'Between Tears & Anger'

Posted: January 02, 1986

The walls of Dr. Michael Groll's office were covered with pictures of babies - babies he helped bring into the world in a very special way.

Groll, 46, was an expert in fertility and had helped as many as 1,000 women become pregnant in his 15-year career.

A couple whose life Groll helped fill with one of those babies reacted with helpless shock and anger last night after learning the physician had been slain during a burglary at his Montgomery County home.

"The last thing he said to us was send me a baby announcement, and send a picture, which we did," said Don Fair, a communications vice president for the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. Fair's wife, Cheryl, an executive producer in news for Channel 6, became pregnant after the couple became Groll's patients in 1983. Their daughter, Whitney, was born May 22, 1984.

Fair, a former TV newsman and onetime spokesman for the Philadelphia Police Department, was reminded throughout the day yesterday of Groll. Fair was with Whitney at the Mummers' Parade while her mother worked.

"Every time I looked at the baby, I filled up." he said. "I spent all day between tears and just sheer anger.

"The thing that struck me when I heard it on the radio was, here's somebody who gave us a life . . . There are a lot of people in this area he helped have a lot of happiness and (his death is) so wrong polite words just don't put it in any kind of perspective."

Other physicians also eulogized Groll, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine who spent his professioonal career at Abington Memorial Hospital.

Dr. Joel Polin, head of Abington's obstetrics and gynecology department, described Groll as a highly skilled specialist "who would push himself to excellence."

At Jefferson Medical College, where Groll also was an assistant professor, Dr. James H. Lee Jr., chairman of obstetrics and gynecology, called him "a valuable and active member of our faculty."

Dr. Luigi Mastroianni Jr., head of the University of Pennsylvania's in- vitro fertilization program and past president of the Philadelphia Obstetrical Society, said he saw "Michael at numerous meeetings and shared his enthusiasm" for their field.

" . . . He handled his patients very well, and was a concerned and dedicated physician," Mastroianni said.

"He did not deliver children," Fair said of Groll. "All he did was fertility work.

"With being the kind of specialist he was, and sought out as a lot of people are in this field, he was difficult to get to see at first. You had to wait initially three to four months because he was a very busy guy.

"But once you became part of his practice you became part of the family."

"I think it was five years from the time we first decided we wanted to have children until Whitney was born," Cheryl Fair said. The couple had undergone "probably two years of medical testing" before being referred to another physician who sent them to Groll, she said.

"Fertility testing, for anybody who's gone through it, is a really pressured kind of thing and a doctor has to be incredibly sensitive to the feelings of his patients," she said.

She said Groll combined that sensitivity with an ability to bring reason to an emotionally charged experience.

About eight months after they began seeing Groll, the Fairs got the news they had been hoping for.

When that happened, Cheryl Fair said, Groll "didn't behave as if he'd performed some great miracle."

"He was as excited as we were, and his office was as excited," Fair added.

Fair remembers their last meeting with the doctor, and asking the secret of his success.

"He just laughed and looked up in the sky and said, 'I had some help,' " Fair recalled.

Groll was "a very special doctor," he said.

"I can see that wall in his office as if it was yesterday, with all kinds of babies, all kinds of shapes, all kinds of colors, all kinds of creeds."

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