Forgive me for departing from the usual theme of this column, the law, to pay tribute to my oldest and dearest friend, Ray Gabriele. Early on March 11th I received a call from Ray’s former medical partner to tell me the sad news that Raymond had died suddenly that morning in his home. Dr. Raymond Gabriele was the embodiment of all that was good about the practice of medicine. The word, “doctor” was not enough to define the character of this caring and gentle man. Ray was a healer, in every sense of that word. He approached the practice of medicine not as a job but as a true vocation. His patients all became his friends. His was the compassionate touch, the reassuring smile that helped even the most seriously ill face their tribulations.
As time passed, Raymond became ill and valiantly moved forward with his life, looking for enrichment and enriching others. In recent years his health forced his early retirement, but he missed medicine dearly. He missed the hours spent in practice with his best friend and partner. He missed the opportunity to spend time with the patients he loved. He missed the challenge of solving medical mysteries.
Ray was not the kind to go quietly into retirement. No, not Raymond. He took classes in Shakespeare, audited interesting college courses and taught in a nursing program. His was a life of giving back for all the rewards that God and the practice of medicine had bestowed on him.
Raymond and I first met in 1962 as two scrawny freshman starting at Notre Dame High School. Standardized tests somehow were difficult for him and he did not place highly on the entrance exam, which led to his placement in one of the school’s less challenging programs. In a short time his teachers recognized the brilliant and inquisitive mind and Raymond was placed in the high honors program. We spent hours together studying Latin, Geometry and the like. We forged a friendship that has lasted half a century. Ray loved his years at ND and had the remarkable ability to remember even the smallest things that we did at that school.
Ray wanted to join me at Notre Dame University but family finances would not permit it. Instead Ray distinguished himself at Kings College, staffed by the same Holy Cross Fathers that founded both our high school and Notre Dame University. He distinguished himself academically at Kings, but standardized testing again inhibited his dream to study medicine. When he was not admitted to a U. S. medical school Ray chose to go to Italy to study. His Italian was limited to a little slang he picked up as the grandchild of Italian immigrants. In two months in Italy he mastered the language and distinguished himself in medical school. In the summers he returned to St. Vincent’s as an extern and there he met another foreign medical student, Arnold, with whom he would start his medical practice.
As Raymond progressed from intern to internist he developed remarkable diagnostic skills. I remember when my mother was gravely ill in her mid-seventies and her condition had perplexed specialists brought in to consult. Ray’s medical intuition led him to believe she had myocarditis, an infection that attacked the heart muscle. He told us that the treatment for people under 50 was a transplant. He put my mom in a medically induced coma with massive steroid treatment, and saved her life.
He was humble, never seeking praise and shying away from the limelight. His reward was the gratitude of those he healed and those he comforted through illness. To him a patient baking cookies or bringing in peppers from the garden was all the praise he needed. Raymond was never one for the trappings of success. It was life’s simple pleasures he enjoyed like dinners with his wife, Linda and the accomplishments of his children, Raymond and Lauren. His joy was in making their lives richer.
As we age we will all lose friends, some closer to us than others. As years pass many of them will be forgotten. Anyone who was blessed to have known Raymond Gabriele will never forget him. His is a legacy of love and friendship and family. God Bless you, Raymond.