Dr. Ralph Lach was remembered last week as a pioneer in medicine who once helped save Bob Hope's life and whose philanthropy still has an impact on central Ohio and beyond.
Lach died Jan. 22 at age 82.
He was a proud Slovenian-American who loved the accordion and played in a jazz combo to help finance his education at John Carroll University and the Ohio State University College of Medicine.
From there, he helped revolutionize cardiology and spread its development nationwide while also contributing to the arts, community service organizations and even the national pastime.
"He was a teacher," said David Lach, one of Ralph and Barbara Lach's eight children. "My father was a physician who trained other physicians.
"He was a guy who liked to share his discoveries. It made him a really well-respected teacher, and his curiosity and his ability to get down to problem-solving and diagnosis was kind of legendary."
Dr. Lach was memorialized March 5 with ceremonies at both St. Agatha Church and Scioto Country Club.
The Lach family spent many years in Upper Arlington and also lived in Grandview, but the couple's work spread far beyond the Tri-Village area.
In 1965, Dr. Lach joined the staff at Mount Carmel Medical Center as founding director of the Cardiac Care Unit and the faculty at OSU's College of Medicine as a clinical professor of medicine. He founded the first community hospital catheterization laboratory in 1966.
In 1967, he was named director of Mount Carmel's Adult Cardiovascular Training Program.
He was a pioneer of cardiac balloon angioplasty, a technique that has spared millions of patients the challenges of open-heart surgery, and performed the first balloon angioplasty in the Midwest in 1979.
"Cardiology was a really young subspecialty of internal medicine," David Lach said. "There were very few cardiologists in town at the time.
"He was one of (the United States' first) 16 doctors trained to do angioplasty. He basically was part of this revolution in interventional cardiology."
Dr. Lach also was a member of the National Speakers Bureau of the Federal Aviation Administration and a consultant in cardiology to the United States Federal Air Surgeon. He served as a trustee of the Civil Aviation Medical Association for six years.
He and his wife were married for 56 years and supported numerous causes, including the restorations of the Ohio, Southern and Lincoln theaters in Columbus.
The ticket office at the Ohio Theatre is named for the Lachs, and Barbara was integral in the historic venue's restoration and reopening in 1978.
To celebrate that project, Bob Hope came to town to host a television special at the theater, but cut the event short because he wasn't feeling well.
That night, during a party to celebrate the theater's reopening, Dr. Lach was summoned to aid the ailing celebrity.
"When my father got there, he found Bob Hope having palpitations," David said. "He massaged his carotid artery in his neck to correct an abnormal heart rhythm.
"He basically saved Bob Hope's life that night. The next day (Hope) said he'd love to meet the guy that did that for him and they became friends."
Among a long list of charitable endeavors for the Lachs were contributions to the Buckeye Ranch, the Columbus Museum of Art, Mount Carmel School of Nursing and the Jazz Arts Group Columbus.
An avid golfer and tennis player, Dr. Lach rediscovered his love of baseball when Barbara gave him a week at Cincinnati Reds fantasy camp, where he played ball alongside former organization greats. That experience spawned more trips to other Major League Baseball fantasy camps and led Dr. Lach and his son, Thom, to help found Legends of Baseball, a tournament that's hosted hundreds of players annually at Abner Doubleday Stadium in Cooperstown, N.Y.
In 1998, he helped establish the Friends of Doubleday Foundation to raise money for the preservation and restoration of Doubleday Stadium.
In his final decade, Dr. Lach struggled with Lewy body disease, a "little-understood and largely untreatable condition that combines the worst symptoms of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease," David said.
The family became focused on spreading awareness of the disease.
"He, as a physician, felt that more people know about (Lewy body), the better," David said. "The more we know about any disease, the better it can be treated."
A memory page for Dr. Lach was established at facebook.com/rememberingRalphDLachMD. His family asked that, in lieu of funeral flowers, donations be made in his name to the Columbus Rotary Foundation, Buckeye Ranch, Jazz Arts Group Columbus and the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts.
"Most importantly, he was super-fortunate to find my mother," David said. "They were just on the same page about what they wanted to do for their families and their community. Because they found each other, I think, they were able to live these full lives."