Erwin “Roger” Bartman, a high school teacher in Baltimore and Silver Spring, Md. before becoming a clinical psychologist in private practice in Reston, Va., for 42 years, died on Jan. 12 at his home outside Leesburg, Va. of complications associated with Leukemia. He was 77.
Peter Kelpinski, Bartman’s life partner since 1987 and husband since 2004, said Bartman was extraordinarily dedicated to his patients and improved the lives of countless people who sought his services as a mental health professional.
Bartman was born in Lawton, Okla., and grew up in Louisville, Ky., where he graduated from St. Xavier High School in 1961 and entered the Xavarian Brothers Roman Catholic order. Kelpinski said that after completing his novitiate and taking his first vows he began his studies at Catholic University in D.C.
He received bachelor’s degrees at Catholic University in 1967 in mathematics and religious education. He received his master’s degree in mathematics education at Johns Hopkins University the following year.
According to Kelpinski, under the name of Brother Raphael, Bartman began his career teaching advanced math courses at Xavarian High Schools in Baltimore and Silver Spring, Md. His resume provided by Kelpinski says he held the positions of assistant dean at Xaverian Junior College in Silver Spring from 1965 to 1967 and served as a summer camp counselor in his role as Xaverian brother in Maryland and Kentucky from 1964 through 1966.
His resume shows that he returned to Catholic University to enter its doctoral program in psychology and received his Ph.D. there in clinical psychology in 1976. Upon completion of his doctorate degree, he began an internship at the Fairfax County Northwest Center for Community Health in Reston, Va. and soon began work there as a clinical psychologist. He served in that position through 1986.
Kelpinski said Bartman and four partners, while still working at the Northwest Center, started their own private practice in 1977 called Reston Psychotherapy. Bartman later withdrew from his position at Northwest Center to devote his full time work to the Reston Psychotherapy practice, where he remained until his retirement in 2019, Kelpinski said.
Kelpinski said he and Bartman first met in January 1987 through a classified personals ad that Kelpinski placed in the Washington Blade seeking to meet someone for a relationship. He said Bartman was one of many people who responded to the ad, but it was Bartman who immediately stood out from the others.
Kelpinski’s ad in the Blade, among other things, mentioned he had a “Catholic background,” which he later learned caught Bartman’s attention. It turns out that both men were involved with a Catholic religious order in their early adult years, with Kelpinski becoming involved with the Marians of the Immaculate Conception after considering becoming a priest.
Similar to Bartman, who chose to leave the Xavarian Order on amicable terms, as Kelpinski recalls Bartman telling him, to enter a secular life as a practicing psychologist, Kelpinski also chose to leave his religious order for a career as a florist.
Upon speaking by phone for the first time in January 1987 after Bartman responded to Kelpinski’s Blade ad, the two men had their first date over brunch at a restaurant in Old Town Alexandria. “And then we walked around Old Town and just gabbed and gabbed,” as Kelpinski tells it.
“And we kind of clicked,” Kelpinski said. “We got along immediately. We were from the same background. It was really amazing.”
Among the many things they did together that year was to participate in the October 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian & Gay Rights, which drew hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people to the nation’s capital.
Not long after that, the couple bought a house on a large tract of land just outside Leesburg, Va., where they lived until Bartman’s passing on Jan. 12 of this year.
“He was the love of my life,” said Kelpinski. “He’s one of those few people who could say they changed the world because he helped so many people in their own lives so that they actually were able to live better lives,” said Kelpinski in referring to Bartman’s role as a psychotherapist. “And they made the world better.”
Memorial services for Bartman were being planned for this summer in Reston and Louisville. Bartman’s ashes were to be interred in Bay City, Mich., where Kelpinski plans to move to return to his hometown.
In addition to Kelpinski, Bartman is survived by his siblings Kathy Furlong and James Bartman of Louisville, Ky., and Lally House of Woodbury, Ky.; an aunt and uncle, Dolores and Frank Lally of Louisville; sisters and brothers-in-law Nancy and Jack MacKenzie and Sandi and Hank Bridges of Bay City, Mich.; and many nieces and nephews, great nieces and nephews, cousins, and numerous friends.
He was predeceased by his parents Erwin R. and Mary Kathryn Bartman and grandparents Erwin R. and Louise Bartman and Frank and Orvilla Lally.
Contributions in Bartman’s name can be made to Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Va.