THERE ARE few more distressing situations than to take a seriously ill loved one to a hospital and having nobody tell you anything.

One of the many stories about the compassion of Dr. David L. Forde was the time he came upon a distraught family in a Chestnut Hill Hospital waiting room.

"My mom was in the hospital with brain cancer," the woman's daughter told Forde's son, David L. Forde Jr. "Nobody would tell us anything. Your dad came out and talked to us. He told us what was going on. He walked us through it. He made us all feel better."

The woman was not Forde's patient, but he wasn't about to let anyone suffer if he could do something. That was the motivation for Forde during his 40-year medical career.

"He was dedicated to making sure that everybody on his watch was OK," his son said.

Forde, who spent his entire career at Chestnut Hill Hospital, died Tuesday of heart failure. He was 73 and lived in Chestnut Hill.

"When I would tell people my name, they would say, 'Are you related to Dr. Forde?'" his son said. "When I said I was, they would tell me their experiences with him - 'You don't know me,' was a typical one, 'but your dad was so special. He took the time to explain things. He was so caring.'"

"His work was very encompassing to him," said David Jr., chief of staff to City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown. "It was a regular experience for him to be called in the middle of the night to rush to the hospital."

Forde specialized in pulmonary and internal medicine, as well as critical-care medicine, which had him on call 24-7.

He served as a mentor to young residents starting their careers at the hospital. He would show them the ropes and give them words of encouragement. He was a frequent recipient of the hospital's Golden Apple Award, presented for "outstanding dedication and commitment to teaching."

Forde was the son of George S. Forde, Philadelphia's first revenue commissioner in the 1950s, and the former Catherine Higgins.

He graduated from La Salle College High School in 1955 and La Salle College in 1959, and he received his medical degree from Thomas Jefferson Medical College, now Thomas Jefferson University, in 1963.

He served as a lieutenant commander in the Navy from 1967 to 1969.

In 1969, he joined Chestnut Hill Hospital and Chestnut Hill Medical Associates. He was president of the medical staff from 1992 to 1994.

Forde's passion for learning was manifest in childhood when a bout of scarlet fever kept him out of school for a year. Because he wasn't allowed to go to school, he decided to read the encyclopedia from A to Z.

Forde married the former Barbara Myers on April 8, 1967. They owned a vacation home in the Outer Banks, N.C..

"Family was very important to him," his son said. "He liked being home with his family. He enjoyed gardening. He found planting and cultivating relaxing."

Forde was serious about his work, a trait from his father, who commanded destroyers in World War II, but he inherited a frisky side from his mother.

"He enjoyed telling stories and had a mischievous streak," his son said.

Besides his wife and son, he is survived by a daughter, Kathleen Forde; a brother, George Forde Jr.; a sister, Suzanne Crandley; and a grandson.

Services: Funeral Mass 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Our Mother of Consolation Church, 9 E. Chestnut Hill Ave. Friends may call at 9:30 a.m. Burial will be in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Glenside.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to La Salle College High School to be used in a program to help college-bound students with mild learning difficulties.