Dr. Norman Highstein, a retired dentist and former partner in McDonogh Dental Associates who was also an accomplished horticulturist, died of renal cancer Nov. 2 at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson. He was 88.
"Norman was loved by everybody. Just this morning I had a patient who first started going to him in 1958," said Dr. Charles Fine, a partner in McDonogh Dental Associates.
"He was the type of person who was able to make patients forget they were going to the dentist. They just enjoyed being with him," said Dr. Fine.
The son of Dr. Charles H. Highstein, a dentist, and Jeanne Jouline Highstein, a homemaker, Norman Highstein was born in Baltimore and raised in Forest Park.
After graduating from City College in 1944, he served in the merchant marine for several years before entering the University of Maryland, College Park. He then transferred to the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, where he earned his dental degree in 1952.
He enlisted in the Air Force and served as a dentist at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.
He was discharged in 1954 andbegan practicing dentistry in Woodlawn. In 1970, he and his best friend, Dr. Howard H. Goldberg, established a joint dental practice on Old Court Road in Randallstown, across from what is now Northwest Hospital.
They established McDonogh Dental Associates on McDonogh Road in 1986, where Dr. Highstein continued working until retiring in 1997.
"Dr. Highstein always strove to be a patient-oriented dentist, giving them the best dentistry had to offer for their particular situation in the kindest and gentlest manner possible," said Dr. Fred Magaziner of Pikesville, a retired dentist and friend for more than 50 years.
"He was a student of the profession as well as a teacher, mentoring many new dentists and setting high standards for their practice and professionalism," said Dr. Magaziner. "Norman had done a lot of good for a lot of people. He treated people who couldn't afford it and he didn't want them worrying about the money."
"He was meticulous, took his time, and was very caring with the patient," said Dr. Fine. "And he never cared about the money. He wasn't a flashy person and always drove a Chevrolet or a Toyota rather than a BMW or a Mercedes."
His professional memberships included the Alpha Omega Dental Fraternity, of which he was a past president. He had been a member of the Baltimore City Dental Society, Baltimore County Dental Association, Maryland State Dental Association and the American Dental Association.
He was also a member of the Maryland Academy of General Dentistry and the Academy of General Dentistry. He had been a staff member of the dental department at Sinai Hospital for many years.
Dr. Highstein also taught medical ethics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, was a special dental programs lecturer at the Community College of Baltimore County, and was a member of the advisory committee on dental programs at Baltimore City Community College.
Known as "Dr. Green Thumb," Dr. Highstein was an avid horticulturist who enjoyed landscaping his various homes.
He and his wife, the former Donna Lee Oshry, whom he married in 1950, earlier had lived in two homes in the Villa Nova neighborhood of Baltimore County, before moving to Topping Road in Stevenson in 1976. They built each of their three houses, which were identical.
"They loved the house so much that they built it three times," said his son, Dr. Charles I. Highstein, an otolaryngologist who lives in East Brunswick, N.J.
Mrs. Highstein died in 2003.
In a 1987 interview with The Evening Sun, Dr. Highstein said that gardening was the perfect foil for dentistry.
"One is very fine work; the other is very gross," he said. "Gardening is not exacting. If it's not perfect, you simply change it. You move the dirt around to some other place."
"Dentistry is very confining, and I've always liked the outdoors. But I had no idea that the psychological aspects of gardening would be so incredible. I'm trying to stay in shape, mentally and physically, so I can practice my work for as long as possible. Gardening is a perfect diversion," he said.
"I find that gardening made me a much calmer person. Without it, I wouldn't have the patience and skill I have in my work," he said.
Dr. Highstein designed and planted his yard with 40 varieties of evergreens, including black Austrian and white pines, hemlock, cedars, yews and junipers. He also planted azaleas, rhododendrons and hollies, including cryptomeria, his favorite.
He had more than 300 varieties of plants and constructed four ponds that included waterfalls where he raised koi. He also kept pigeons.
In addition to gardening, Dr. Highstein liked painting in acrylics and creating surrealistic paintings.
He began playing tennis when he was 9 in Druid Hill Park and continued playing until he was 87.
Dr. Highstein was a founding member of Beth Israel Congregation in Randallstown.
Funeral services were held Nov. 4 at Sol Levinson & Bros. in Pikesville.
In addition to his son, Dr. Highstein is survived by his wife of 10 years, the former Lola Ostreicher, who lives in Floral Park, N.Y.;a daughter, Sara Seifter of Ellicott City; a sister, Cevia Rosol of Brunswick, Maine; and five grandchildren.