Keeping a secret for eight months isn’t easy for a wife who has shared everything with her spouse for 56 years.
But Susie Reichmister managed to pull it off.
Not only did she resist telling her husband, Dr. Jerome P. Reichmister, chief of orthopedic surgery at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, about his surprise retirement party on Sept. 6 at the Suburban Club. She also kept him in the dark about the establishment of the Jerome P. Reichmister, M.D. Chief of Orthopedic Surgery Endowment fund, established in honor of his 51 years of service and dedication to Sinai’s patients.
An announcement about the endowment was made during the party, which was attended by 150 of the doctor’s family members, friends, patients and colleagues. The gathering was hosted by LifeBridge Health President and CEO Neil Meltzer.
In his remarks, a visibly moved Dr. Reichmister said he was “deeply humbled and overwhelmed to see so many friends, patients and colleagues.
“I’ve lived by a few principles: love of family … the golden rule: do the right thing, be fair [and] listen to people. … You’ll get a lot of joy if you enable others to achieve their dreams. I’ve had my dreams enabled.”
Dr. Reichmister’s association with Sinai goes back to his birth in 1940, back when the hospital was located on Monument Street in East Baltimore. At that time, no one could have predicted that he would return to Sinai as a medical intern in 1964.
Several years later, after his residency at Washington Hospital Center/George Washington University, Dr. Reichmister joined Sinai’s medical staff, and in 1969 the orthopedics practice of the late Dr. Larry Becker and the late Dr. David Filtzer.
The practice, which expanded in 1981, provided the groundwork for what would become the Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics and OrthoMaryland.
A Pikesville resident, Dr. Reichmister was instrumental in the establishment of Sinai’s Rubin Institute of Advanced Orthopedics. Dedicated in 2001, the acclaimed institute includes the International Center for Limb Lengthening and the Center for Joint Preservation and Reconstruction.
Dr. Ronald E. Delanois, chief of orthopedics at LifeBridge Health, referred to Dr. Reichmister as the “father of the Rubin Institute. He is the epitome of what an orthopedist should be. A gentleman, a teacher and a great surgeon.” (Dr. Reichmister will continue on staff for the next year to help precept Dr. Delanois in his new role.)
Meltzer called Dr. Reichmister a “physician’s physician. Look up the word mentsch and there’s a picture of Jerry.”
Dr. Reichmister’s daughter, Beth Casper, said her father “makes everyone feel special and included. He always makes time for everyone.” Added her sister, Jodi Kessler: “I always knew he was special. Everywhere I went, people would tell me. I’m so happy he’s finally getting the spotlight.”
Blair Kessler, Dr. Reichmister’s granddaughter, flew home from Elon University in North Carolina to surprise her grandfather. “He always puts everyone before himself,” she said.
Her cousin, Mitchell Casper, a student at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, said his grandfather was “the kind of guy you look at when he’s interacting with people, and you admire him.”
Joseph Cooper, a member of the Sinai and LifeBridge Health board of directors, helped secure much of the funding for the Reichmister endowment.
“There’s not a doctor in the world like Jerry,” he said. “We have a mutual friend who was having trouble walking. Jerry called him up and asked, ‘When will you be home from work tonight?’ When he got home, Jerry was waiting at his house.”
Cooper said it was Dr. Delanois who first brought the idea of the endowment to his attention. Cooper then worked with Lynn Abeshouse, a LifeBridge Health board member and development committee chair, to raise the $2 million needed to create the chair.
“We’re over $2.5 million already,” said Cooper. “The endowment will provide long-term support, salaries, technology, research, staff … anything you want, Jerry.”
After a formal program — which included remarks from Abeshouse, Cooper, Meltzer and Susie Reichmister, as well as a video presentation — Dr. Reichmister’s daughters presented him with a gift from longtime friends and patients Phyllis and Louis Friedman. It was a chair engraved with his name.
Susie Reichmister recalled meeting her husband when he worked at a delicatessen.
“I first saw Jerry when I was 16, across the deli counter,” she said. “It was a summer job, before his senior year at Johns Hopkins. He said, ‘Don’t I know you from somewhere?’ From our first date, my parents were so impressed. They knew he’d be a great surgeon because he cut such extra lean corned beef.”
At the end of the evening, Dr. Reichmister thanked his family, friends and colleagues for the accolades and honors, and expressed his belief in Sinai’s mission.
“Sinai has a long history — 150 years. It is very important for Baltimore,” he said. “We should take great pride in this institution. I’m blessed by the support of the administration and professional colleagues who are here. I’ve also been helped by the health care professionals at the hospital. Everyone has the same goal — excellence in health care.”