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Celebration of Stan Brock's life in Knoxville Sept. 27

Stephen Igo • Sep 7, 2018 at 8:00 AM

KNOXVILLE — Knoxville-based Remote Area Medical (RAM) invites friends, volunteers, donors and the public to celebrate the extraordinary life of RAM founder Stan Brock later this month in Knoxville.

The celebration of life service will be Thursday, Sept. 27 at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium at 6 p.m. In lieu of flowers, Brock requested that donations be made in his memory to RAM. For more information about the donor process, including joining the Stan Brock Society, visit ramusa.org.

Born in Preston, Lancashire, England in 1936, Brock moved to British Guiana (now Guyana) in 1952 to become a celebrated vaquero, or cowboy. Through 1968, Brock managed the Dadanawa Ranch, the world’s largest cattle ranch, a 4,000-square-mile combination of savannah and rainforest.

Brock became a skilled bush pilot and subsequently acquired numerous ratings and certifications including airline transport pilot. It was during Brock’s time in British Guiana that his vision for RAM was born.

After being thrown from a horse, Brock was 26 days away on foot from the nearest medical care. Because of that experience, Brock vowed he would one day bring medical care closer to people in need.

In 1968, Brock arrived in the U.S. to begin a career in television. That same year he began co-hosting NBC’s Emmy winning TV series “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom,” alongside host Marlin Perkins. At its peak, the show was one of the most watched programs in the country with more than 32 million weekly viewers.

Brock also appeared in full length films including “Escape from Angola” (1976) and “Gaylon: The Indestructible Man” (1980).

Brock never forgot his vision of staging free medical clinics in remote spots of the world and founded RAM in 1985, beginning with an initial promise to the Wapishana tribe in the jungles of Guyana.

As RAM’s work in other remote areas of the globe got noticed, he began receiving requests to replicate clinics in the U.S., ultimately leading to the first RAM clinic on May 9, 1992 in Sneedville, Tennessee. Today, more than 740,000 people have received care through 960 of Brock’s RAM Health Expeditions. RAM also still operates a free, year-round air ambulance program in Guyana.

A little more than two decades ago, Southwest Virginia’s Health Wagon, founded by Catholic nun Bernie Kinney and delivering free health care to folks in Virginia’s coalfields from a battered VW Bug, contacted Brock, and the result was a partnership that wrought the largest RAM Health Expedition in the U.S. in Wise County.

The 19th annual Wise County RAM in July was Brock’s final appearance here, and it included a special tribute to Brock and Kinney. Kinney and a very few others at Wise County RAM were aware of Brock’s terminal prognosis, but, Brock being Brock, he requested the matter remain private as much as possible so the entire focus could be kept on Wise County RAM and not himself.

During that event, Brock even told the Times News he planned on flying his classic World War II era C-47 to next year’s 75th anniversary of the Normandy invasion in France, his main concern being getting the old warbird in shape to make the round trip across the Atlantic, rather than let it slip he had any doubts at all about his own ability to be at the controls.

Brock died on Aug. 28 at age 82, just over a month after attending his final Wise County RAM at the county fairgrounds. Upon news of his passing, Health Wagon Executive Director Teresa Gardner Tyson said, “The world mourns the greatest humanitarian ever” and announced that future Health Wagon outreach events will be named Brock Appalachian Health Expeditions.

“Our hearts are deeply broken by the loss of our hero, friend and great humanitarian we have known for 22 years, our beloved Stan Brock,” Gardner Tyson said, adding the Health Wagon “and the world have lost a true benevolent heart.”

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