In Memoriam: Gerald D. Klee, M.D.

Maryland Psychiatrist Spring 2013

Author: Bruce Hershfield, M.D.

Dr. Gerald D. Klee of Timonium died on March 3, 2013, five days after breaking his hip.

Originally from Brooklyn, NY, he entered the Army around the end of World War II.  While on duty with the Occupying Forces in Europe, he decided to go into Medicine as a result of seeing hungry people fighting over the scraps of food he was throwing away at the dump. He went to college at McGill, then to medical school at Harvard.  Brought to Maryland by University’s first Chairman of Psychiatry, Jacob Finesinger (whom Gerry spoke of reverentially for the rest of his life), he finished his training at Hopkins and the Perry Point VA Hospital.  He later was Director of Adult Outpatient Psychiatry at University from 1959-67 and at Temple from 1967-70.  He then returned to Maryland, where he was in private practice until he retired in 2000.

He served as MPS President in l962-63 and was Editor of “The Maryland Psychiatrist” for several years (and on its editorial advisory board for many years).  The MPS gave him its “Lifetime of Service” Award in 2004.

In his jobs, in his teaching positions at University and at Hopkins in what he did for the MPS, and in the ways he helped people in all sorts of settings, he influenced many of us, as expressed in the following quotes:

Tom Cimonetti:  “Gerry taught me to be a therapist…from first year in medical school till just a few years ago…starting with his first words to me in my very first supervisory session…’Let your patient do more of the talking and keep things focused better.’”

John Urbaitis:  “I remember Gerry in the 1970’s, helping some of us get community psychiatry services established.  His depth of knowledge and experience, and his dedication to people with problems, his support of colleagues, and his no-nonsense comments on ‘Do it the right way’ all helped many of us.”

Dina Sokal:  “I could always depend on him for ideas for articles (for “The Maryland Psychiatrist”) and for writing them as well.  He was full of energy and made it easier to be editor.”

Charles Peters:  “Always fascinating.  We served together briefly on our Home Owners Association Board and Gerry was always able to bring a modicum of civility to an otherwise riotous group.”

Comments from””:  1) “Remembered fondly by a patient.  He taught me to be a loving husband and father.”  2) “He was a witty, kind, intellectually curious gentleman.”

I got to know him well in the last 15 years because we would go to the same meetings–often driving together– a lot of the time.  In particular, we attended the monthly meetings of our reading group, where we would talk about all the subjects one isn’t supposed to talk about with strangers (but could within a small circle of friends).  He loved to laugh and to learn about all sorts of things.  He was proud of his family, including his Danish ancestors, his mother who worked long years at a subway token booth so that her children could have a chance to succeed, and his children and grandchildren. He was justifiably skeptical of ideologues and politicians.

I share the sentiments of John Buckley, who remembered Gerry’s story about the hungry Europeans grabbing for the garbage he was dumping from the back of an Army truck, so many years ago.  “From that experience, he was determined to further his education when he returned home and, hopefully, would study Medicine as a means to improve the human condition.  Well, he improved the condition for lots of people…including me.”