Dr. Robert F. Ward, family psychiatrist, dies

Dr. Robert F. Ward ran a family therapy clinic for the employees of the old General Motors plant on Broening Highway.
Dr. Robert F. Ward ran a family therapy clinic for the employees of the old General Motors plant on Broening Highway. (HANDOUT)

Dr. Robert Foster Ward, a retired psychiatrist who made a specialty of treating families, died of vascular disease Saturday at Symphony Manor. He was 85 and lived in North Baltimore.

Born in Dover, New Jersey, he was the son of Alfred Hand Ward, a utilities engineer and artist, and his wife, Reba Mengel, a homemaker. He was a 1951 graduate of Dover High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in premedical studies from Rutgers University, where ran track and sang in its glee club.


He moved to Baltimore and graduated from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and was a member of the Alpha Chi Rho medical fraternity. He served as chief resident in psychiatry at the old Baltimore City Hospitals, now Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

“While an intern, he worked with a team developing the cardiac defibrillator,” said his daughter, Dr. Lydia Spain Ward of Falmouth, Maine. “He also met and married his first wife, Patricia Spain Ward, who was then a Hopkins medical history graduate student. They shared a love of music and sang in a Peabody choir together.”


They initially had a Calvert Street apartment and later settled on Traymore Road in Hamilton.

Dr. Ward joined the Johns Hopkins Hospital and directed an inpatient psychiatric adult service unit and was a faculty member on the staff of the sexual behavioral clinic. He also worked in family therapy.

“He had an innate sense of human suffering and compassion for others,” his daughter said.

Dr. Ward established a private practice in psychiatry at the old Grafflin Cook home at the corner of Charles and 33rd streets. He later moved his office to The Rotunda.


“I think of Bob as a working man’s psychiatrist,” said Thomas Large, a psychiatric social worker with whom he shared an office. “He was practical and funny. He became interested in family dynamics and ran a family therapy clinic for the employees of the old General Motors plant on Broening Highway. He very much valued and respected the influence of family in a life."

After he divorced his first wife in 1970, he married Eleanor Tomlin Helms, a psychiatric nurse in private practice. She died in 1993.

“He, my mother and his best friend, Walter Afield, all worked with the United Auto Workers psychiatric clinic one evening a week,” said his stepdaughter, Katherine Smith Evans. “After work at the clinic they would go out together in Fells Point to a Greek bar or to Sabatino’s.”

She also said, “I was 17 when Bob and my mother married. He became a father to me and my siblings. I have always referred to him as my father, and he introduced me to people as his daughter. He was my daughter’s only living grandparent.”

Family members said Dr. Ward embraced Baltimore wholeheartedly and was a subscriber to the old Baltimore Opera Company and attended Center Stage and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

“He was a huge opera fan and he would be driving with music playing loudly and he’d been acting out and conducting it," said his daughter, Lydia.

In 1994 after the death of his wife, one of his sisters-in-law introduced him to Margaret “Peggy” Waxter Maher.

“At a party, he stood by himself and people were drawn to him," she said. “I said hello and we talked for a little bit and I felt I had known him for years. On the way home, I thought to myself, that nice man wants to see me again. And we have been together about 21 years.”

The two became a couple and resided at the Winthrop House in North Baltimore. He lived on the 10th floor and she on the fifth floor.

“We loved traveling together," Ms. Maher said. "He would go up any path and he’d try anything. He discovered Paris quite late in the game and he loved it.”

Dr. Ward enjoyed trips to Cape Elizabeth and Bailey Island, Maine, where he spent time with his daughter and grandson. He also enjoyed trips to St. Pete Beach, Florida.

Dr. Ward was an enthusiastic cook who prepared pork chops, sauerkraut and apples, among other dishes.

His daughter, Lydia, said: “My father’s kindness, compassion, hard work and dry sense of humor were perhaps only surpassed by his humility. He developed enduring friendships with many and was always caring and helpful to others."

A funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Friday at St. David’s Episcopal Church, 4700 Roland Ave.

In addition to his daughter, stepdaughter and companion, survivors include another stepdaughter, Robyn Webb of Baltimore, and two grandchildren. A stepdaughter, Janet Hanson, died in 2015.

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