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Dr. Richard A. Carlson, former DeGraff Memorial Hospital president

July 23, 1929 – June 6, 2015

Dr. Richard A. Carlson, former president of North Tonawanda’s DeGraff Memorial Hospital and a specialist in geriatric care known for his warm bedside matter and 60 years of practice, died Saturday in Cheektowaga. He was 85.

After graduating from South Park High School at age 15, he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University at Buffalo at 18. He was so young, he had trouble finding a job, so he enlisted in the Army. His acceptance letter to UB Medical School arrived on the same day as his shipping orders to Korea. He was honorably discharged and received his medical degree in 1955.

He practiced internal medicine in North Tonawanda, Buffalo and Cheektowaga. Dr. Carlson, also a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, taught in the clinical medical program at the University at Buffalo.

Patients and colleagues described him as “old school” for his caring, patient approach to his work. He took the time to get to know people and solve problems. His answer to questions about the secret to his success was simply, “Hard work.”

In the 1970s, he took a sabbatical from his local practice and went to South Dakota to serve as a doctor to the Sioux Indians of the Cheyenne River Tribe.

When he came home, he continued to look for unusual opportunities. He spent summers as a doctor at a camp for children. From 2003 to this year, he gave physicals at the Military Entrance Processing Station.

He continued his office practice and spent his 60th anniversary as a doctor seeing patients on May 29 of this year.

Dr. Carlson inspired his family to practice medicine, too: From his late brother, Dr. David E. Carlson, to his children and a granddaughter. His son Dr. Richard A. Carlson is an internist and his son Dr. Stephen Carlson is an anesthesiologist. His daughter, Kathryn Gimbel, is a registered nurse and her daughter, Hannah, is in medical school in Israel.

Dr. Carlson was a dog lover who owned a standard poodle and nine toy poodles with his wife, Barbara. He also was a longtime member of the Kennel Club of Niagara Falls.

He is survived by his wife; a sister, Mary; a brother, Dale; four sons, Richard, James, Daniel and Stephen; a daughter, Kathryn Gimbel; and nine grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held Friday at 10 a.m. in Lockport United Church of Christ, 98 East Ave., Lockport.

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