Dr. Theodore C. Patterson, a retired physician who practiced in Dundalk and was recalled as a beloved community figure, died of Parkinson’s disease complications July 9 at his Annapolis home. He was 86.
“Dr. Patterson represented the epitome of good hard work and academic success,” said former U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume. “As a young person, in my formative years, I sat in awe of him. He went on to become a friend and mentor. As a physician, he was a counselor to the many families he treated. He had a comforting spirit about him.”
Born in Sparrows Point, he was the son of Doward B. Patterson Sr., a Bethlehem Steel Corp. foreman and his wife, Louie Marshall, a homemaker.
According to a biography prepared by his family, Dr. Patterson spent his youth in a house on J Street, one of the first at Turner Station to have indoor plumbing.
Dr. Patterson graduated from Sollers Point High School in 1949, which was then a segregated black institution.
“But the Class of 1949, accustomed to race-based barriers, didn’t give segregation much thought," said a 1999 Sun article about a reunion.
“You persevered,” said Dr. Patterson, recalling his high school years. He said that his classmates went on to careers in medicine, teaching, architecture, manufacturing and government.
"We’ve never really had a reunion. This is more of an anniversary, " said Patterson, who co-organized that reunion.
He earned a pre-med degree at Morgan State University, and as an ROTC second lieutenant he served as a training officer at Fort Dix, N.J., for two years.
His family biography said that on a visit to New Orleans with a friend, the late Joe Thomas, Dr. Patterson met, Sylvia Tureaud, his future wife. They married July 14, 1956.
He and his wife settled in Dundalk and raised their children. Dr. Patterson commuted by train daily to graduate school at Howard University in Washington. In 1958, he was accepted to the University of Maryland Medical School. Upon graduation he interned at Sinai Hospital. In 1965, he started his family practice in Turner Station. He later practiced in an office in the Logan Village Shopping Center.
“He was very friendly and jovial, and everyone loved Dr. Patterson,” said Dr. Willarda V. Edwards, with whom he practiced until his retirement in 1993. “He really was a true family physician. People brought all their relatives to him and they in turn told others about him. At Christmas, his office would be filled with the cakes and candies people brought him.”
His family said he made house calls evenings and weekends. He also called on patients when they were hospitalized and stopped in their rooms to say hello and offer support.
Dr. Patterson remained active in Dundalk and Sparrows Point community affairs and participated in events that promoted local history.
“It has been a close-knit community,” said in a 1973 Evening Sun article. “You rarely locked your doors and always went to your neighbors’ houses uninvited.” He said that he grew up not going into Baltimore City much, maybe two or three trips a year.
Dr. Patterson went on to be the first African American president of the Gilman School Parents’ Association during 1978-1979. He was a member of the Board of the Patapsco Federal Savings and Loan Association, the County Planning Board, a member of the Dundalk Community College Advisory Board, the Dundalk Jaycees and was a past president of the Dundalk Optimist Club.
From 1969 to 1970, he served as president of the American Medical Association, Baltimore County Chapter. He was also first African American to hold the post. He group awarded him its Physicians’ Community Service Award in 1993.
He was elected to the Democratic State Central Committee in 1978 and was a pioneering African American to attain an elected position in Baltimore County.
He received the Community Service Award of MedChi, the American Medical Association’s Maryland state medical society. And he received national recognition in 1994 when he was nominated for the Physician of the Year Award by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
“Dr. Patterson has been involved with people, his community, and Baltimore County. His compassion and intelligent approach to living has not only gained him wide respect in his field as a family physician, but in the community of Dundalk," the nomination said. "Dr. Patterson has earned recognition as a man of great integrity through his work with community service, civil rights and educational organizations.”
He was a traveler and in retirement, he cultivated roses and raised annuals at his Millers Island home. He also arranged the flowers he raised. He played tennis and collected wines.
A funeral Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Luke’s Roman Catholic Church, 7517 North Point Road, Sparrows Point, where he was a member. He was a former parishioner at Christ the King Church.