Dr. Larry Becker, surgeon who was one of Barry Levinson's 'diner guys,' dies

Dr. Larry Becker was a Baltimore orthopedic surgeon who was one of the diner guys made famous by Barry Levinson’s 1982 film "Diner."

Dr. Larry Becker, a well-known Baltimore orthopedic surgeon who was one of the "diner guys" made famous by Barry Levinson's 1982 film "Diner," died Friday at St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Fla., after being injured in an automobile accident.

The Pikesville resident was 77.


Dr. Becker was injured Jan. 3 when the car in which he was riding with his wife was hit by a driver who ran a red light, family members said. The accident remains under investigation by Palm Beach Gardens Police Department.

"He had it all: smart, compassionate, good looking, a terrific athlete, especially at Hopkins lacrosse," said Mr. Levinson. "A very successful doctor and always polite and gracious. Not many like him come our way. He will be greatly missed."


"Dr. Becker was a devoted physician who tried to mesh his love of sports with his profession. He was an excellent physician, technician and surgeon," said his partner and friend for more than 60 years, Dr. Jerome P. Reichmister, who is also chief of orthopaedic surgery at Sinai Hospital. "He was an early proponent of arthroscopic surgery on the East Coast. He also felt that taking care of patients was his greatest passion."

"Any of the so-called diner guys would have given anything to be Becker," said Richard Sher, a retired WJZ-TV reporter who hosts "Square Off" on WMAR-TV. "Great looking. Fabulous lacrosse and basketball star at Johns Hopkins University. A brilliant medical student. Charming. Charismatic."

The son of Bernard B. Becker, a haberdasher who owned Becker's Men's Shop on Greenmount Avenue, and Ada Becker, a model, Larry Becker was born in Baltimore and raised in Waverly.

After graduating in 1956 from Forest Park High School, he earned a bachelor's degree in 1960 from the Johns Hopkins University, where he was an outstanding basketball and lacrosse player. He was high scorer in basketball in 1958 and was lacrosse team captain his senior year.

He was also named to the first team of the Middle-Atlantic Conference's All-Southern College division basketball team in 1960 and was an All-American in lacrosse.

After Johns Hopkins, Dr. Becker played lacrosse for the Mount Washington lacrosse club.

"Becker has all the tools to be a first-rate lacrosse player," Mount Washington coach Bill Kegler told Evening Sun sports editor Bill Tanton in a 1961 article. "He has size, good speed and is a natural athlete. On top of that, he hits and seems to enjoy doing it."

After fracturing a leg in 1960 and being treated by an orthopedist who returned him to being an active player, Dr. Becker was inspired to pursue a career as an orthopedist.


Dr. Becker earned a degree in 1964 from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and completed a residency in 1965 at Sinai Hospital. He completed an internship at Sinai, and from 1966 to 1969 he completed a residency at George Washington University Hospital.

"We went to high school, college and medical school together," Dr. Reichmister said. "We also did our internships and residencies and served in the Army Reserves together."

In 1969, Dr. Reichmister and Dr. Becker joined with Dr. David Filtzer and established Filtzer, Reichmister and Becker in an office at Falls Road and Cold Spring Lane. Today, the practice, which is known as OrthoMaryland, has grown to include 26 surgeons with offices at Quarry Lake in Northwest Baltimore, Lutherville and Owings Mills.

"My background in competitive sports enables me to identify with the athlete's desire to return to his or her sport as quickly as possible," Dr. Becker wrote on OrthoMaryland's website. "It's truly a thrill watching my patients recover from knee injury surgery and resume their active lifestyles, whatever their age."

He had not retired at his death.

"I've known Larry since high school when we were at Forest Park. I was two years behind him," said Dr. Sylvan "Van" Feldman, a Baltimore dentist. "He was the nicest, kindest guy, and he'd do anything for anyone. If you had any orthopedic problems, he made sure you were seen. He was just a lovely, lovely guy."


Dr. Becker was married in 1962 to Gwen J. Rosenberg, who died in 1979. In 1981, he married Gail Rosenberg, who died in 1993. Since 1995 he had been married to Alma Cohen.

"Larry and I became friends a mere 50 years ago, after he won the heart of Gwen Rosenberg, who along with her twin sister, Gail, were the most beautiful women ever to hit the College Park campus, who quickly became two of my best friends. The three of us would walk across campus, Gwen on one arm, Gail on the other," recalled Mr. Sher.

Dr. Becker's first two wives died of cancer.

"Larry and his family endured a series of tragic losses and through it all, he was the glue that held the devastated Beckers together," Mr. Sher said. "He was the patriarch in the true sense of the word."

Dr. Becker was a golfer and enjoyed playing pinochle, cribbage and gin rummy. He was a regular once a week at Sabatino's in Little Italy or Liberatore's restaurant.

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"I got into a crowded Sabatino's countless times just by dropping Larry's name," said Brad Snyder, a cousin, former Baltimore Sun reporter and author who now teaches law at the University of Wisconsin. "Every Jewish person in Pikesville knew Larry Becker."


Dr. Becker enjoyed playing golf at Woodholme Country Club, where he was a member, and at Caves Valley Country Club with Dr. Feldman and Dr. Reichmister.

He also was a five-time Maryland racquetball champion.

"Larry lived life to the fullest," Dr. Reichmister said. "He loved a good joke, a good drink and golf. He'd go anywhere in the world to play golf, and he played to win."

Services were held Monday at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, Gary Becker of Lutherville; two daughters, Jill Becker of Jupiter, Fla., and Jenny Benscher of Orlando, Fla.; a stepson, Ira Miller of Pikesville; four stepdaughters, Sherri Cohen of Reisterstown, Jill Spector of Pikesville, Jody Greenstein of Lutherville and Marcy Spector of Fairfax, Va.; two sisters, Joannie Cohen of Pikesville and Barbara Becker of Sarasota, Fla.; and 21 grandchildren.