N. Joel Edwards

N. Joel Edwards

ALTAMONT — N. Joel Edwards, DVM was a humble man with a passion for helping animals and serving his faith and his community.

Cindy Edwards used these adjectives to describe her husband: loving, kind, sincere. “I could use every admiration in the book,” she added.

Dr. Edwards died on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. He was 80.

He was born on March 18, 1940, to Elise, known as Lee, and Nathan “Nate” Edwards. He had one sibling: his sister, Patricia. The Edwards family lived on a farm, predominantly raising poultry, on the eastern end of Long Island.

In addition to farming, his father also worked as a house painter. His mother was a stay-at-home mom who ran a knitting business and sold women’s hats out of their home.

Although Dr. Edwards’s first name was Nathan, he went by Joel “so when his mother was yelling, they knew who she was calling,” said Mrs. Edwards.

The young Dr. Edwards loved baseball and played on a Babe Ruth championship team. “He was scouted with Carl Yastrzemski,” Mrs. Edwards said, adding, “He didn’t have the passion that Yaz did.” Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski played for the Boston Red Sox for 23 years.

Dr. Edwards’s passion was instead for veterinary medicine. He knew from a young age he wanted to be a vet, his wife said. “He knew he needed the grades to do it,” she said.

He earned the grades and graduated from Cornell with both a bachelor’s degree and a doctor of veterinary medicine. Although Dr. Edwards was a humble man, his wife said, he was proud of being a DVM and always placed those initials after his signature.

A sign of his humility is that, for his obituary, he wrote just two sentences to sum up his life:

“N. Joel Edwards, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM (Cardiology): Christian, husband, father, veterinarian, and friend passed away on Thursday, October 15, 2020. Born in Southampton, Long Island, New York, he moved to Altamont in 1970 and practiced veterinary medicine until his retirement in 2010.”

Dr. Edwards was one of the first practice veterinarians to get certified by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine in cardiology, his wife said, explaining that most were in academia.

“He was driven to be a cardiologist and share his knowledge,” she said.

“He won many awards in his lifetime and helped write several books,” said Mrs. Edwards. Since his death, she said, “The outpouring from the veterinary community has been remarkable.”

Dr. Edwards listed “christian” first in summing up his life. A long-time member of the Altamont reformed Church, he served as an elder, a deacon, and on many committees.

Mrs. Edwards said this quotation from Jimmy Carter described the life her husband lived: “I have one life and one chance to make it count for something ... My faith demands — this is not optional — my faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.”

“If there was a need, he tried to fill it,” said Mrs. Edwards of her husband.

One of the ways Dr. Edwards made a difference, as Jimmy Carter put it, was in helping to found Community Caregivers. “It started out of our home,” said Mrs. Edwards.

The not-for-profit organization harnesses the talents of volunteers to help people live independently in their own homes. Late last year, Dr. Edwards talked to The Enterprise about the organization as it was celebrating its 25 anniversary.

He was still volunteering — visiting elderly residents, talking to them, driving them to doctors’ appointments. “I want to follow it as long as I’m able,” Dr. Edwards said last December. “We’re trying to allow people to live in their own homes as long as possible, to live independently with dignity.”

Some of the clients he helped were younger than he.

Mrs. Edwards described Dr. Edwards as a “wonderful” husband — the two met because she worked  at the Shaker Veterinary Hospital where he practiced — father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

He enjoyed gardening at their Altamont home and carried on a family tradition of raising gladioli as his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather had before him. “He’d put a bucket with a sign at the end of our driveway,” said Mrs. Edwards, to dispense the colorful, sword-like flowers.

Dr. Edwards supervised household chores when he was no longer able to carry them out. “He used to take the garbage to the dump,” said Mrs. Edwards. “When he was sick this summer, I started to do it. We set up a chair for him so he could tell me each step.”

Friday nights were the couple’s date night. The Edwardses celebrated their 39th wedding anniversary the day Dr. Edwards went into the hospital.

“Every Friday, he gave me a rose,” Mrs. Edwards said through tears. “And he has arranged for me to  get a rose, even now, each Friday night.”

****

“He leaves behind the love of his life, his wife Cindy, and their fur baby Libby,” Dr. Edwards wrote at the start of the list of survivors he prepared before his death.

He is also survived by his children: David and his partner, Paula, Amy Rothe and her husband, Rob, and Carol (Michael) Hickins and her husband, Michael; by his grandchildren; Kim, Kristy, Emma, Ava, and Max; his great-granddaughters, Kaylynn and Brynlynn; by his great grandsons, Zia and Lancing; by his sister, Patricia Dibblee and her husband, David; and by many nieces, nephews, colleagues, and friends.

His grandson, Bowy, died before him.

A private memorial service will be held by his family. A celebration of his life will be held at a later date.

“In lieu of flowers, Joel’s wish is for all to dedicate themselves in some way toward the betterment of mankind, this earth, and to individual spiritual nourishment,” Dr. Edwards wrote.

Memorial messages may be left at www.altamontenterprise.com/milestones.

Memorial contributions may be made to Community Caregivers Inc. at 2021 Western Ave., Suite 104, Albany, NY 12203; The Altamont Reformed Church at 129 Lincoln Ave., Altamont, NY 12009; or The N. Joel Edwards, DVM Cardiac Resident Fund at the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, Alumni Affairs and Development, Cornell Veterinary Medicine, 930 Campus Road, Ithaca, NY 14853.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

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