Dr. Rolando V. “Doc” Goco, a retired internist who had maintained practices in South and Northeast Baltimore as well as Laurel, and earlier had survived the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during World War II, died April 28 of dementia at his Tucker, Ga., home.
The former longtime Laurel resident was 91.
“He was an excellent physician and a wonderful person. I took care of his surgeries,” said Dr. Gus DeLeon, a retired surgeon who became acquainted with Dr. Goco when both were staff physicians at Church Home and Hospital.
“He had an excellent bedside manner and patients loved him,” the Towson resident said. “He was unassuming, and a very quiet and gentle person,” said Dr. DeLeon, who later shared an office with Dr. Goco in Laurel. “I sometimes wish I was gentle as he was, but you know how surgeons are, they like to cut.”
Rolando Valencia Goco, who was the son of Lorenzo Lorenzo Gorco, a schoolteacher, and his wife, Estrella Porras Valencia, a homemaker, was born the third of five sons and raised in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro, in the Philippines.
Dr. Goco was a teenager during the occupation of the Philippines by Japanese forces during World War II.
“He learned to fish and farm to sustain himself and his family,” wrote a son, Lorenzo Vernon Goco of Arlington, Va., in a biographical profile of his father. “Those skills became passions later in life.”
His son said in a subsequent telephone interview that to make extra money his father had learned to roll cigarettes, which a merchant then sold to Japanese soldiers.
After the war, he enrolled at the University of the Philippines, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1950 and his medical degree in 1955.
In 1955 Dr. Goco came to Baltimore, where he completed both his medical internship and residency in 1959 at Church Home and Hospital.
While at the East Baltimore hospital, he met and fell in love with the former Mary Louise Humes, a registered nurse.
They were wed in 1960, but because of Maryland’s anti-miscegenation laws, the ceremony was held at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Washington, where interracial marriage was legal.
The couple settled in Laurel, first to the Maryland City neighborhood in 1964 and then to the Montpelier community five years later, where they raised their two daughters and five sons.
Dr. Goco maintained medical practices on Fort Avenue in Locust Point, where he shared an office with Dr. Aaron Sollod, a Sinclair and Bowleys Lane office in Northeast Baltimore, as well as in Laurel.
He also was associated for 30 years with District of Columbia Children’s Center and the District of Columbia Department of Corrections until retiring in 1995.
Dr. Goco also practiced at Church Home and Hospital, MedStar Harbor Hospital and Greater Laurel-Beltsville Hospital, now the University of Maryland Laurel Medical Center.
Because of their father, two of his children decided to pursue medical careers.
“He was an influence on me. He was a quiet and humble man,” said a daughter, Dr. Patricia Kelly, a family physician who lives in Tucker. “It’s a lifestyle you grow up in and you want to emulate the good things. He didn’t look at it as a job but as a lifestyle.”
Dr. Kelly remembers the phone ringing at their Laurel home, where her father maintained a basement office where he saw patients.
“I would drive around with him on house calls and we go from Laurel to Fort Avenue in Locust Point, and I remember one time when he was paid with a rockfish,” Dr. Kelly recalled. “When the phone rang at home, we were taught to answer it and be nice to the patients.”
Dr. Kelly said once her father had finished seeing a patient in South Baltimore, his custom was to repair to Jack’s Corned Beef or Attman’s on Corned Beef Row for a sandwich.
“These are warm memories,” she said. “I felt we lived a life that was like a Barry Levinson film.”
A son, Dr. Paulino Edwardo Goco of Murfreesboro, Tenn., a surgeon, described his father as a “grand role model” and everywhere he went he heard him called “a great doctor.”
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, he and his father returned to the Philippines on medical missions.
“We went to Mindoro, which is the smallest island in the Philippines, and we went to the town where he came from. My dad loved going back there,” his son said.
“There were children that didn’t go to school because they needed cleft lip and cleft palate surgery,” Dr. Goco said. “I did the surgery and he cared for the patients before and after surgery and was my translator because I didn’t speak the language.”
Patients paid with what they could afford.
“It was still quite Third World there and we were paid with chickens, mangoes, bananas and other fruit,” Dr. Goco said.
The elder Dr. Goco remained an avid gardener throughout his life, and for many years, he maintained an acre garden plot on one of his patients’ farms near Fort Meade, where he planted a variety of vegetables for his family, neighbors and friends.
He also constructed a greenhouse on the grounds of his home where he grew exotic plants and seedlings for his vegetable garden.
“He was always bringing seeds back from the Philippines because he loved the fruit and vegetables, and Customs always gave him a hard time,” his son said with a laugh.
Dr. Goco also was enthusiastic about fishing and crabbing, which family members said he had mastered and turned into “a craft.”
He enjoyed family beach vacations in Duck, N.C., Rehoboth Beach, Del., Bethany Beach, Del., and Ocean City.
Dr. Goco, who moved to Tucker six years ago, was a former communicant of St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Church in Laurel.
He was a parishioner of Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church in Tucker, where a funeral Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. Friday.
In addition to his wife of 59 years and his son and daughter, he is also survived by three other sons, John Ramon Goco of Columbia, Rolando Nicholas Goco of Arlington, Va., and Norman Joseph Goco of Carrboro, N.C.; another daughter, Linda Peletski of Clarksville; 18 grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.