CLIFTON, N.J. (AP) - With a lifetime of wisdom and experience, no one dared question Ralph Golzio's choice of venue for his 102nd birthday - even if it was a doctor's office.
Still as sprightly as ever, Golzio saw fit to spend a major milestone of his life by surprising his favored physicians, Dr. William J. Focazio and physician assistant Mary E. Connolly, with an award from an Englewood Cliffs organization for the care that has kept him going all these years.
"Without their dedication to my overall well-being I am doubtful that I would be achieving the grand age of 102," said the Paterson native, who has lived through 17 presidents and both World Wars.
After searching for a way to show their appreciation, Golzio and his daughter Linda Sous came across a plaque while visiting another doctor's office that embodied the excellent care and compassion that they both had received over the years at the Clifton gastroenterology offices of Focazio.
The recognition, known as the Gold DOC, was created as a means for patients to honor humanistic and patient-centered medicine - or, as co-founder of the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, Sandra Gold, described it: "Practiced medicine the way it is supposed to be practiced."
Through this recognition, the Gold Foundation aspires to identify and elevate doctors who choose to put the care of their patients above all else, with the hope the rest of the medical community will strive to achieve that same level of patient respect, empathy, and service.
"People are looking for these kinds of doctors and need help in identifying who they are," said Gold, who regarded Golzio's genuine love for Focazio and Connolly as an example of why she and her husband, Dr. Arnold P. Gold, founded their foundation in the first place. "The system today does not really allow for doctors to spend enough time with their patients - to get their stories - because in the stories and in the conversations are the clues to diagnostic problems that don't come out in a very quick encounter."
Over the past 25 years, Ralph Golzio has come to see Focazio - he calls him "Bill" - as the "son that I never had." He even asked him to go trout fishing in Colorado, an event that Golzio considered in many ways to be his last adventure.
"I feel that this is very meritorious for a man of such great compassion. I'm left-handed, so he's not my right hand, but he is definitely my left," said Golzio, who along with his daughter, Linda, and son-in-law, Anthony, of Mahwah, decided to hand-deliver the Gold DOC recognition during a routine appointment on Thursday.
Caught off-guard, both Focazio and Connolly were very emotional when Ralph Golzio stood up in their waiting room and presented them with Gold DOC honorary plaques for their service.
"This is one of the highlights of my career to receive recognition from a patient," said Focazio, whose eyes were full of tears as Golzio embraced him.
"I'm very honored and very surprised," said Connolly, who said Golzio's visits twice a week were always the highlights of her day.
"While I must have had the genes to get me here, I don't think I would have made it if it weren't for these fine professionals and the way they have cared for me," Golzio said.
Information from: The Record, http://www.northjersey.com