Lawrence A. Ragone, OD ‘53, FAAO
, who joined the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) faculty in 1965 and at the time of his retirement in 1993 held the rank of associate professor, passed away March 7, 2022, at the age of 94.
After graduating from PCO, he served in the U.S. Army as an optometrist at Army hospitals in California and Osaka, Japan. Since beginning his private practice in 1956 after his military service, first in his hometown of Camden, New Jersey, and then later moving to Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Dr. Ragone had been active in all phases of his profession.
“Larry was a real leader in optometry for the state of New Jersey,” said Thomas Lewis, OD ‘70, PhD, FAAO, PCO
president from 1989 to 2008 and president of Salus University from 2008 to 2013. “When the New Jersey optometrists wanted to expand their scope of practice or do anything legislatively, Larry was always a key player because he could influence some legislators to support the optometry cause.”
Dr. Ragone was the founder and director of the Camden Optometric Center and a consultant to the Camden Public School system as well as coordinator of eye screening services for the Camden County Department of Health.
He served as president of the New Jersey Academy of Optometry, president of PCO’s Alumni Association from 1999-2001, and was a member of PCO’s Board of Trustees.
“The Camden Optometric Center really became his love. He spent a lot of time developing it, getting state funds to find a building to rent, renovate and equip,” said Dr. Lewis. “He still had his own private practice but his passion was the optometric center.”
Anthony Di Stefano, OD ‘73, MPH, MEd, FAAO
, and vice president of Academic Affairs from 1989 to 2014 and PCO/Salus, said Dr. Ragone had a deep and instinctive public health philosophy that permeated each of his community activities.
“He not only understood the barriers that urban underserved populations faced but he took historic steps to address them in Camden,” said Dr. Di Stefano. “For example, he created a Mobile Vision Clinic that visited Hispanic and African churches and other community service organizations to bring screening services and comprehensive eye examinations to neighborhood residents.”
Dr. Ragone served on the New Jersey Board of Optometric Examiners and worked extensively within the Lions organization. He joined the International Association of Lions Clubs and served 65 years in that organization, was a past district governor and past council chairman.
In 1985, he received the E.C. Nurock Award, the New Jersey Optometric Association’s most prestigious award. His accolades were many — Dr. Ragone has been the recipient of two Commendatory Resolutions from the New Jersey General Assembly and one from the Camden County Board of Chosen Freeholds, the Camden County Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Freedom Medal, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Campbell Soup Foundation and was a recipient of the Camden Schools Foundation Hall of Fame. Dr. Ragone received the Albert Fitch Memorial Alumnus of the Year Award from PCO in 1991.
"He was always extremely supportive and positive about PCO,” said Dr. Lewis. “Any time I needed something he was always there to help. I can’t say enough about how great a person he was and how much he meant to the development of optometry in New Jersey, how much he contributed his life to helping people in the inner city of Camden. He was passionate about the optometric center and I applaud him for that.”
Dr. Di Stefano underscored Dr. Ragone’s contribution to the establishment and growth of PCO’s externship program.
“When PCO received federal funding in 1976 to establish optometry’s first and largest externship program, Dr. Ragone was there to welcome PCO students for a unique clinical experience and the Camden Optometric Center,” said Dr. Di Stefano. “Students gained not only a rich variety of clinical experiences, but also a deep understanding of the disparities that exist in access to vision and eye care in urban centers.”
In 2008, Dr. Ragone received the second annual Humanitarian Award from the Order Sons of Italy in America, Mt. Ephraim Lodge 2362, for his lifelong dedication to the Camden Eye Center and for his efforts to bring vital eye care services to thousands of people in need in his hometown.
Dr. Ragone was an accomplished musician for many years before entering private practice. He played the saxophone and clarinet in the Camden High School band and in 1943, organized his own professional 15-member big band performing in Camden and Greater Philadelphia area hotels and other venues. He was also the co-founder and president of the Delaware Valley Musician’s Club.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Anna Marie (DeMarco) Ragone; a sister and brother. Survivors include son, Lawrence A. Ragone Jr. of Cherry Hill; daughter, Mary Ann Ragone, MAS, MPH ‘13
, of Medford Lakes, New Jersey; and three grandchildren.