Dr. Ellis Ralph Lupin, a prominent New Orleans physician, philanthropist, attorney, civic leader and public servant, died Friday morning after a valiant battle with cancer. He was 83.
A native and lifelong resident of New Orleans, Ralph leaves behind a legacy that touched — and will continue to touch — generations of New Orleanians. He served the community in many ways: as an OB/GYN who delivered thousands of children; as a co-founder of St. Charles General Hospital; as first assistant Orleans Parish coroner who testified in numerous high-profile criminal trials; as a generous donor to educational, charitable, civic and religious causes; as a leader on the Louisiana State Museum Board and the Vieux Carré Commission; and as a tireless volunteer activist and board member on many other public and private boards.
I had the privilege of calling Ralph my friend for more than 30 years. In addition to embracing countless civic and charitable causes, Ralph had an infectious, passionate love for New Orleans and a wonderful sense of humor. I can't recall a single conversation that I ever had with him that didn't end with both of us smiling.
Ralph and his brothers, Dr. Arnold Lupin and Dr. Sam Lupin, founded and operated St. Charles General Hospital in New Orleans and successfully operated the facility until its sale to Tenet Healthcare Corp. in 1985. Their successes led the brothers to form the Lupin Foundation, which has helped many other non-profits, community service providers, churches and the needy with grants of $2 million a year for nearly 30 years.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu described Ralph as “a great friend and one-of-a-kind person. He gave his life, his time and his treasure to improve the lives of the people of New Orleans. We will miss him.”
Lt. Gov. Jay Darden likewise praised him as “the heart and soul of the State Museum System. He served on the board for more than 35 years, was elected chairman on three different occasions. His love of New Orleans, the French Quarter and its heritage was unsurpassed.”
Among Ralph's many charitable causes was the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), whose board he chaired and where the performing arts theatre bears his family’s name. NOCCA Institute Executive Director Sally Perry called Dr. Lupin “a remarkable, tireless man [and] one of the most generous, passionate, and engaged. More than once, I saw tears in Ralph’s eyes when he spoke about NOCCA and the work that students and faculty do here. He believed firmly in the importance of education and the arts, and the role that both play in improving the city and the state.”
Even as he neared the end of his life, Ralph continued to look for ways to serve and to share. One of this last acts of charity was the Lupin Foundation’s recent decision to fund and underwrite the creation of the Holocaust Wing of the World War II Museum. The wing is currently under construction. He added a major personal contribution to the foundation’s donation to help ensure successful completion of the wing. Museum director Nick Mueller called Ralph “a major contributor, very generous supporter and dear friend of the museum.”
As a physician, “Dr. Ralph” was known in many families for having brought multiple generations into the world. He also was known throughout our community for the many projects and causes that he and The Lupin Foundation have supported.
Ralph began his work as an OB-GYN in 1958 when he served as the chief of the OB-GYN Department at the 48th United States Air Force Hospital in Laken Heath, England. When his tour of duty ended, he returned to New Orleans and became a partner/co-founder and group organizer of the Women’s Medical Center in Gretna. He held senior positions on the staffs of Meadowcrest and West Jefferson hospitals. He was one of the leaders in the Westbank Physicians Network (WPN) and remained an officer until the agency ceased to exist. He was an original board member of the state commission on home health care and joined the first Private Home Health Agency in Louisiana, which grew to 20 agencies nationwide.
Most recently, Ralph served as chair of the Vieux Carré Commission. He served on the Louisiana State Museum Board for nearly four decades and twice served as chair. He also served on the boards of the Louisiana Museum Foundation, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Lupin Foundation, the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), the New Orleans Symphony, Children’s Hospital of New Orleans, Jewish Family & Children’s Services, the local chapter of the American Red Cross, the University of New Orleans Foundation, the Audubon Institute, the National World War II Museum, the Upper Pontalba Commission (which he chaired), the Sophie Gumbel Guild, the New Orleans Opera Association, the New Orleans Ballet Association, the Jewish Foundation, Young Audiences, Bridge House and many more organizations.
Ralph was a lifelong supporter of the arts and contributed immensely to both performing and visual arts. He donated an extensive Amari porcelain collection to the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the collection was displayed in the Lupin Wing of the museum. He also was instrumental in bringing a number of collections to the museum.
His community service often put him in the public eye, and he had many friends in the political arena. He ran for the City Council in 1990. Although not successful in that race, he continued to serve the city in a volunteer capacity on many levels.
Ralph also continued to serve his country via his ongoing commitment to the military. He served in the United States Air Force from 1956 to 1963 and in the Louisiana Air National Guard from 1979 to 1997. He served as a consultant to the U.S. Surgeon General for Medical and Legal Affairs.
When Hurricane Katrina ravaged his beloved city of New Orleans, Ralph refused to leave. Instead, he donned his military uniform and stepped in to serve at the Superdome during the storm and as a first responder by helping those in need — then in helping to rebuild. He received numerous honors and awards attesting to his years of public service and many private acts of kindness.
Ralph also had a lifelong quest to learn and grow. In 1988 he obtained a law degree from Loyola Law School, where he started his higher education many years earlier. He obtained a B.S. in Pharmacy from Loyola in 1952, then a Medical Doctorate Degree from Louisiana State University in 1956, after which he served as a resident in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Touro Infirmary until 1958, when he served his tour of duty in England.
Funeral services will take place at Shir Chadash Synagogue, 3737 W. Esplanade Ave., Metairie, at 1 p.m. on Friday, May 2, with visitation beginning at 11:00 a.m. Interment will be in Anshe Sfard Cemetery, 4400 Elysian Fields Ave., with Rabbi Ethan Linden officiating. Kindly omit flowers. Memorials to New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, the National World War II Museum, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Louisiana State Museum, the New Orleans Ballet Association or the New Orleans Opera Association are preferred.
Tharp-Sontheimer Funeral Home of Metairie is in charge of arrangements.
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