Henry Wieman, a Washington area physician who had been missing since June 3, was found dead near Goshen Pass, Va., authorities said yesterday. His death by shotgun was labeled a suicide.
The 52-year-old doctor, known for his homespun wisdom and gentle sense of humor, was director of geriatrics at the Fort Lincoln Family Medicine Center in Prince George's County. He came to the clinic in 1997 from a practice in Worcester, Mass., where he also had been an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Wieman was featured in a May 30 Washington Post story on geriatric medicine.
"Everyone is just shattered," said Sister Carol Keehan, president of Providence Hospital in the District, who knew Wieman through the family practice residency program operated by Providence and Georgetown University. "He was not only a great physician, extremely competent and extremely well prepared . . . he was the most genuine human being."
Wieman's wife, Rebecca Reeve, reported him missing last week after he did not return to their Silver Spring home from a day of appointments, including the house calls that he made regularly. The following day, Montgomery County police released a missing-person bulletin with the license number of Wieman's red minivan, and it was the van, parked in a wooded area where campers and hikers often leave vehicles, that a Virginia game warden spotted Wednesday. A witness told authorities that he had seen the van parked there Sunday.
According to the Rockbridge County sheriff's office, Wieman's body was about 150 feet from a hiking trail. Lt. Larry Conner said a typed suicide note was left on a seat of the minivan, but he would not reveal its contents. He said the shotgun found at the scene had been bought by Wieman in late May.
In the recent Post article, Wieman talked philosophically about aging. "It's not the mileage, it's the tread wear," he said. He greatly enjoyed his elderly patients, whom he considered "buddies," and it was quite obvious the feeling was reciprocated. "There's nothing more powerful than to listen to somebody's story, somebody's life," he said.
He was a big man, somewhat teddy-bearish in appearance, with hobbies that included photography. (He specialized in pictures of fire hydrants.) Knee problems from years of rugby had forced him to abandon pastimes such as dancing and hiking, and he recently had begun using a cane periodically -- a carved walking stick bought on a trip to the Shenandoah Mountains.
Arrangements for a memorial service, which will be held at Providence Hospital, are pending. Wieman is survived by his wife; two children, Robert W. Wieman of Raleigh, N.C., and Sarah E. Wieman of Atlanta; his father, Robert Wieman of Athens, Ohio; and four sisters, Jane Wieman of Kyoto, Japan; Derrith Wieman-Clark of Texas; Meg Wieman, of Waterloo, Iowa; and Ana Wieman of Seattle.
The family asks that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the Visiting Nurse Association Hospice in Washington.
Staff writer Maria Glod contributed to this report.