Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Ralph Zupancec - a wonderful man.

Ralph and Marjorie Zupanec became my friends in their later years.

I was privileged to know Marjorie Zupanec from 1984 when I became the Rector of her Church – St. Stephen’s, Pittsfield, Ma - until her death in 2005.

Likewise I knew her husband Ralph from 1984 until a few days ago when he died. I last saw Ralph in 2006 when I had dinner with him in Charlotte, N.C. on my drive down from Massachusetts to Florida.

Ralph’s obituary was published in the Berkshire Eagle on June 20th 2010. I read it today, and gave thanks to God for this man and his wife, now united in death.

What a blessing that I enjoyed the friendship of this couple for 20+ years.

Here is Ralph’s obit. I have highlighted in yellow the bit which speaks most wonderfully of this fabulous man. Who would not want words like these to be spoken of them?!

Ralph Zupanec, M.D.

1913 - 2010

PITTSFIELD - Ralph Zupanec, M.D., of Charlotte, N.C., formerly of Pittsfield, died on June 17, 2010 at the age of 96.

Dr. Zupanec was born on Aug. 18, 1913, in Joliet, Ill., to Ralph and Anna Zupanec, immigrants from (now) Slovenia who came through Ellis Island in the early 20th century.

Dr. Zupanec spent his early years in northern Minnesota and later moved to a wheat farm in Kansas.

Although he failed kindergarten because he could not speak English, Dr. Zupanec ultimately excelled in school. He graduated from the School of Medicine at the University of Kansas in 1934 at the age of 20, having been elected into the academic honor society of Alpha Omega Alpha.

Dr. Zupanec interned for a year at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Although his original intention was to become a family doctor, he accepted a surgical fellowship from the Cleveland Clinic in July 1935 and remained there for four years of surgical training. He was proud to have known Dr. George Crile, one of the founders of the Cleveland Clinic, and decided to become a surgeon after his experiences at the Cleveland Clinic.

Dr. Zupanec accepted a surgical residency at the Massachusetts Memorial Hospital (now the University Hospital) in Boston, where he remained from July 1939-1941. In August 1941, Dr. Zupanec joined the Naval Reserves, serving aboard the USS Arkansas from 1941-1942. He spent most of his time in the South Pacific, setting up hospitals in New Zealand and the Solomon Islands.

Dr. Zupanec married Marjorie Hirst in June 1941. After the war ended, he started a surgical practice in Pittsfield, where he performed general surgery until his retirement in 1983.

He served as Chief of Staff of Berkshire Medical Center (then called Pittsfield General Hospital) from 1960-1965. He was a clinical instructor in postgraduate medicine at the Albany Medical College of Union University from 1961-1977 and then became an Associate Professor of Surgery at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. From 1961 to 1972, Dr. Zupanec served as program director of the residency in general surgery at Berkshire Medical Center.

After his retirement, Dr. Zupanec became a volunteer member of Berkshire Medical Center's Quality Assurance Committee and served as chairman from 1984-1985. Dr. Zupanec was also a member of the Ethics Committee at Berkshire Medical Center beginning in 1986.

Dr. Zupanec was truly a Renaissance man. While he was described by one of his peers as a surgical "artist," he also knew how to plant and harvest wheat and milk cows. In addition to volunteering at Berkshire Medical Center after his retirement, Dr. Zupanec took courses in German, weather, and history, while relearning to play the piano. He served on the board of directors of such agencies as Elder Services of Berkshire County and volunteered for the United Way.

Dr. Zupanec was a lifelong learner; he read everything he could get his hands on and found interest in it all.

His medical legacy is forever established by the fellowship that was created in his honor in 1983 at the Berkshire Medical Center: "The Ralph Zupanec Surgical Award shall be given annually to the Berkshire Medical Center surgical resident who most closely approximates the broad medical knowledge, the diagnostic acumen, the unusual surgical skill, and the remarkable sensitivity toward the sick, characteristic of Ralph Zupanec, M.D., during his 37 years as a member of the Berkshire Medical Center surgical staff."

Dr. Zupanec never veered from his innate modesty and integrity. He found joy in serving others. He was always able to accept with grace whatever difficulties he was handed. He was a man at peace with himself.

Dr. Zupanec was predeceased by his wife, Marjorie.

He leaves his two children, Donald Merrill Zupanec (and wife, Cheryl) of Colorado Springs, Colo., and Nancy Zupanec (and husband, Robert Hempson,) of Charlotte, N.C., as well as his two grandchildren, Leslie Hirst Hempson and Christopher Merrill Hempson. He also leaves countless former patients whom Dr. Zupanec considered to be family.

MEMORIAL NOTICE: A memorial service for Dr. Zupanec will be held at St. Stephen's Church on a date to be announced later.

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