Dr. William A. Dear

Dr. William Allan Dear Jr., an internist and former head of the division of nuclear medicine at Mercy Medical Center who also was a practicing magician, died July 20 of heart disease at Union Memorial Hospital.

The longtime Guilford resident was 80.


"He was the father of nuclear medicine at Mercy," said Dr. Louis E. Grenzer, a Baltimore internist and cardiologist who had known Dr. Dear since they both were residents at Mercy.

"In the early 1970s, when they were new, he was doing the first echocardiograms and ultrasounds at Mercy. He had taken what had been a very little department and made it into a major one," said Dr. Grenzer.

The son of a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad sheet-metal worker and a homemaker, Dr. Dear was born in Baltimore and raised on Brunswick Street.

After graduating from City College in 1950, he attended what is now Towson University from 1955 to 1956, and earned a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1959 from the University of Maryland.

He earned his medical degree in 1964 from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and completed a rotating internship at St. Agnes Hospital in 1965.

Dr. Dear also did postgraduate work at Mercy and at what is now the University of Maryland Medical Center, where he was a fellow in nuclear medicine from 1968 to 1970.

From 1965 to 1966, Dr. Dear worked at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington in neuropsychiatric service, until he was inducted into the Army, where he served as a surgeon.

Dr. Dear, whose specialty was thyroid diseases, had been director of the division of nuclear medicine in Mercy's internal medicine department from 1970 until his retirement in 1992.

"I still have some of Bill's patients who still ask about him. He was very caring when it came to his patients," said Dr. Grenzer. "If they needed to see another doctor, he made sure they got to the right place. He just wanted to make sure that they were taken care of properly."

He added: "And I've never heard a patient say an unkind word about him."

Dr. Grenzer said that Dr. Dear enjoyed eating lunch in the Mercy lunchroom and sharing a table with other medical staffers.

"Bill was just an interesting guy to talk to. He was a down-to-earth and caring person. Even though he was a very important person at Mercy, you'd never know it. He was not a braggart," he said.

Dr. Dear also established the Maryland chapter of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and created the nuclear medicine technician position.

"He secured the first license for radiation safety in Maryland," said his daughter, Amy Megan Dear of White Hall in Baltimore County.


In addition to his professional work, Dr. Dear was an instructor in medicine at the University of Maryland medical school.

"He hired me at Mercy to work in his private practice," said Cecelia H. Damario, who was Dr. Dear's longtime secretary until retiring in 2003.

"Dr. Dear was a very caring person and one of the best diagnosticians around. It takes a good diagnostician when working with patients who have thyroid disease because they can develop other problems like heart disease," said Mrs. Damario, who lives in Brooklyn Park.

His professional memberships included the American College of Nuclear Surgeons, American College of Physicians and American Society of Internal Medicine.

A man of wide-ranging interests, Dr. Dear was tap-dancing at age 4 and performed with his father, who was a Hippodrome Theatre musician.

He was a self-taught musician who played bass fiddle, clarinet and the ukulele. He also collected banjos, ukuleles, clarinets and pianos, and was a fan of all types of music, especially big-band music.

Dr. Dear, who learned magic when he was in his youth, worked professionally, performing magic shows throughout the Baltimore area for years.

"He belonged to the Pyramid Magic Club when I did, back in the late 1940s and 1950s, and we did shows together. He was a very likable and polished performer, and an absolute gentleman," said George Goebel, a veteran Baltimore illusionist and expert on Harry Houdini who also owns A.T. Jones & Sons, the Howard Street costume shop.

"He was very good and the best billiard ball manipulator. He'd take one ball, make two, then three and finally four. He'd change their colors," said Mr. Goebel. "He was an absolute expert at that."

Dr. Dear was also an accomplished renovator of homes that he lived in over the years.

"He renovated our former home in Ruxton, one on Witherspoon Road and the house on 39th Street in Guilford, where he lived," said Ms. Dear. "He also was renovating one in Cascade in Western Maryland."

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at St. James Episcopal Church, 3100 Monkton Road, Monkton.

In addition to his daughter, Dr. Dear is survived by his wife of 30 years, the former Cathie Knighton; two sons, Michael Evans Dear of Halethorpe and Bennett Hale Dear of Costa Mesa, Calif.; and three grandchildren. An earlier marriage to the former Patricia Ann Trainor ended in divorce.