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Dr. Morris Cherrey, family physician who made house calls, dies at 100

Dr. Cherrey had a basement office with treatment and waiting rooms in Westbrook Park, Delaware County. The family lived upstairs.

Dr. Morris J. Cherrey
Dr. Morris J. CherreyRead moreCourtesy Cherrey Family

Morris J. Cherrey, 100, an internist who cared for patients from offices in Philadelphia and Delaware County for nearly a half-century, died Thursday, Oct. 25, of Alzheimer's disease at Wesley Enhanced Living in Media.

Dr. Cherrey was an old-fashioned family physician. If a patient had an emergency in the night, he would meet the patient in the basement office in his Westbrook Park home or go on a house call.

"My mother would drive with him and would sit in the car," said his son, Robert M. Cherry, also a physician. "He would deliver the baby [or whatever case presented itself] and then come out. He had a heart of gold and could never turn down anyone in need."

Until several months before his death, he kept his doctor's bag under his bed.

"I think it was from the 1940s," his son said. "It looked like it had been through a war."

Dr. Cherrey was born in March 1918, as the influenza epidemic was beginning to sweep the nation. When he was 11, the stock market crashed in 1929. He experienced the Great Depression as a teenager. Life wasn't easy.

"He once had diphtheria as a child, and they didn't know how to treat it," his son said. "He managed to pull through. He was a survivor."

Originally from Russia, his parents, Louis and Esther F. Cherrey, settled in Boston. Two years later, the Cherreys moved to Philadelphia and settled in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood. Dr. Cherrey graduated from Central High School in 1936 and completed the premedical program at Temple University in 1940.

In 1944, he graduated from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and served an internship at Brooklyn Doctors Hospital the following year. Later, he was certified as an internal medicine specialist.

Dr. Cherrey opened a private practice in 1945. He maintained offices in West Philadelphia and Center City, and later, Westbrook Park and Drexel Hill. His Westbrook Park house had outside steps leading into the basement, which contained waiting and treatment rooms, a laboratory, and an X-ray machine. The family lived upstairs.

One patient who saw Dr. Cherrey at the Westbrook Park office was Marilyn Brown, a Havertown resident.

"Rest in peace, Dr. Cherrey," she wrote in an online guestbook. "My childhood doctor from Westbrook Park. I have often thought of you as I pass your former home and office. A very nice man and doctor."

Dr. Cherrey delivered babies, did tonsillectomies, and assisted in surgeries done by other physicians. Patients came mostly from Philadelphia and Delaware County. He was on staff at West Park and Haverford Hospitals.

In 1960, he became one of the founders and a corporate owner of Tri-County Hospital. The facility was renamed Metropolitan Hospital and later Springfield Hospital.

In the 1960s, he was photographed at a fire scene treating five firefighters for smoke inhalation. He performed CPR on all five, and they survived. "There was a picture of him in the local paper," his son said.

Over the years, he expanded his expertise to encompass toxicology, hypnotherapy, and gastroenterology. He never stopped learning.

"He practiced medicine until the age of 75, and never had a partner, and loved every minute of it," his family said. He retired in 1993, albeit reluctantly.

Dr. Cherrey married Lillian I. Bersh in 1945. They had two children whom they raised in Westbrook Park, a community straddling Upper Darby and Clifton Heights. When not working, he hiked, collected minerals, and studied astronomy.

Dr. Cherrey's wife died in 2007. He moved to Wesley, an assisted-living facility, in 2011. At Wesley, Dr. Cherrey gave out informal medical advice and donated to various charities and causes.

Besides his son, he is survived by a daughter, Linda Reeser.

Funeral services were Sunday, Nov. 4, with interment in Mount Sharon Cemetery, Springfield.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Anti-Defamation League via