UPDATED 10/12/11:

Share a Tale – Lift an Ale – Celebrate Hal

On Sunday, November 13, at 5 p.m., friends will be gathering at Dave’s American Bistro to toast the colorful life of Doc Holbrook! All are welcome. For more information, contact Dr. Wendy Walker at wjwoo@his.com.

Daves American Bistro: 5500 Olney Laytonsville Road, Olney, Maryland  20832 (At the intersection of Brookeville Road and Route 108)

ORIGINAL POST: On Sunday, September 25, 2011, renowned Maryland vet Harold “Doc” Holbrook passed away of cor pulmonale related to chronic pulmonary emboli at the age of 83.

Harold "Doc" Holbrook

Recognized as the Maryland Horseman of the Year in 2001, for nearly 40 years, Harold Holbrook took care of virtually every animal in Montgomery County, ducks to donkeys, Holsteins to Holsteiners. He came to be known as the “James Herriott of Montgomery County,” a veterinarian, who — like his British counterpart — not only cured the animals’ ills, but also gave out healthy doses of good humor and common sense to their owners.

His career has followed the evolution of veterinary medicine in Maryland, from a time when there was just one veterinarian per county to present day Maryland with thousands of veterinarians and with as nearly as many specialists as there are ailments.

At its peak, his Town & Country vet practice had 6,000 to 7,000 large and small animal clients, a staff of between two and four veterinarians working with him, five full-time technicians and assistants plus other part-timers. Doc mentored numerous other vets, including Drs. Roger Scullin, Pete Radue, Chet Anderson, Rory Corolan, Walker and Will Engle.

Doc Holbrook served as president of the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association, was a founder of the Maryland Association of Equine Practitioners, and was for many years was chairman of the state veterinary board’s Ethics and Grievance Committee.

In an article by Ross Peddicord published in the February 2001 issue of The Equiery, Wendy Walker, who took over Doc’s Town & Country small animal practice in 1990, is quoted as saying, “I’ve worked with a lot of veterinarians over the years and he was one of the best general practitioners I’ve ever seen.”

Rory Carolan and Will Engle assumed his large animal practice, and Rory is quoted in the same article as saying, “He’d tackle any project, and if it involved research, he was always ingenious in trying to find a solution. He was loved by his clients, because he was always there when he was needed, night or day.”

Raised in College Park, the young Holbrook could walk from his house to any barn on the University of Maryland campus, which, as the first land grant agricultural university in the United States, had a large agricultural science program, and naturally he went on to study dairy husbandry. However, his brother, a medical doctor, persuaded him to take that animal husbandry one step farther, to become a veterinarian.

Holbrook graduated from the University of Georgia vet school in 1953, opening his Rockville practice one week later, named Town & Country because in 1953 Rockville was the edge of the suburban/rural population. “The plan was to deal mostly in dairy cattle,” recalled Doc in the 2001 article. “But the second call I got was to treat a pair of ponies for Hansen Watkins (Ex-MFH of Goshen Hunt).”

Eventually he worked for all the major farms in Montgomery County, treating beef cattle for Gordon Keys, dairy cows for Lawson King and horses for Harold Herman’s Red Oak Farm, then one of the state’s largest Thoroughbred breeding farms. He handled large horse operations like Pegasus Stables, Meadowbrook Stables, Avenel Farms, Al-Marah Arabians, Marshwood Farm, the Potomac Horse Center, and Susan Hansen’s Potomac Riding School. He had so many customers that were geographically contiguous that he would often just walk from one farm to the next. 
“I could write a book and it could be called ‘The Backyards of Potomac,’ Doc quipped to Ross back in 2001.

During the Potomac Fever crisis in the early 1980s, Doc Holbrook would load his truck daily with bags of fluids, running up and down River Road “all night long, trying to save horses’ lives. At first, we didn’t know what we were dealing with. That was probably the roughest time of my career,” he said.

Critical to his career and a full active partner in the practice was his wife, Joanne (known as Jody), who died in January of 2010 from complications related to cancer. In 2000, Doc Holbrook was paralyzed from the waist down in a boating accident.

Doc Holbrook is survived by his brother Dr. William (Bill) Holbrook, three children, nine grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

A viewing will be held on Wednesday, September 28, 2011 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM at the Muriel H. Barber Funeral Home, located at 21525 Laytonsville Road, Laytonsville, Maryland 20882.

The funeral will be held on Thursday, September 29, 2011 at 11:00 AM at the St. Andrews Episcopal Church, located at 4512 College Avenue, College Park, Maryland 20740.  Interment will immediately follow at George Washington Cemetery, located at 9500 Riggs Road, Adelphi, MD 20783.

In lieu of flowers, the Holbrook family asks that donations be made to a cause close to Doc’s heart.  Please make donations in honor of Dr. Harold H. Holbrook to the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis (Attn: Director of Giving) at P.O. Box 016960 (R48), Miami, Florida 33101-9844.

Click here to read more memories about Doc Holbrook from some of his many clients, including LuAnne Levens, Nancy Heil and Susan Hansen, plus photos from the 2001 Horseman of the Year party.

To contribute your own memories or photos, please e-mail them to editor@equiery.com