Rocco Joseph Petrucelli II, M.D.

Rocco Joseph Petrucelli II, M.D.

Died January 24, 1997

In our class book and directory for our 25th reunion in 1990, Joseph, then chief of nephrology at New Rochelle Hospital Medical Center, New Rochelle, NY, observed: “As a nephrologist and director of a dialysis program, I am increasingly interested in how people cope with serious life long illnesses. I may still enjoy handling medical emergencies, but more and more I find ‘teacher’ the best description of my function…Perhaps the age of St. Thomas Aquinas was correct to equate the seven liberal arts and the seven liberal sciences.”

Elected to Phi Beta Kappa in 1964, Joseph came to Yale from Pomfret and completed a divisional intensive major in history, the arts and letters, graduating magna cum laude, while holding the Robert C. Bates Summer Traveling Fellowship and the William C. Rands Memorial Scholarship. He won the Charles Runk Prize in Latin in 1962 and resided in Jonathan Edwards. He also rowed crew, winning a major Y for varsity crew.

After Yale Joseph earned an M.D. from Harvard Medical School, magna cum laude, in 1969, where he also received Boylston and History of Medicine Prizes. Then our classmate, Charlie Seymour, became Joseph’s adviser for a U.S. Public Health Service Grant to Italy to search for the artists of anatomical illustrations found in the works of Andreas Vesalius, which later served as a topic for his M.D. degree with honors in a special field.

In the same class book and directory, Joseph reported: “Continued interest in medical history led to co-authorship with Albert S. Lyons of Medicine: An Illustrated History. At the same time, Joseph told of working on a book on Illustrations and Society, which he called the other half of the Marshall McLuhan story. Joseph completed his internship and residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan and was a visiting researcher at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, a Renal Fellow at the University of California, San Francisco, Medical Center and a professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Joseph died on January 24, 1997, survived by a brother, Robert Petrucelli.

Michael Harrison remembers:
Joe was wonderful friend from lightweight crew through medical school. He produced a beautiful full color atlas of famous works of art related to medical conditions. He finally succumbed to long standing severe diabetes and is missed by friends and colleagues. Gary Roberts remembers: Also in History, the Arts and Letters, and an unfortunate early death.

Dale Schmitt remembers:
Joe was one of the most interesting people I knew at Yale – I regret that I didn’t meet him until our senior year. I really enjoyed our discussions every Tuesday night on the way to and from Vassar. He did me a huge favor by loaning me his house in Connecticut for a month while I did research for my dissertation. It’s a shame to lose friends like Joe.

John Miller remembers:
In Memoriam: R. Joseph Petrucelli, II 1943-1997 Joe Petrucelli was my roommate at Yale during our sophomore, junior, and senior years at Jonathan Edwards College. I met Joe during our freshman year in Bingham Hall and we became good friends, a friendship that was further cemented by our participating in lightweight crew for four years. Joe was coxswain and I rowed stroke or #2. Lightweight crew in those days played second fiddle to the heavyweights who got to row in the best shells and got on and off the water before us lightweights – how things have changed recently with lightweights having stunning seasons! I have returned to Yale several times to row with fellow crew on the Housatonic and I and others have missed Joe’s presence.

Joe was probably one of the most brilliant people I have ever known. He was a polymath and good at everything he touched from the history of art to literature, philosophy, music, chemistry, mathematics, and biology. He took the minimum required science courses for pre-med and concentrated on “History, the Arts and Letters” and wrote a significant thesis on Michelangelo. He received his M.D degree from Harvard and later specialized in nephrology and practiced in New Rochelle. Joe was godfather to our youngest daughter, Lucy.

But behind his competitive and high-achieving energy lay a number of demons: his childhood was a difficult one (his father died when Joe was young), and he later succumbed to the disease of alcoholism. When he developed diabetes, his alcoholism became a very serious threat to his life. After graduating from Harvard he announced he was gay. On business trips to New York I occasionally met with Joe and Stephen, his partner, and the two of them seemed very happy. But later on I received despairing calls from Stephen about Joe’s drinking. His health began to decline rapidly.

In 1997 Stephen called to say that Joe had died. How sad it is that he did not live longer, “ And that which should accompany old age, / As honor, love, obedience, troops of friends” he did not have. But to those who knew Joe he remains a cherished memory of the loved and lost. I miss him.

Giuseppe: Riposare in pace.

Jeffrey Jennings remembers:
I can see Joe’s face so clearly. Probably because we spent the best part of four years staring at each other. He in the cox seat and me at stroke. Give me a power ten, Joe.

Richard Kaslow remembers:
Candid, lively, provocative, undaunted – and a trusted colleague during our early parallel undergraduate and professional years.