Dr. Ross Sugar, a loving husband, dedicated father, fantastic friend and accomplished physician, passed away in Baltimore on September 18, 2023, at home, surrounded by his family. He leaves behind a legacy of love, laughter, and a life enthusiastically lived.
Born on February 8, 1960, at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, Ross was the beloved son of Jack and Judy Sugar. He grew up in Garrett Park, Maryland, surrounded by sisters who adored him and a broader family who cherished him dearly. During his youth, he displayed a natural aptitude for math and science, and a love for athletics, excelling in tennis, golf, and running.
Ross had a lifelong bond with tight-knit groups of friends from high school and college. His friends appreciated his humor, kindness, sense of adventure, and enthusiasm for life. He was there to support and help any friend, anytime, anywhere, for whatever they needed. His friendships endured throughout the years, until the very end.
Ross attended Charles W. Woodward High School in Rockville and Duke University, where he earned a degree in mathematics. His passion for learning led him to a career in programming, where he met his future wife, Julie, who worked on his software development team. Their love story began at JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) in California, where they shared a passion for travel, humor, and calculus, and embarked on a journey that would define their lives.
They married in 1990 in Baltimore, surrounded by family and friends. Throughout their marriage, Ross and Julie supported each other professionally, challenged each other intellectually, and never stopped making each other laugh. They enjoyed traveling the world together and shared a passion for restoring old houses, renovating 8 of the 9 homes they owned together. Julie’s pragmatic nature complemented Ross’s visionary outlook, and she excelled at turning Ross’s ideas into reality. Everyone who knew them was aware of their deep respect, reverence, and love for each other.
During his first career, Ross had the privilege of working on many exciting projects, including some at NASA, where he contributed to cutting-edge scientific endeavors. However, he felt a calling for a new adventure and craved to follow closer in his physicist father's footsteps. At the age of 34, he embarked on a second career by enrolling in medical school.
His dedication and brilliance were evident as he achieved the highest grade in the country on his subspecialty boards, winning him the Elkin’s award. As a pain management doctor and exceptional diagnostician, Ross was known for his analytical mind. His scientific approach to medicine enabled him to unravel complex medical mysteries. In his residency, after lamenting the lack of quick-reference books for PM&R (Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation) residents, he co-authored one using his own personal notes and drawings. Called the “PM&R Pocketpedia,” it is used by medical residents across the country.
His patients admired and adored him, recognizing his caring and compassionate nature. He had a “no shortcuts” approach to patient care and pain management that resulted in him being voted Baltimore’s Top Doctor many times. His professional journey took him all over the country, including to Los Angeles, Atlanta, Richmond, and Baltimore.
Ross first became a father while in medical school, and was incredibly proud of his children, Kirsten and Nevin, whom he cherished above all else. Parenthood was a central part of his life and he believed it was the most important thing he would do. He coached his son’s sports teams and participated in his daughter’s nightly piano practices, never missing a night. He was their emotional mentor, confidante, and biggest supporter, never missing a single game, show, or event and always answering every phone call.
Dr. Ross Sugar had a lifelong thirst for mastery and knowledge. He played the guitar and violin, enjoyed golfing, tennis, running, skiing, and hiking, and had a diverse set of ever rotating hobbies and pursuits. His retirement allowed him to explore these interests fully and start up new ones. He took up drumming, drawing, and songwriting. He and his sister Erica took boxing lessons together. He edited scientific papers and even wrote a horror screenplay in his later years.
Even after his Parkinson’s diagnosis at 54, he was obsessed with pushing his body and his endurance to their limits. He cycled (he preferred the hills), continued to ski (the steepest black diamonds), climbed mountains (at the age of 53, he and three friends climbed part of Mt. Ranier), and undertook long distance hiking (he walked 500 miles on foot from New York City to Toronto over the course of months in early retirement to raise money for Parkinson’s research). He was fascinated with achieving peak physical fitness and was constantly reading books and researching in pursuit of this goal.
Music was an equally integral part of his life. He was a true aficionado of classic rock and classical music. His ability to identify songs and artists was unmatched and he wasn’t afraid to shed a tear over a powerful chord or a moving lyric.
He had a satirical, self-deprecating sense of humor, and a glimmer in his eye that always made you feel in on the joke (he was a master joke teller, often in character). He had a talent for giving moving toasts and telling engaging stories.
Ross was a dreamer, always brimming with new ideas that he eagerly shared with those around him. He also had a knack for explaining complex things in understandable terms. He was a charming and gentle soul, who had a talent for making others feel like they were the most interesting person in the room. He was open-minded and had an insatiable curiosity, always eager to learn new things.
Dr. Ross Sugar's legacy will live on in the hearts of his family, friends, and the countless lives he touched through his medical practice. His unconditional love, boundless humor, and infectious excitement for life will be remembered with reverence and gratitude.
He leaves behind his wife Julie, his children Kirsten and Nevin (and wife Hilal), his sisters Eve Clancy (and husband Tom) and Erica Sugar (and husband Bobby), his nephew Sam, his uncle Don Blumberg, his aunt Judy Brodsky, his cousins Karen Sledge and Rich Belzer, his sisters-in-law Georgia VanBeck, Linda Kacur (and husband John), and brother-in-law Bob Rappold (and wife Barbara). Ross is also survived by many loving nieces and nephews and countless dear friends.