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Giving Thanks to
Washington Post Obituary, by Claudia Levy, January 9, 2002
William Cushing Loring, 88, an urban sociologist with the Public Health Service who studied the effects of the environment and land-use planning on city residents' health, died of a heart attack Dec. 28 at the Westwood Retirement Home in Bethesda. He had dementia.
Colleagues said that Dr. Loring did groundbreaking research into multiple conditions, including the psychological effects of crowding, that affect urban health.
Robert E. Novick, former director of the Bureau of Community and Environmental Management at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, said that Dr. Loring was research director for the bureau during a time of urban unrest in the 1960s and 1970s.
He said that Dr. Loring worked to develop ways residents could be taken into consideration in countering air and water pollution, noise, unsanitary housing, vibration and other aspects of the environment. All those conditions, under the purview of varying government agencies, were contributing to crisis conditions in cities including Detroit, Chicago and New York, he said.
Dr. Loring's "comprehensive view of the environment has grown from an acorn back in those days and now is rather standard," Novick said. "The concepts he pioneered 30 years ago have generally grown and been adopted."
Dr. Loring retired as a social science adviser with the old Centers for Disease Control in the 1980s.
He was a native of Providence, R.I., and a graduate of Harvard College, where he also received a doctorate in sociology and wrote about the effects of housing characteristics on social disorganization. He served in the Navy during World War II.
Dr. Loring's early work was in housing. He directed the Housing Association of Metropolitan Boston's efforts to improve housing for the poor and elderly and helped initiate legislation that led to the nation's first public housing designed and built specifically for the needs of the elderly.
Later, under a Housing and Urban Development contract, the same staff developed and worked with a number of citizen committees in Boston's inner city. A study by the staff, "Community Organization for Citizen Participation in Urban Renewal," was published in 1957.
Dr. Loring also directed a study of citizen participation in Boston urban renewal that was said to be influential on city planners and architects elsewhere. He joined the Public Health Service in 1962 to work with the Urban Land Institute on a homeowner association handbook.
He organized and participated in international conferences on environmental health and served as a consultant to the World Health Organization.
Dr. Loring's interests also included American art and music. After he retired, he was a docent at the Smithsonian's Museum of American Art and published articles in the Archives of American Art about art student life in London and Paris from 1896 to 1903.
He worked with Scarecrow Press, now part of University Press of America, to develop a series of more than 20 books about composers of North America. He edited 10 books and wrote one, "An American Romantic-Realist Abroad: George Templeton Strong and his Music."
Dr. Loring was national president of the Unitarian Laymen's League and was involved in the Unitarian Service Committee's project with Navaho communities in Arizona. He was a member of River Road Unitarian Church in Bethesda.
Dr. Loring was also vice president of the Society for Human Ecology and a member of American Sociological Association, American Public Health Association and the Society for American Music.
Survivors include his wife, Jean Blair Loring of Bethesda; three children, William C. Loring of Loudoun County, Robert B. Loring of Bethesda and Ann Loring Ritzenthaler of Strasbourg, France; a brother; a sister; five granddaughters; and a great-granddaughter.
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