Obituary of Richard P. Propp
Richard Propp, MD, a proud son of Albany who served his hometown professionally and personally throughout a long and productive life, died on April 21, 2019 at the age of 84. As a caring and skilled physician; passionate advocate for the sick and the less fortunate; and devoted and beloved son, husband, father and grandfather, Richard was blessed with the abilities, motivation and heart to make a positive impact on many lives and his community as a whole. Richard was predeceased by his wife of 50 years, Vera Winston Propp, and his brother, Lawrence Propp. He is survived by his son Peter and daughter-in-law Suzanne, daughter Elizabeth, and grandchildren Rose and Bennett. He also leaves sister-in-law Mancia Propp, brother-in-law Peter (Carol) Winston, nephews Jeffrey, Frank and David Winston and David and Jonathan Propp, niece Laura Propp, their families, many dear extended family members, and a wide and diverse circle of cherished friends.
Richard was born in Albany on July 8, 1934 to Sara (Rockovitz) and Elihu Propp. He attended Public School 19, the Milne School, Union College (BS, 1956), and Albany Medical College (MD, 1960), completing his medical training at St. Louis City Hospital and Albany Medical Center. He served in the US Public Health Service in Los Angeles before returning to Albany Medical Center as Chief Resident, Medicine. Following a fellowship at Harvard Medical School, Richard joined the staff of Albany Med as an Associate Professor and Member of the Division of Hematology, where he taught, did research and treated patients until 1975. He then entered private practice in Internal Medicine and Hematology; for two decades he treated patients of all means who valued his innate kindness and skills as a listener as well as a healer. In 1994, Richard left clinical practice to join the NYS Department of Health, leading a campaign to reduce antibiotic overuse in the treatment of pediatric otitis media, and other initiatives in patient safety and quality of care. Richard also served as the Head of Medicine at Albany Memorial Hospital from 1992-1994 and on the Medical Board of the NYS Teachers’ Retirement System from 1994-2015.
Richard’s experiences as a clinician deeply informed his volunteer and retirement activities. While an active member of numerous civic, religious, social justice and cultural organizations, his energies in his retirement years were dedicated to the cause of extending health insurance to all Americans. He believed health care was a human right and co-founded the Capital District Alliance for Universal Healthcare to advocate for a single-payer system; his tireless efforts in this arena included countless conference calls, panels, film screenings, marches and house meetings. Richard was eager to engage one-on-one on healthcare with folks of any political stripe, and could do so with both parties leaving the conversation feeling respected and better-informed.
Richard’s heritage and life experiences compelled him to create a spiritual context for his life, which included the co-founding of the B’nai Sholom congregation and his avid studies of Torah, Jewish medical history and ethics, and the medieval physician and scholar Maimonides.
Richard was also a founding member of Clowns-on-Rounds, a nonprofit in its 26th year of providing humor therapy visits to hospital patients throughout the region.
During his training in St. Louis, Richard met his future wife and they were married in 1961. While Vera pursued her own career and volunteer activities, she was also a steadfast partner in his many initiatives to improve the world around him. They also shared an interest in the arts, lifelong learning, and travel, and enjoyed summer vacations in the Adirondacks for many decades – whether camping with their kids, or in later years canoeing and basking in the splendor of Blue Mountain Lake. This tradition came full circle with Richard’s treasured annual fishing trips with his son and grandson to Tupper Lake, where his own father was raised and where Richard himself spent many childhood summers.
Through his dedication to his family, his patients, his faith and his fellow citizens; his ability to teach, listen, connect people and bring ideas to fruition; and his keen sense of humor and generosity of spirit, Richard made a profound impact in his community and on many individuals, including his close-knit family and a long list of friends from all aspects of his multi-faceted and well-lived life. His loss will be deeply felt, but his legacy will be lasting.
The family offers its heartfelt thanks to the entire team at Eddy Village Green House 21 for their compassionate care.
Services at B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation, 420 Whitehall Road, Albany on Wednesday, April 24 at 11:00 am. Interment to follow at Beth Emeth Cemetery, Loudonville. Shiva will be observed at the home of Mimi and Dave Ray, 4 South Lyons Avenue, Menands, NY 12204, immediately following the interment at the cemetery, as well as on Wednesday evening at 7pm at the Ray residence. Shiva will continue on Thursday evening from 5-7pm at the home of Libby and Dave Liebschutz, 76 Devon Road, Delmar, NY. On Sunday, April 28, Shiva will be observed at the home of Suzanne and Peter Propp, 7 Ambler Road Westport, Connecticut, 06880. Mourners are asked to bear in mind that this is Passover week if they are planning to bring something to the Shiva. Memorial donations may be made to B'nai Sholom Endowment Fund, 420 Whitehall Road, Albany, NY 12208, Clowns on Rounds PO Box 72 Altamont, New York 12009 or Physicians for a National Health Program pnhp.org