Dr. Bernard Kapiloff worked hard throughout his life in hopes of being successful and wealthy. But, according to his wife Lynn, Kapiloff didn’t want the money for himself. He made money to help people — and the more he made, the more people he helped.
“You always had to look for the check book whenever Bernie heard a sad story,” said Lynn Kapiloff, who was married to him for more than 51 years. “Because chances were he was going to write a check or find some way to help that person in need. It’s just who he was.”
Dr. Kapiloff, a retired plastic surgeon, former dentist, noted philanthropist and longtime newspaper publisher, died Oct. 10 at his Baltimore home following complications from a stroke. He was 95.
Some of Dr. Kapiloff’s greatest accomplishments came as a civil rights activist, especially in the 1960s after he and older brother Leonard purchased The Montgomery County Sentinel in 1961.
The paper took on the cause of African-American brothers James and John Giles and their friend Joseph Johnson, who that year were convicted of and ultimately sentenced to death for the rape of a 16-year-old white girl. Often called Maryland’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” case, The Sentinel’s investigation found that the three were wrongly convicted. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the convictions in 1967.
Dr. Kapiloff remained active with the newspaper, including writing editorials, until he suffered a stroke this past April.
“Very few publishers have the mindset that Bernie had,” said Brian J. Karem, managing editor of The Sentinel. “He let us follow a story down whatever road the facts would lead. He wasn’t worried about any slant so as long as the facts were correct and the readers could make a judgment for themselves. He had the respect and admiration of so many who knew him, and he will be missed.”
Dr. Kapiloff also was an unabashed supporter of Israel and other Jewish charitable causes; he even flew an Israeli flag in his front yard. Among the causes he supported most: The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore; the Chesed Fund; and the Maryland Council of the Jewish National Fund, for which he served as president.
His willingness to be outwardly Jewish and committed to Jewish causes led Kapiloff to be the target of several anti-Semitic attacks, especially between 1977 and 1980 when his family endured a half-dozen fire bombings. Despite FBI investigations, those bombings went unsolved, said Lynn Kapiloff.
“Dealing with those attacks was the bravest thing I have ever seen,” said noted Baltimore cardiologist and philanthropist Dr. Morton Mower, a friend for 51 years who worked with Kapiloff at the Jewish National Fund and in other philanthropic endeavors.
“It was a dangerous time, but until the end he remained a steadfast supporter of civil rights and Israel. He started me on the path to help as many people as I could in my life,” said Mower.
His Other Profession
Dr. Kapiloff was born on Sept. 23, 1917 in New York City. He graduated from City College and then received a dental degree from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. Ultimately, he earned an M.D. from Howard University in 1945. He practiced dentistry to put himself through medical school, Lynn Kapiloff said.
His noteworthy medical career included serving as chief plastic surgeon at Sinai Hospital.
He also taught surgical classes, first from 1950 to 1972 at Howard and then later at Johns Hopkins University. Additionally, Dr. Kapiloff was a founding member of the Health Cost Review Commission and served on the Maryland Services Cost Review Commission from 1971 to 1977.
Dr. Mower said Dr. Kapiloff influenced his life from the time they met, when Dr. Mower was a resident at Sinai in 1961. Dr. Mower was amazed at how Dr. Kapiloff used his dentistry background to assist with his plastic surgery work, ensuring that corrective surgical procedures did not negatively impact a patient’s teeth or jawbone.
“If you do right by people, things will always work out in the end — that was the approach my father took in life,” Mark Kapiloff said. “My father instilled in me the importance of helping those who couldn’t help themselves. He just worked to make the world a better place.”
Frank Storch can attest to that.
Storch, vice president at M. Leo Storch Management Corp., founded the Chesed Fund, a nonprofit that has helped thousands in the community. Storch said that Dr. Kapiloff was generous not only with his donations, but also with “sagely advice.”
According to Storch, Dr. Kapiloff paid tuition for needy students and helped teens get their GEDs, often becoming a father figure to them. One boy in particular is now a well-established banker and owes his success to Dr. Kapiloff.
“He cared deeply about the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” Storch said. “The Baltimore community has lost a tremendous asset, and may all his good deeds bring an aliyah for his neshoma.
Sen. Ben Cardin is also among those who were influenced by Kapiloffís life. Friends for more than 40 years, Cardin said Dr. Kapiloff sought ways to bring people together — regardless of their political stance — to help with the greater good.
“Bernie Kapiloff was one of a kind, and I was lucky enough to know him for many years and to consider him a friend,” Cardin said in a statement. “He was always committed to the public’s right to know, and, as publisher of The Sentinel, he worked hard to make sure readers were informed about what was happening in their communities and what it meant to them. He leaves a legacy of dedication to good reporting and a commitment to the community.”
In addition to his wife and son, Dr. Kapiloff is survived by another son, Michael Kapiloff of Miami; a daughter, Miriam Kapiloff of Baltimore; and two granddaughters. In lieu of flowers, contributions in his memory may be sent to Jewish National Fund Parsons Water Fund, 42 East 69th St., New York, NY 10021.