesota while serving as a consultant to the neurology staff of Gillette Children’s Hospital in St. Paul, Minn., and served as acting head of the division of neurosurgery at St. Paul-Ramsey Hospital, also in St. Paul, from 1977 to 1978.
In 1978, Dr. Murray came to Baltimore when he was appointed acting head of the division of neurosurgery at the Veterans Administration Hospital on Loch Raven Blvd. until 1982 and was an assistant professor of neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine from 1978 to 2000.
From 1982 to 1988, he was an associate staff member in neurosurgery at Good Samaritan Hospital, and was an active member of the neurosurgery staff at GBMC from 1981 to 2003, and chief of the division of neurological surgery at the hospital from 1984 to 1992.
Dr. Murray also maintained a private practice and had offices in Towson and later at Green Spring Station in Lutherville. He retired in 2010.
Dr. Murray dedicated his career to treating and developing new treatments for his patients suffering from neurological ailments, colleagues and family members said.
In addition to treating brain tumors, Dr. Murray also treated patients who were suffering from spinal, cervical and disk problems.
“Ken and Dr. Hank Dudley were doing procedures that weren’t being done by too many people, and were really ahead of their time from a medical standpoint,” Dr. Ross said. “They were just incredible.”
Patients felt comfortable and at ease with Dr. Murray.
“Neurosurgeons have a reputation for being abrasive and fast and not communicating well,” Dr. Ross said. “That was not Ken. Patients respected him because he could communicate with them and explain things.”
Dr. Carol B. Frazier is a Towson physical therapist and a friend of Dr. Murray’s since their days together during the 1980s at GBMC.
“I treated quite a number of his patients over the years,” said Dr. Frazier, a Parkton resident. “He was a wonderful, caring physician who took an individual interest in them. He gave them excellent care from the beginning to the end.”
Dr. Frazier described him as being “kind of a quiet guy, but once you got to know him, he’d become quite talkative, especially about his favorite topic, science.”
After hours in the operating room, Dr. Murray liked coming home to his wife and children.
“Inevitably, one or more of his children would be awake and, together, they would share an ice cream sundae,” said a daughter, Michelle Murray of Federal Hill.
Dr. Murray was an accomplished carpenter and liked working on home improvement projects and cars. He also liked driving his Porsche 911 Carrera.
He was also an excellent skeet shooter and was a member for more than 25 years of the Loch Raven Skeet and Trap Club Club.
Dr. Murray was a communicant of Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church, Baltimore and Ware avenues, Towson, where a funeral Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday.
In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his wife of 51 years, the former Sandra Ladd; a son, Paul Murray of Ruxton; another daughter, Jennifer Murray of Greenwich, Conn.; a brother, Jerrold Murray of Santa Barbara, Calif.; and five grandchildren.