Stanley Mathew Kotula, a retired Southeast Baltimore dentist who served generations of patients at his Luzerne Avenue office, died of heart failure June 30 at Gilchrist Hospice Care of Towson. The former Riderwood resident was 96.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Canton, he was the son of Thomas Kotula, a Bethlehem Steel foreman, and his wife, Bertha, a homemaker. He attended Holy Rosary School and was a 1941 graduate of Calvert Hall College High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Maryland, College Park and was a 1947 graduate of the University of Maryland Dental School.
He enlisted in the Navy and served as a lieutenant during World War II, and later was called to active duty during the Korean War. He was assigned to the Bainbridge Training Station in Cecil County.
Shortly after establishing his dental practice at 533 S. Luzerne Ave., he met his future wife, Mary Louise Paszek, who came to him as a patient.
His son, Joseph S. Kutola, a Towson resident, said his father borrowed money from his father to establish his dental practice in the neighborhood where he was born. He became one of the neighborhood’s best-known dentists, his son said, and counted among his patients many members of the Holy Rosary and St. Casimir Roman Catholic parishes, as well as Bethlehem Steel employees.
“His father wanted him to go to work at Bethlehem Steel and was surprised at how quickly he paid the loan off. My father was a hard worker and soon had an office full of patients,” said his son. “The waiting room always had people in it, and there were times when they spilled out the front door and onto the marble steps.”
The first floor of the S. Luzerne Avenue home was a two-chair dental office. He was a solo practitioner and often had both chairs occupied. He set up a dental work space in the rear of the building where he made bridgework on nights and weekends. The second floor was the family home until he and his wife and children relocated to the Loch Raven Boulevard area and later Riderwood.
“He worked long hours, six days a week and served the neighborhood for more than 50 years,” his son said. “You could not meet someone on that area who did not known my dad.”
He retired about 1997 and sold the office in 2001.
“He remained insatiably curious about the profession that was his passion as he constantly read up on new discoveries or processes in the dental industry,” his son said. “My dad loved his patients and cared for many of them from childhood to adulthood. His patents came as far away as Locust Point and Dundalk, and people who moved to Essex and Parkville would come back to him.”
In his free time, Dr. Kotula talked about sports — he was an Orioles fan and a Colts and Ravens follower. He also had an appreciation for boxing.
He collected jokes from Readers’ Digest magazines and repeated them to his patients.
“It helped if you didn’t remember the punch line,” his son said. “But he certainly could —his memory was uncanny retentive into his 90s, with the ability to recall finest details of his life, even back to his youth,” his son said.
Among the stories he told was as a boy, he carried bottles of bathtub gin during Prohibition from a woman who made it in Fells Point. He could also recall when Baltimore’s automobiles, parked on city streets, were required to have a working overnight parking light.
Dr. Kortula also became the caregiver for his wife when she developed dementia and was later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
“My father took on the role as primary caretaker.” his son said. “Nothing made him happier than a family gathering and seeing or hearing about his grandchildren or great-grandchildren. It was amazing how much he knew about each child and all the details of their lives. They were his pride and joy.”
His his wife of 58 years died in 2006.
A funeral Mass will be offered at 10:30 a.m. Monday at Oakcrest Retirement Community in Parkville, where he spent the last 17 years.
In addition to his son, survivors include three other sons, Stanley J. Kotula of Fort Mill, S.C., Robert T. Kotula of Fallston and Paul A. Kotula of Cambridge; two daughters, Susan Ziegler of Riderwood and Teresa M. Hofferbert of Ocean Pines; a sister, Sister Leona Kotula of Philadelphia; a brother, Thomas Kotula of Baltimore; 16 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. A daughter, Mary Claire Burke, died in 1996.