Monday, December 6, 2010

Dr. Joe Smith, 1946-2010

Dr. Joe Smith died Saturday.

Joe suffered much these past two years, a consequence of the accident that left him paralyzed in 2008. He was in and out of the hospital frequently, and it was easy to get discouraged. He acknowledges being discouraged -- and also being extremely grateful -- in his last, inspiring message. It was posted yesterday on the website of Syracuse Orthopedic Surgeons (SOS).

Joe was supported by a great family, especially his wife Carol, and his children. Carol cared unselfishly for Joe though all the difficulties. Joe was also supported by his friends, a loyal and steady tribe, many of whom have known him from childhood. They stayed in touch, visiting him, offering words of encouragement, helping the family.

When he retired as an orthopedic surgeon in 2005, Dr. Smith was a larger-than-life figure, having succeeded Dr. Bob Lockwood as Chair of Orthopedics. He was honored with an award from the Community General Foundation, and he served on the Community General Board of Directors.

After retirement, Joe loved to work in his garden. It was an avocation he shared with his father-in-law, about whom Joe always spoke with much affection and respect. Joe often brought a box of fresh vegetables when we met for lunch at Luigi’s Restaurant on Valley Drive. Luigi's was one of his favorite haunts.

Last January at the dedication of Community’s new Center for Orthopedics, speaker after speaker paid tribute to Joe, whose leadership helped shape orthopedic excellence at the hospital. Later that day, I gave a DVD copy of the dedication ceremony to State Senator John DeFrancisco, Joe’s high school classmate and lifelong friend. He took the disc with him when he visited Joe the following day. It was great that Joe was able to hear the words spoken in his honor and to see the new Center, “but it was very bittersweet to sit and watch it with him,” the Senator later told me.

“If you are reading or listening to this,” Joe writes in his final message, “I am no longer present in this world but hopefully moved on to a better spiritual place. I’d like to thank you, I’d like to thank everyone for their help and consideration and especially their love.”

Our thoughts are with you, Joe, and with Carol, your family and your friends.

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