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Dr. Joseph P. Libonati
A long-time member of the Maryland Branch of the ASM, passed away on October 20, 2020. Joe served as the Maryland Branch President in 1973 and continued as a regular attendee at Branch meetings until just prior to the Covid-19 shutdown. Joe was well-known as being one of the friendliest and most dedicated Branch members.
Dr. Libonati received his PhD at the University of Maryland Baltimore and continued to collaborate with investigators there long after he received his degree. Most notably, he co-authored a number of highly cited papers on human challenge studies for cholera, dysentery, typhoid fever and other enteric diseases. ( https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/?term=libonati+jp ) In 1966, he joined the Maryland Department of Health where he had a long and distinguished career, retiring in 1997 as Deputy Director of Laboratories Administration. In retirement, he continued to consult on microbiology, attend Maryland ASM Branch meetings and lectured at the Johns Hopkins University. Besides his work on enteric diseases with University of Maryland investigators, he published a number of other papers on Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Neisseria gonorrhea, and other pathogens.
In describing Joe as a person, we cannot improve upon the obituary published at the Ruck Funeral Home site ( https://www.ruckfuneral.com/obituary/dr-joseph-libonati ), which is given below.
Dr. Joseph P. Libonati, microbiologist, former Deputy Director of Laboratories Administration for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Lecturer at Johns Hopkins University, and fan of science fiction, peacefully departed Earth on October 20, 2020 to boldly go where no man has gone before.
“Joe” was born in 1941 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as the first son of Paschal and Paula Libonati and one of eight children. Surrounded by his older sisters, Marie, Peggy, and Paula; his twin sister Joanne; and his younger siblings Betty, John, and Frank, Joe’s adventurous spirit led him to discover the streets and underground passageways of Philadelphia, and later the back roads, chicken coops, and blackberry and sumac brambles of Blackwood Terrace, New Jersey. Returning to Carlton Street, Philadelphia, Joe graduated from Roman Catholic and did his undergraduate studies at St. Joseph’s University. He navigated the tunnels of Pittsburgh to attend Duquesne University for his master’s. His pursuit of knowledge led him to the University of Maryland in Baltimore for his PhD in microbiology. While there, he noticed a young nursing student, Carol Kubeluis, whom he eventually approached to ask out - apparently first telling her he worked for the telephone company. Despite that original ploy for a date, Carol and Joe married and celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary in February. Three daughters, Genevieve, Rachel, and Stephanie, filled their Baltimore home leaving Joe outnumbered. The family dogs over the years, Frodo, Elmo, and Rocky, were not only important members of the family but also provided male companionship to Joe, a role his “lunch buddy” Elmo undoubtedly fulfilled. Joe ensured that his daughters were well-prepared for their own adventures in life, teaching them to paint houses, change tires, install burglar alarms, and perform basic home repair as well as offering financial advice and always being available when help was needed. He served for many years on the Board of Trustees for Mercy High School to assist other young women in their pursuit of education.
As Dr. Libonati, Joe conducted research on tuberculosis, shigellosis, cholera, and salmonella devoting his professional life to public health. After 31 years at the Maryland State Laboratories, he retired in 1997 but continued his dedication to the field consulting and teaching microbiology and biotechnology at Johns Hopkins. He was for many decades an active member of the American Society of Microbiology.
Joe enjoyed the pursuit of good, reasonably priced wine: his friends and family enjoyed the fruits of that labor. He was also known to fix anything that needed fixing (except Carol’s binoculars), setting up computers for friends and family, mowing the neighbor’s lawn, grilling a well-done steak, and enjoying a cold beer (or some bourbon). September in Maine has been his favorite vacation spot for the last decade or so, with plenty of homemade pie and “lobstah.” Prior to that, Joe enjoyed traveling, not only to the beaches in Bethany, Delaware but also to Europe and South America. Whether it was introducing Italy to a daughter or being shown Germany by another daughter, Joe loved to discover new places. Joe also had a great love for chocolate and afternoon walks with his best buddy. Joe will be remembered by his hilarious jokes, sharp wit, and caring kindness that would surface when you weren’t expecting it.
Joe reached his final frontier in his battle with what was originally thought to be Parkinsons and later diagnosed as PSP. His companions at Maryland Association for Parkinson Support, and in particular at their exercise programs, helped him and Carol navigate this illness with friendship and empathy. His humor, friendship, and honor in life will not be forgotten by his family, friends, and colleagues. Joe is survived by his wife Carol; daughters Genevieve, Rachel, and Stephanie; sons-in-law Franklin Bermeo and Harald Landmann; grandson Rasmus, and eight grand puppies.
For those who wish to remember Joe with a donation to an organization that mattered to him, his family suggests the Maryland Association for Parkinson Support (www.marylandparkinsonsupport.org ) or Mercy High School (www.mercyhighschool.com ). Or maybe just tune-up your car and check the air pressure in your tires - he would have wanted that.
Mark E. Shirtliff, PhD
Mark E. Shirtliff, PhD, served as President of the Maryland Branch of the American Society for Microbiology from 2007-2008. He was a Professor in the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis in the University of Maryland School of Dentistry with a secondary appointment as Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the School of Medicine. Dr. Shirtliff began his training at the University of Texas Medical Branch in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, where he received his PhD in 2001 with his thesis titled “Staphylococcus Aureus: Roles in Osteomyelitis.” He then moved to the international training center for biofilm research, the Center for Biofilm Engineering in Bozeman, Montana, as a Post Doctoral Fellow to continue his work on biofilms and biofilm-related diseases with the late Dr. Bill Costerton and Dr. Anne Camper as mentors. Dr. Shirtliff became an Assistant Research Professor in 2003 in the Department of Microbiology at Montana State University and later that year accepted a position as Assistant Professor – tenure track in the School of Dentistry at the University of Maryland, Baltimore and was promoted to Full Professor with tenure in 2017. Until his very untimely death in July 2018, Dr. Shirtliff continued his research and teaching interests in biofilms and had many successful graduate students and post doctoral fellows who moved on to successful careers at various academic & government institutions.
John M. DeBoy, 2nd
Retired Public Health Laboratory Scientist and Director
Our friend and colleague, Dr. John (Jack) M. DeBoy, 2nd, a public health laboratory scientist and former director of the Maryland Laboratories Administration, died of renal cancer on October 8, 2019. He was 73.
A Baltimore native, he earned degrees in zoology (1969) and microbiology (1977) from the University of MD. He also earned MPH (1978) and DrPH (1980) degrees in Public Health Laboratory Practice from the Univ. of NC in Chapel Hill and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta. In his early career, he worked in the MD Laboratories Administration in Baltimore, then, while in the Army, at the 4th/5th U.S. Army Medical Laboratory at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX. After military service he was employed in the Maxcy Laboratories at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, and in the Microbiology Dept. of the Hopkins Medical School. After graduate school he served as director of laboratory operations for the Diagnostic Laboratory in the NY State College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. He then accepted a postdoctoral fellowship in Medical and Public Health Microbiology at Washington University Medical center in St. Louis, MO.
He returned to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (DHMH’s) Laboratories Administration in 1984, and became its Director from 2003-2011. In addition to directing Maryland’s state public health laboratory systems, he also oversaw DHMH’s Division of Drug Control serving on numerous departmental, State-wide, federal, and professional committees, and task forces over four decades in public health. He served on various boards of directors including the American Academy of Microbiology, the National Registry of Microbiologists, the Maryland Public Health Association, the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL), and the Alpha (Johns Hopkins) Chapter of Delta Omega, the National Public Health Honorary Society.
Dr. DeBoy was instrumental in drafting and shepherding many State bills and regulations dealing with medical laboratories, tissue banks, forensic laboratories, and employment-related drug testing. He also testified before the Maryland General Assembly and Congress on behalf of DHMH and APHL. Between 2003 and 2011 he played a key role in obtaining initial planning funds and then overseeing the multi-year design process for the Laboratories Administration’s current central laboratory in East Baltimore. After retiring from DHMH he worked for several years as a volunteer or part-time, independent consultant for APHL, the Centers for Disease Control, the Baltimore City Health Dept., several private companies, and as a Research Analyst for the federal EPA at Ft. Meade, MD. Jack also volunteered many years working on the doctoral program for laboratories at a Florida University.
During his 50 year career in public health, Dr. DeBoy was a MD Government Executive Institute recipient, a winner of the Maryland Public Health Association’s President’s Award, a recipient of the Public Health Leadership Institute’s Martha Katz Award for Public Health Leadership, and winner of APHL’s Gold Standard Award for Public Health Laboratory Excellence.
In honor of Jack’s memory, the John M. DeBoy II Scholarship Fund will be established. Donations will be accepted at a future date for this fund. The Maryland Branch, ASM, offers its condolences to Jack's wife, Lorraine Kelly, and his family and to his public health colleagues in Maryland.