Gino Gaetano Papola, 91, a family doctor

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Gino Gaetano Papola, 91, who practiced family medicine in South Philadelphia and Upper Darby for more than 50 years, died at Freedom Village in West Brandywine on Saturday, Dec. 24, 52 years after his first wife died and five weeks after the death of his second wife.

When his first wife, Marie DeStefano Papola, died on Christmas Eve 1959, Dr. Papola, though grief-stricken, allowed his four young children to celebrate Christmas before telling them about their mother, his son John said.

Two years later, Dr. Papola married Mary Longo, who was also a family physician. The couple raised the children in South Philadelphia and Drexel Hill. They moved to Bryn Mawr in 1991.

The son of Italian immigrants, Dr. Papola graduated from South Philadelphia High School. He earned a bachelor's degree from Temple University. In 1944, he graduated from Temple's medical school and married Marie DeStefano.

After service in the Army, he established a practice in their home in Upper Darby and was affiliated with Delaware County Memorial Hospital.

In 1952, he joined the staff of St. Agnes Hospital in South Philadelphia, where his mentor in adult medicine was a cousin, John DiSilvestro Jr.

Dr. Papola spent the next 50-plus years serving the South Philadelphia community while having evening hours three times a week in Upper Darby.

He was a longtime director of St. Agnes School of Nursing; a past president of the medical staff; and a member of the hospital's board. He also served on numerous committees. In 1996, he received the St. Agnes Achievement Award for Excellence and Dedicated Service. Even after retiring in 2000, when he was 80, he continued to attend board and committee meetings at St. Agnes, his son, a physician, said.

Dr. Papola was a past president of the National Federation of Catholic Physicians and served two terms as president of the International Association of Catholic Physicians.

He and his second wife traveled the world lecturing, debating, and writing about medical ethics in everyday practice. As a member of the Pro-Life Society, he lectured locally and nationally on the sanctity of life.

He received a Knighthood of St. Gregory from Popes Paul VI and John Paul II for his service to the church.

When his sons were growing up, Dr. Papola was an assistant Boy Scout leader. He enjoyed photography, reading about the Founding Fathers and Abraham Lincoln, and political debate.

He suffered from diabetes in his final years, and both legs were amputated in 2007. Though doctors told him he would never walk, he learned to use prosthetics in two months. He never complained. "No problem" was his favorite response, his son said.

In addition to his son, Dr. Papola is survived by sons Gino and Frank; a daughter, Anita Cellucci; a brother; 11 grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren.

A Funeral Mass will be said at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Dec. 30, at St. John Neumann Roman Catholic Church, 380 Highland Lane, Bryn Mawr, Pa. 19010. Friends may call from 9:30 a.m. Burial will be in SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Marple Township.

Donations may be made to the church, where Dr. Papola was a eucharistic minister for many years.

 


Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.