Harold L. Osher ’44

Harold L. Osher ’44 died on December 23, 2023, in Portland, Maine.

(The following was provided by Portland Press Herald e in December 27, 2023:)

Harold L. Osher ’44

Dr. Harold L. Osher, 99, died on December 23, 2023. He was born in Portland, Maine, on January 11, 1924, to Samuel and Leah (Lazarovich) Osher, immigrants from Russia and Lithuania. The middle of five children, after school he and his siblings worked alongside their parents at their hardware store in Biddeford, Maine. From them they learned the values of education, hard work, and philanthropy.

Dr. Osher attended Bowdoin College and Boston University School of Medicine. He did his residency in Internal Medicine at Boston City Hospital and his fellowship in Cardiology at the Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. Dr. Osher worked on the Framingham Heart Study from 1950 to 1953.

Although he had imagined himself teaching at a medical center in Boston, when he married Peggy Liberman in 1950, they decided Maine would be a better place to raise a family. He established a thriving private practice in Portland and was deeply devoted to his patients. In moving to Maine, Dr. Osher thought he was trading an exciting medical career for a preferred lifestyle. During his forty-five years of medical practice, he was delighted to discover otherwise. He contributed to the tremendous growth of the Maine Medical Center and Division of Cardiology through his gentle, astute care of patients and through innovation while the Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, Chairman of the Research and Executive Committees, and ultimately as the Director of the Division of Cardiology for sixteen years. He had a desire to extend cardiac care to those in rural areas and was instrumental in starting a regional coronary care program, where physicians could receive consultation remotely. Ever committed to education, Dr. Osher had faculty appointments at Boston University School of Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, and the University of Vermont College of Medicine, and thoroughly enjoyed teaching and mentoring many young doctors.

Dr. Osher was president of the Maine affiliate of the American Heart Association and established the prestigious annual Eugene Drake Memorial Lecture, named after a beloved colleague and mentor. He attracted luminaries in the field of cardiology to speak at this event, including Dr. Paul Dudley White, Dr. Michael DeBakey, Dr. Denton Cooley, and Dr. Christiaan Barnard, who performed the world’s first successful heart transplant. In addition to holding leadership positions in many medical societies in Maine, Dr. Osher was a Fellow and involved member of the American College of Cardiology, American Cardiology Foundation, American College of Physicians and served as vice president of the American Heart Association. He received multiple awards for outstanding service and for excellence in teaching.

As he was winding down his medical career, Dr. Osher rekindled a childhood interest in maps. After being fascinated by an exhibition of early maps at the British Library in London in 1975, he and his wife explored some nearby map shops where Dr. Osher asked to see maps of Maine and New England. Noting his fascination with the maps, Mrs. Osher asked, “Well, if you love them so much, why not buy some? And if you don’t, I will!” Thus began a fulfilling partnership, creating what is now considered to be one of the finest map collections in the world. After more than a decade of collecting, with travels to Europe, creating relationships with map dealers around the world, scouring rare book and map shops, eBay, flea markets, book fairs and paper shows, Dr. and Mrs. Osher wanted to find a home for their collection. Of particular importance to them was that the collection be actively available to a wide audience and used as an educational resource for the community and for children from kindergarten through college, as well as scholars. In 1989, the Oshers gifted their collection to the University of Southern Maine, combining it with the Eleanor Houston and Lawrence M.C. Smith collection of maps, globes and atlases to create the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education. Between 2007 and 2009, the Oshers assumed a leading role in a capital campaign to build a new building to house the collections on the Portland campus of the University of Southern Maine. In addition to housing the collections and an exhibition space, this building contains educational spaces in which the University of Southern Maine students as well as kindergarten through high school students from around the state regularly visit the Osher Map Library to learn about the beauty, functionality and relevance of maps, globes, and atlases. Through the Osher Map Library website, past exhibitions and an ever-expanding portion of the collection is available to a worldwide audience.

After his retirement, Dr. Osher spent many hours at his office at the Osher Map Library, doing cartographic research, continuing his dogged pursuit of rare and interesting items and curating exhibitions at the Osher Map Library. In the words of Libby Bischof, Executive Director of the Osher Map Library, Dr. Osher “frequently gathered advisors and supporters together at exhibitions, conferences, and symposia, and loved reading and listening to new research and scholarship. When he spoke about a map’s unique history and qualities, his passionate engagement with the item could turn even the most uninterested party into a lover of rare maps and atlases.”

In addition to his medical career and map collecting, Dr. Osher was a natural athlete, enjoying skiing, roller blading, which he continued into his 80s, and fly fishing. He was a very graceful figure on the slopes and could be seen with his four children following behind as he taught them to ski. To maintain his fitness, he would climb the stairs to his eighth-floor office at the Maine Medical Center each day. Dr. Osher learned to pilot a plane, loved classical music and could fix anything in his home, a legacy of working in his parents’ hardware store growing up. He was generous, curious, a lifelong learner, and an early adopter and very competent user of computers.

The biggest joy in Dr. Osher’s life was Peggy, his beloved wife of sixty-eight years, whom he adored. They were partners in many endeavors, including parenting, map collecting, philanthropy and fishing. Dr. Osher was very disciplined about his diet and Mrs. Osher developed a collection of delicious low-fat recipes. He was particularly fond of her half sour pickles and cookies of many varieties. They both loved Portland and felt fortunate to participate in its civic life. They always believed they received from the community more than they gave. In addition to their joy in the Osher Map Library, the Portland Museum of Art, to which they donated their collection of Winslow Homer prints, was affectionately known in the family as Mrs. Osher’s “home away from home.” Both were humble, unpretentious and passionate about one another, their family and their interests.

Dr. Osher will be sorely missed by many and remembered for his legacy of kindness, caring, scholarship, and philanthropy.
Dr. Osher is survived by his children Susan Osher Epstein (William), Nancy Osher Blumberg, Judy Osher (Joel Bresler), and Sam Osher (Alana), grandchildren Joshua (Lorri), David (Heloisa Rutigliano), Daniel, Yoni Blumberg, Benjamin, Nathaniel, and William Osher, Abigail and Matthew Bresler and great-grandchildren Mason, Asher, Beatriz, and Leonardo Epstein, brother Bernard (Barbro), sister-in-law Dorothy Suzi Osher, and five nieces and nephews.

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