Maryland – Donald Overton Castell passed away on Jan 8, 2021. He was born on Sept 19, 1935 in Washington DC to George R and Gertrude M (Conner) Castell who were both descended from families with long histories in the District, Maryland and Pennsylvania, dating back to the American Revolution.
Don was on a path to take over the family business (Castell Fancy Meats) as the 4th generation of Castell men to do so, but he instead became the first family member to go to college in order to pursue a different path. Initially, he started college on a music scholarship but later switched to medicine. Meanwhile, his father worked hard to pay for his son’s college and medical school tuition. Don excelled in music, earning the seat of first trumpet in the Maryland State Band and playing at many local events and restaurants with the Police Boys Club Band. Many years later he played bass guitar with a group of doctors who dubbed themselves The Docs of Dixieland. While studying medicine at George Washington University, he courted the devoted, sweet girl from across the street, Patricia (Pat). They married and had four children together (Debbie, Dan, Karen, Cynthia) in the span of their 20 plus year marriage and enjoyed playing tennis almost daily. Don served in the Navy for 20 years through which he completed his medical internship and residency at National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) and fellowship (Tufts University, MA), rising to the rank of Captain and the position of the Chief of Medicine at NNMC. While in this role he was invited to be the physician who accompanied the diplomatic Congressional trip to China which opened the doors to US/China relations in 1979.
Don married his second wife June, gaining two step daughters whom he welcomed as his own. Don and June enjoyed over 25 years of married life while collaborating on medical research and playing tennis together. They relocated to North Carolina (Bowman Gray Medical School, now Wake Forest School of Medicine), Philadelphia (Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Graduate Hospital) and eventually South Carolina (Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC)), where Don improved the medical facilities for gastroenterological studies and trained talent in the latest esophageal treatments.
Don married his third wife Linda and teamed with her on their common interests in medicine. The early years of the marriage included Don’s commuting from work at MUSC in South Carolina to home with Linda in Maryland. Then when Don retired a few years ago, he settled back to Maryland with Linda and her two sons, Geoffrey and Colton.
Don was preceded in death by his parents George and Gertrude, his sister Elizabeth Jean (3 years of age), his brother George R. Jr (Bud) (14 years old) and his daughter Debbie (infant). Due to the loss of his siblings at a young age, Don particularly cherished his relationships with his cousins and his work colleagues.
Don is survived by his wife Linda, his son Dan, daughters Karen and Cynthia, step daughters Celine and Marianna, step sons Geoffrey and Colton, former wives Pat and June and many cousins who were dear to him from the Conner/Castell families.
He loved connecting with his cousins (Conner/Castell descendants), learning about Washingtonian history and recounting various stories of growing up in the District and Maryland.
Don loved tennis and would play almost every day when he could. Earlier pursuits included body building and weightlifting. He was a huge fan of Ledo’s Restaurant and enjoyed their pizza for many years at their first location in Adelphi, and later he made it a personal pursuit to eat Ledo’s pizza as often as possible. Having acquired a taste for bitter dark chocolate from his father, he relished it and frequently pronounced himself a Choc-o-holic. Among his other passions were watching college basketball, joining his son at baseball games, playing Risk or watching movies. On occasion he would treat you to his favorite home-prepared meals from a can of Vienna sausages, mandarin oranges or Taylor’s ham, and on truly special occasions he would make his premier dish of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.
He loved to laugh and never took himself too seriously. As much as possible, he would dress in casual attire, and when others would stress about the latest dramas in life, he would recite one of his favorite phrases, “Never sweat the small stuff…. And everything is small stuff.”
He had a way of making people feel special when his enthusiastic attention was turned their way, and he commanded the energy of any room he inhabited. His typical way of greeting family and friends was with a big smile and a huge bear hug. He published well over 600 medical research papers and presented his clinical findings at over a thousand speaking engagements. Educating the next generation of doctors was important to him and he funneled his enthusiasm into his teaching. Soon he became known as Dr. Dynamic for the charismatic way he delivered his material. He received numerous awards, citations and accolades from the medical community, and served as the President of the American Gastroenterological Association among other prestigious roles. At one of the European medical conferences, he was donned as the Pope of the Esophagus where he was adorned with the extravagant regalia of crown, velvet robes and jeweled staff!
Don’s jovial soul is well loved and he will be missed by the many lives he touched.