November 7, 2012 Edition

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Dr. Ralph and Billie Joseph greet Freda Foley, a former hospital nurse, in this 2005 file photo when Dr. Joseph was honored at an appreciation event hosted by Lawrence Health Services. In a survey that year, Dr. Ralph Joseph was named as the person, who over the years, has helped healthcare in Lawrence County and the hospital the most.

Dr. Joseph leaves
extraordinary legacy

John Bland

Lawrence County has lost one of its most beloved and respected citizens with the passing of Dr. Ralph Joseph. Friends, patients and colleagues have been sharing their favorite memories of "Dr. Joe" since his death late Thursday afternoon.

Flags flew at half mast over a four-day period at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and other entities of Lawrence Health Services, the institution that he helped found over 50 years ago and remained a vital part of until his death. As another act of respect and admiration, many of the LHS staff lined the front lawn of the hospital as the funeral possession passed on Monday afternoon.

Besides his contributions to the local medical community, his influence reaches beyond through his two sons, who are family physicians in Little Rock, and one of his grandsons, who is a senior in medical school at UAMS.

Dr. Joseph believed in community service and provided civic leadership to a number of organizations. A visionary, he believed the key to Lawrence County's future success was in bringing together and training our youth. The result, named by other leaders, is the Ralph Joseph Youth Leadership Program, now in its 18th year.

Due to his wide swath of influence and associations, The TD asked a few people to share their remembrances regarding Dr. Joseph. Below is that compilation.


"Dr. Joseph believed the success of Lawrence County depended on teaching our young people leadership skills and to give back to their communities. At the first Ralph Joseph Youth Leadership graduation he challenged the graduates, saying, 'Don't just dream dreams, but act on those dreams.' Two hundred and seventy-eight youth from across the county have graduated from 'his dream' and 15 more will graduate on Nov. 18 from this year's program." - Gail Clark, RJYL Program adult leader


"There are two things off of the top of my head that I can share about Doc Joe.

"The first being there were a couple of times when I was in high school staying with Grandma Smith that she would have 'mini strokes.' She would be conscious but on the floor with her eyes rolling in the back of her head. I would tell her I was calling an ambulance and she would say 'no, call Dr. Joseph.' I would and he would be there in a minute taking care of both of us.

"The other thing I would share is that after my father passed away in 1994, Doc Joe was a regular visitor to my office. He would always share some project he felt our community needed and encourage me to help see it succeed. He was most always encouraging, but sometimes he would push me to do more if he felt the project would not succeed.

Doc Joe was one of the hardest working and generous men I have ever known. He was always pleasant and unassuming. His contributions to Lawrence County are immeasurable and not widely known." - Milton Smith, president, First National Bank


"I began working for him in February 1970 and worked for him until July 1995, at which time he sold the practice to Lawrence Memorial Hospital. We continued to work together at Family Medical Center, and, as a matter of fact, he was scheduled to work in the clinic the day he became ill and had to go to the hospital. Losing him is almost like losing a parent to me. He and his family are extended family to my family and me. He was a great boss and friend.

"I have so many memories of him but my fondest is his kindness. He had a heart for people and a dedication to the community in which he lived. He loved people and always wanted to help. He will be greatly missed.

"He also loved a good joke.

"He was proud of his family and had very interesting stories to tell about his parents and the fact his father had immigrated to America from Lebanon. Dr. Joseph's history itself was interesting to me. He would tell how after he graduated from high school and started to college he hitchhiked every day to classes in Jonesboro and never failed to get a ride to and from classes to get there and back in time to help his parents in their store in Black Rock. - Shirley Murphy of the Family Medical Clinic at Lawrence Health Services


Dr. Joseph,

Years ago, you had a dream. A dream that would include today's youth becoming tomorrow's leaders in this world. Through your perseverance and outstanding ideas this dream became a reality for you and over 255 teenagers over the tenure of the program you created. I am sure that I can speak for all other 254 current and previous members when I sincerely say - Thank you. I have known you my entire life Dr. Joseph. You have watched me grow up and become the man I am today. Whether you know this or not, I am not sure, but you have helped in the mold of me. Going into this group, I had no idea what to expect, but after eight meetings, I can see what the RJYL Program is. It is a direct reflection of your character - Strong, Loving, Honorable, and Helpful. You're an amazing man Dr. Joseph and I love you." - A letter to Dr. Joseph, written by Range Weeks of Walnut Ridge, when he was a member of the 2011 Ralph Joseph Youth Leadership Program, Class 17


"It was 1995 and I had just graduated with my BSN RNP degree. I took the position at the Imboden Clinic, and Dr. Joseph and Quevillon would come one afternoon a week to review my patient care, the charts, and see patients. Dr Joseph taught me a lot about the practice of medicine, everything from what labs and tests to order to how to bill for the services.

"He was always very complimentary and would teach in a way that was easy to remember. He was very down to earth and never condescending. I respected him very much, but he made me feel that I was an equal to him, and not to be put on a pedestal but to stand side by side.

"His greeting of 'Hi, Murry' (that is what he would call me), What have you done for the world today?, will make me smile even in this sad time." - Mary Meyer APN (Advanced Nurse Practitioner), Family Medical Clinic


"I had the opportunity to see Dr Joseph when I was about 13 or 14, shortly after he began practice.

"After Janie and I were married, he was our family doctor for many years. Among other things, he delivered our two baby girls and gave me flight physicals. Several hours after our first baby was born (on Thanksgiving Day, 1956), Dr Joseph dropped all his plans with his family and rushed our daughter to the hospital in Memphis, where they tried to save her.

"In the late 60's I had the pleasure of giving Dr. Joseph several hours of flight instruction, preparing him for an Instrument Rating. He was concerned that his wife, Gay, know how to operate the aircraft in an emergency should something happen to him, so I gave her instruction, too.

"Shortly after we began the Veterans' Monday Morning Coffee at the (Wings of Honor) museum, Dr. Joseph began attending. He was such a joy to be around, and we looked forward to seeing him each Monday. We will miss him.

"Doc did so much for our city and county. His passing leaves a void that will be difficult to fill. Yes, I truly believe he was Lawrence County's most beloved man." - Harold Johnson, president, Wings of Honor Museum


"Growing up next door to Dr. Joe, as we called him, as well as being his patient, was a special privilege, although I didn't really realize it because he was exactly the same in both places. Always moving - bouncing, almost - whether he was in the office or in his kitchen, making fudge or some other concoction in large quantities. And he was always, always, smiling, at least when he wasn't laughing. He may be one of the most cheerful people I have ever known." - Beth Bland Girolamo of Brooklyn, N.Y. and Walnut Ridge native


"My wife and I moved to Walnut Ridge in 1995 and have no family in the area. Dr. Joseph and his wife, Billie, always made us feel welcome. In my work as a physician, he was always willing to offer advice and guidance, which has been invaluable for me and helped me to become a better physician. We were inspired by his energy, devotion to helping others and good humor." - Dr. Paul Vellozo, Family Medical Clinic physician

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