New Orleans lost another leading citizen last week when Dr. E. Ralph Lupin, a prominent physician, philanthropist, attorney, civic leader and public servant, died May 2 after a valiant battle with cancer. He was 83. For the past three decades, I was proud to call Ralph my friend.
A native and lifelong resident of New Orleans, Ralph left a legacy that touched — and will continue to touch — generations of New Orleanians. He served his community in many ways: as a doctor who delivered thousands of children; as a founder of St. Charles General Hospital; as the first assistant Orleans Parish coroner; as a generous donor to educational, charitable, civic and religious causes; as a leader on the Louisiana State Museum Board and the Vieux Carre Commission; and as a tireless volunteer activist. He also was a fun-loving New Orleanian.
Ralph and his brothers, Dr. Arnold Lupin and Dr. Sam Lupin, founded and successfully operated St. Charles General Hospital until its sale to Tenet Healthcare Corp. in 1985. Their successes led the brothers to form the Lupin Foundation, which has helped many other nonprofits, 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."
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne likewise praised Ralph 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 (and the foundation's) many charitable causes was the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA); Ralph chaired its board and the performing arts theater bears his family's name.
Even as he neared the end of his life, Ralph continued to look for ways to share. One of his last acts of civic charity was the Lupin Foundation's decision to underwrite the creation of the Holocaust Wing of the National World War II Museum, to which he made a significant personal donation as well.
As a physician, "Dr. Ralph" was known to many families for having brought multiple generations into the world. He also
was known for the many projects and causes that he and the Lupin Foundation supported. He served on more boards of directors than I have room to recount in this space, and when Hurricane Katrina struck, Ralph went to the Superdome as a first responder.
His community service often put him in the public eye, and he had many friends in the political arena. One of my favorite memories of Ralph dates from former Gov. Edwin Edwards' legendary fundraising trip to Paris in 1984, which I covered as a reporter for WDSU-TV. By the end of the trip, everyone suffered from morning hangovers. As I was taping a "standup" for one of my last reports, he photobombed me, rolled up my sleeve and gave me a B-12 shot. "You need this," he said. I used it in my story, and we laughed about it for years afterward.
Ralph once ran for the City Council. Although not successful in that race, he continued to serve New Orleans on many levels.
He will be sadly missed.