Update: RAM founder Stan Brock dead at 82

Stephen Igo • Aug 30, 2018 at 12:37 AM

WISE — Stan Brock, the adventurous son of Great Britain who made a splash as a television critter gitter and a much larger one on rural health care as founder of the Knoxville-based Remote Area Medical (RAM) Health Expedition, died Wednesday in Rockford, Tennessee.

Brock forged his way into American myth and lore during his recurring role on “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom,” a popular television series (1963-1986) where Brock often served as foil to the series host, zoologist Marlin Perkins, not to mention more than a few feisty and/or mischievous animals of practically every sort imaginable.

But it was his role as a passionate deliverer of free health care services to people in rural areas of the country, and even more remote areas around the world, where Brock made his largest impact, one that will live on well into the future.

Locally, Brock was best known for his role with Wise County RAM, providing free medical, dental and vision health care services for thousands of all comers at the county fairgrounds every summer for the last 19 years. With Southwest Virginia’s Health Wagon as a partner, Wise County RAM quickly emerged as the largest such event in the nation and received national and even international attention.

In a press release from RAM officials on Wednesday, the outfit he founded noted that Brock “pioneered the use of mobile medical clinics to deliver health care services to people in remote, isolated and underserved communities around the globe.”

During Brock’s 33-year tenure with RAM, more than 740,000 people received free dental, vision and medical services, all provided by more than 120,000 volunteers. RAM figures the total value of free health care services Brock engineered over the years amounts to well over $120 million.

“Without Brock, RAM would not have been able to prevent pain and alleviate suffering for so many people,” RAM officials said. “While Brock’s death is a great loss to the organization, RAM will continue championing his legacy and caring for those in need. Brock built a strong organization led by a dedicated 12-member board of directors, 34 staff members, and tens of thousands of volunteers and donors. Together, they will continue to fulfill the mission set by Brock so many years ago in the jungle of Guyana.”

Brock’s final Southwest Virginia appearance was just last month at the 19th annual Wise County RAM. He never skipped a single one during those years when Health Wagon personnel learned from the master and took the managing reins of what quickly became the largest such event in the country.

In recent years, Brock’s presence at Wise County RAM was to preside over what he had wrought in Wise County, but Brock being Brock, he couldn’t help but maintain an active role in day-to-day operations of the three-day event anyway.

The Health Wagon’s erstwhile crew couldn’t have kept Brock’s hands off the helm even if they wanted to, which has never been the case regardless. The warm and close relationship between Brock and Health Wagon founder Sister Bernie Kinney and Health Wagon’s Teresa Gardner Tyson and Paula Hill-Collins was itself a special something wonderful to behold.

Gardner Tyson said the “world mourns the greatest humanitarian ever” and all 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 in a press release. “Born in Preston, Lancashire, England, Stan passed away today at age 82 after a battle with prostate cancer. St. Mary’s Health Wagon and the world have lost a true benevolent heart.”

Gardner Tyson said Brock “was the biggest advocate for patients in Central Appalachia and was a champion of healthcare for all underserved individuals across the world since 1957. We mourn and grieve with the rest of the world, as we have truly lost an astonishing visionary who has dedicated his whole life to ameliorate the suffering related to healthcare inaccessibility.”

Gardner Tyson said Brock “not only fought rare species in the jungle,” referring to his “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” stint, “he was among the most rare: an individual whose passion for fighting for the marginalized defined his legacy.”

Gardner Tyson said just prior to the 19th annual Wise County RAM in July, Brock confided that his days were numbered due to prostate cancer he had actually battled for 25 years.

“I was never so heartbroken, and it was so hard to put on a smile knowing the devastating news and to continue working through the event, knowing this would be the last event we would serve together,” she said. “Losing the greatest humanitarian our world has ever known is not easy when you have worked alongside each other for 19 years.”

Health Wagon Clinical Director Paula Hill-Collins said, “Our dear friend and mentor’s legacy will live on daily through our continued efforts to provide healthcare to those most in need. In honor of this one man’s selfless devotion to helping humanity, future health-related outreaches at the Health Wagon will be called Brock Appalachian Medical (BAM) Health Expeditions, honoring his legacy and bringing medical services to underserved patients in Central Appalachia.”

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