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:


      Once you have completed the above form, click “Send” to send it to W.G. Young Funeral Home. The funeral home will place a memorial card with the family.

      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

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