In Memory


Joe Graham



Joseph Mark Graham 
(Died March 4, 2012)

On March 4, 2012, Dr. Joseph Mark Graham, age 61, passed away after a nearly two year battle with cancer.  Joe was a loving husband, devoted father and grandfather, surgeon, rancher, student of history, and servant of God, country, his family and the Joplin community. He lived life to the fullest and brought joy to those who were around him. Joseph Graham was born in Fort Worth, Texas on November 25, 1950.  He spent most of his youth in San Antonio, Texas where he met and married his high school sweetheart, Cynthia Green Graham.  He attended Texas A&M University where he earned a degree in Zoology before going on to medical school at Baylor College of Medicine. Following medical school, he trained under Dr. Michael DeBakey in general, vascular and thoracic surgical residency programs. After completing his residency training, he served as an associate professor at Baylor in Houston, Texas. In 1982, he moved to Joplin, Missouri where he joined Dr. Mitch Stinnett in Joplin’s first heart and vascular surgical group at St. John’s Regional Medical Center.  Joe served the Joplin community for almost 30 years, with his group being nationally recognized as one of the country’s top practices for heart surgery.  Upon moving to Missouri, Joe fulfilled his dream of owning a ranch and established Mi Tierra Ranch, where he proudly raised registered Texas Longhorns, gaining national recognition for quality of cattle raised and shown.  Joe was also an active member of First Baptist Church of Joplin.

He is survived by his wife of 38 years, Cynthia; his children, Dr. and Mrs. Jose De Hoyos (daughter Leah) of Joplin;1LT Cameron Graham, US Army, Tacoma, WA; Dr. and Dr. J. Mark Graham, Jr. (son and wife Tatiana), and two grandchildren, Joseph Mark Graham III and Annabella Marie Graham of Harrisburg, PA. He is also survived by his mother, Mrs. Joseph B. Graham, Jr. (Jean); Dr. and Mrs. Jim Benedict (sister Jenice) of Harwood, TX; his mother-in-law, Mrs. Hubert Green (Leah), and numerous nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be held at Parker Mortuary on Wednesday, March 7 from 5-7pm. A memorial service will be held at First Baptist Church of Joplin on Thursday, March 8 at 1pm.   Memorial contributions can be made to the First Baptist Church Building Fund, 633 S. Pearl, Joplin, MO 64801, or to LifeChoices, P.O. Box 1536, Joplin, MO 64802.

The family sends special thanks to the staff of the Heart and Vascular Care office and caring people of St. John’s Mercy Hospice.


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03/06/12 02:52 AM #1    

Roger Barnes

SInce I read of Joe's passing on CaringBridge I have been deeply saddened and have been thinking alot about Joe and the fragility of life.  I had a short happy friendship with Joe the first half of our Soph year when we both had 6th period Baseball...prepping for JV Spring Baseball.  Like I mentioned in my profile years ago we had some fun times....accompanied by first-string rascal Lynn Moody.....until his folks wisely banned me from his orbit.  I'll never forget his easygoing smile and laugh during those days.  I got to accompany him on his "rounds" conducting experiments on the mice in his garage, giving me a glimpse of his genius, while conversely I briefly exposed him to my specialty-- teenage mischief.  I have a great memory of Joe crashing my Vespa in Leslie Dalke's front yard with me on the back.  He had a smile on his face the whole time.  His parents were not amused.   I moved middle of our soph year but heard years later on a trip back to SA, from my buddy Court Thielman, about Joe's accomplisments in medicine and was not surprised.  When Joe came to our 25th reunion I reminded him how I briefly got him derailed with some escapades he smiled that old Joe smile from ear to ear.  Joe was a wonderful person who lived an extraordinary life.  As has been said of other great men "he set the bar too high for the rest of us."   

03/06/12 07:37 AM #2    

Kenneth H. ("Ken") Pearce

Joe and I were playmates, classmates and teammates while growing up. He lived around the corner, on Old Ranch Rd. Joe, Roy Ison, Roger Kies, Bob Records, Randy Williams, Stan Shipley and I, among others, all lived within a short distance of each other. I remember going to play at Joe's house after school--his mom reminded me of Donna Reed and his dad was strikingly handsome (at that age, I didn't pay much attention to his kid sister). We attended Oak Grove Elementary (we were Acorns!), Garner Junior HIgh and Mac together. At Oak Grove, his kid sister Jenice could run faster than any of the guys there--even the older ones--except for Joe (that's when I took notice of Jenice). At Garner, Joe began his long-term science/medical career by his experiments with white mice (already mentioned by Roger Barnes). I remember being amazed that the two-car garage at his parents' home was filled with animal cages, tubes, beakers, burners and other science-geek equipment.  In retrospect, what I find even more amazing was the fact that his mom and dad parked their cars on the driveway for several years so Joe could have the garage for his work--what great parents! At Mac, we were on the baseball team--he was a pitcher and I played outfield. We went our separate ways after Mac--he to A&M and I to UT--but reunited briefly in Houston when I moved there to go to law school and he was finishing med school. Over the years, we saw each other at reunions and seemed to pick up right where we left off. He and Cynthia even invited Gay Lee and me to visit them in Joplin. I always found it humorous that an Aggie raised prize-winning Longhorn cattle and extolled the virtues of that breed. Like many others, I have followed the "J-Walk" via the CaringBridge site set up by Jenice, read the many tributes left by friends, colleagues and family members and prayed that Joe would be healed. That was not to be and I was pleased to read that one of Joe's favorite quotes was from Stonewall Jackson: "My religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me. ... That is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave." Joe was a Christian and not ashamed to say so. We know he is with the Lord. My younger brother commented about Joe's passing that "the healer is now healed by The Great Healer." Amen! We will miss you, Joseph.

03/06/12 11:04 AM #3    

Loyd Gibbs

Joe was my friend and I know he was to MANY of us.  His efforts to transplant canine organs in the Physics lab were curious to those that didn't know his commitment to medicine but who else do we know that scrubbed in with Dr. DeBakey while we were still at Mac?!  Joe was mischievious in a curious way--does anyone remember the lights going out in the 200 Wing one day?  It was he who stuck a Bic pen in a wall socket to see what would happen to the pen!  Joe & Jim Benedict followed up on Steve Aycock's efforts to get me drunk for the first time.  Steve started it on the Beta Club convention (with green-food-colored Scope) but they took it to the next level in Smithson Valley just before we went to A&M.  We drank rum but ran out of Coke so Joe thought it might taste good in Dr Pepper!  Like Ken Pearce, I moved into the Mac clan compliments of my father's Air Force career; the bad news is I didn't get there 'til our Junior year but Joe didn't let that "taint" our friendship. He was as true to it as if I had been with all y'all the whole time.  We will all remember Joe in our own way but no one will ever forget the man who lived his convictions and life to the fullest.  Gig 'em Joe and put in a good word up there for the Class of '69.

03/06/12 05:30 PM #4    

Court Thieleman

I would like to post a comment on Joe that is maybe different from others.  I don't recall knowing Joe very well back in the day but...

He seems to me to be a version of Burt Landcaster (sp) in the Field of Dreams movie, who, as a doctor, brought back in time, as a baseball player, saved the life of a young lady. Risked his life to save the life of another.

Joe played baseball, was a doctor, and saved lives.  What a great thing!

I wish I could do all of those things.

03/09/12 05:31 AM #5    

Kenneth H. ("Ken") Pearce

Here is an article that appeared in the Joplin Globe on March 6, 2012 about Joe: 

March 6, 2012

Joplin physician, Dr. Joseph Graham, hailed by peers

JOPLIN, Mo. — Dr. Joseph Mark Graham, a pioneer heart surgeon in Joplin, died Sunday after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 62.

Friends and colleagues on Tuesday said Graham was a skilled and compassionate cardiovascular surgeon who helped many people survive heart disease.

Dr. Mitch Stinnett, M.D., a longtime friend and associate of Graham, said, “Our outcomes would stand up against the best programs in the country. He had a tremendous impact on a lot of lives.

“He was a good doctor, a great surgeon and a good friend. I am really going to miss him.’’

Stinnett, Graham, Dr. Francis “Frank’’ Corcoran and Dr. Thomas “Tom’’ Moore started Joplin’s first heart program in 1981-82 in cooperation with St. John’s Regional Medical Center.  

Stinnett said he and Corcoran came to Joplin in 1981 and that Graham and Moore came a year later.

“We had planned to do this in training as surgeons,” he said. “We always talked about going somewhere to offer cardiovascular medicine where it was not currently offered. We thought Joplin was the best place for that. Being that I am from Joplin, I had some influence on it,’’ Stinnett said.

“We looked at some other places, but we thought Joplin was a good opportunity for us. It turned out to be a good career move for both me and Joe.’’

Graham and Stinnett both attended Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine, working directly under Michael DeBakey and Denton Cooley during medical school and their residencies.

DeBakey, in 1964, was the first to perform a successful coronary bypass. Two years later, he would be the first heart surgeon to successfully use an artificial heart pump. Cooley, in 1968, performed the first successful heart transplant. A year later, he would be the first to implant a total artificial heart in a human.

Dr. Stephen L. Meyer, M.D., worked with Graham at Heart and Vascular Care in Joplin.

“We were very close partners,” he said. :When I came here, I was just out of training. I  trained at the same place he did with DeBakey and Cooley, and all those guys.

“I had very good training, but you are always learning and growing. Joe was a fantastic teacher. He was a mentor to me early on. We then became equals in a collegial relationship. He was technically gifted.’’

After his death, Meyer said one of Graham’s professors wrote that Graham was held in high esteem at Baylor and that DeBakey had said that Graham was one of the best residents he had ever had.

“Anybody who knew Joe and worked with him, that’s what they would say about him, that he had a great surgical mind and was one of the most technically-gifted people,’’ said Meyer.

Dr. Robert Stauffer, M.D., a cardiologist with the Freeman Heart Institute, said, “I worked with him for five years at St. John’s. He was a great surgeon. There were a lot of cases where I thought the patient did not have a chance in hell of making it. Not only did they come out, but they did very well. He took care of some very sick people for me.

“He had great hands,” Stauffer said. “He was meticulous — a surgeon through and through. He lived it till the day he died. He was one of the best surgeons I have worked with.’’

Dr. James Hoff, a Mercy cardiologist in Joplin, said, “In my mind, Dr. Joseph Graham was one of the three cornerstones of the medical community that eventually led to Joplin becoming a national leader in health care. If Drs. Graham, Mitchell Stinnett and Francis Corcoran had not decided to start the first heart program in Joplin, I do not think this Four-State Area would have developed the first-class, state-of-the-art hospitals that we have right here at home.

“We, the current doctors in Joplin, owe Dr. Graham a great deal of thanks and respect. In addition to his advanced surgical skills, I will remember him as a funny, engaging person who loved to tell stories about his family, his youth, and his ranching. We all miss him very much.’’

A native of Texas, Graham operated the Mi Tierra Ranch, east of Joplin, where he raised prize-winning Texas longhorn cattle.



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