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Published: Saturday, 1/21/2012

Dr. Joseph P. Kraska, Jr.,1947-2012: Defiance doctor had strong ties to patients

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

DEFIANCE — Dr. Joseph P. Kraska, Jr., who brought the maturity of life experience to his family practice of medicine, died Wednesday in his Defiance home. He was 64.

He died of natural causes, said his brother, Jan, but the precise cause was not known. He had not been in poor health.

Dr. Kraska, board certified in family medicine, was in practice since the late 1990s at what is now Mercy Defiance Clinic.

“He was very approachable and was always willing to discuss cases with you and was in a teaching mode and liked to help people out,” said Michael Peck, a physician assistant under Dr. Kraska’s supervision.

“He was a good practitioner. He had very strong compassion for people. He knew their health issues and knew them personally and enjoyed talking with them about other things going on in their career, in their family,” Mr. Peck said. “He had a very close relationship with all of his patients.”

Dr. Allen Gaspar, board chairman of the clinic, said some patients could be difficult; some were more demanding than others. “He took them all and treated them well. The relationships with the patients was the strong suit,” Dr. Gaspar said. “He was a very competent physician. Very kind. Very caring. You really didn’t hear a bad word come out of Joe’s mouth, that’s for sure.”

He graduated from medical school at age 40 and was first licensed to practice medicine in Ohio at 49, according to State Medical Board of Ohio records.

He’d been in sales — primarily cars and insurance — but he didn’t change careers on a whim.

“He felt a calling” said his brother, who is a dentist.

Years of study followed.

“I think he liked the challenges of what he perceived that medicine would offer,” his brother said. “He could help a number of people in ways he thought he was gifted.

“He was very compassionate and very relational, which sometimes in medicine is hard,” his brother said. “He liked investing his life in other people’s lives.”

He was still in a sales job as he attended the University of Akron for his bachelor’s degree in biology.

He was not accepted by U.S. medical schools. Instead, he pursued his medical education at Spartan Health Sciences University in the Caribbean island nation of San Lucia.

An Ohio native, Dr. Kraska served a residency with Western Reserve Healthcare in Youngstown and was recruited to the Defiance Clinic.

“He came out having had life experience, and I think that carried over and served him well and his patients well, too,” Dr. Gaspar said.

Dr. Kraska was medical director of Brookview Healthcare Center, a nursing facility, and was a physician for the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio, near Stryker. In 2004, officials of the regional jail praised him as budget conscious.

He was born Dec. 29, 1947, to Julia and Joseph P. Kraska, Sr., in Wadsworth, Ohio. He was a 1966 graduate of Wadsworth High School.

He was formerly married to Kathy Kraska.

Surviving are his wife, Theresa, whom he married in 1996, son, Joseph Paul Kraska III, daughter, Holley Iacona, sisters, Judy Parsons and Joyce VanEck, brother, Dr. Jan Kraska, and four grandchildren.

Services are to be at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Hilliard-Rospert Funeral Home, Wadsworth, where the family will receive friends starting at noon. A memorial service is planned next week at Mercy Defiance Hospital.

The family suggests tributes to the Arthritis National Research Foundation, Long Beach, Calif.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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