JOSEPH WILLIAM LELLA
Joe Lella left this world on October 28, 2020, at the age of 84.
He leaves his loving and beloved wife and best friend of many
years, Elisabeth, their two children, Matthew Colemar and
Cristina Alexandra, their spouses Fredrika Scarth and Rob
Joanisse, and grandchildren, Astrid and Francis Scarth-
Lella, siblings Linda Lella and Chris Lella and wife Patricia, as
well as many in-laws, nieces, nephews and cousins, many dear
friends and former colleagues.
He was an ardent lover of life and an almost unshakable
optimist. He was the best of good companionship, and
wholeheartedly enjoyed the company of a wide array of family
and friends, sharing good food, drink, stories, jokes, walks,
sports, travel, art and spiritual contemplation. With this same
spirit, he was a lifelong amateur showman, actor and singer,
performing in and directing countless community musical and
dramatic theatre productions in New York, Montreal and
London, Ontario, and for many years he adored being a member
of the choir London Pro Musica. After moving to Stratford he
quickly made new friends by joining a local french conversation
club as well as the Stratford Concert Choir.
In his professional life Joe served McGill University for many
years as a professor, department head in the History of Medicine
and as member of its Osler Library’s Board of Governors. He
finished his career at King’s University College/ University of
Western Ontario, where he was academic dean and professor.
Joe’s life as a professor was devoted as much to his students as
to his own research. He helped many of his students’ develop
their interests and personal scholarship by encouraging them to
explore and analyse their own life stories. This sensitivity to
human experience was also reflected in his ongoing dedication
to Sir William Osler’s humanitarian ideals for medicine and
medical education. He was a longtime member and former
President of the American Osler Society as well as the recipient
of its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019.
For all his academic accomplishments, he was particularly proud
of “Willie: A Dream” a monologue he wrote about Osler and
which he performed at many medical, clinical and teaching
facilities in Canada, the United States and England. The piece
transformed his career by bridging his loves of theatre and of
teaching. It survives him as a book, a film and many video
recordings, including one done in front of the repository of
Osler’s ashes at McGill University.
Joe held a PhD in sociology from the University of North
Carolina in Chapel Hill, a Master’s degree in Sociology from
Fordham University and a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from
St. Joseph’s Seminary and College in New York. He retired from
the university in 2002 but never stopped researching, writing,
singing, acting and entertaining.
Born in the Bronx, with Sicilian and Italian American grand
parents, he remained proud of these roots and of the
achievements of his son in architecture, his daughter as dancer
and teacher of yoga and of his grandchildren launching their
lives in various fields. He said many times that he had a blessed
life and thanks God for it.
A private service will be held Saturday, November 7th in
Stratford. A memorial to his life will be planned once pandemic
restrictions are lifted.
If you are moved to give as a memorial or in his honour,
donations to McGill University’s Osler Library would be greatly
appreciated in lieu of flowers. To do so, follow this link:
Your cheque can be mailed to:
W.G. Young Funeral Home
430 Huron Street
Stratford, Ontario N5A 5T7
Please make cheque payable to the charity you have selected