Beloved Mt. Airy family doctor for 54 years dies at 80


A celebration of life was held on Jan. 13 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Mt. Airy, 6900 Stenton Ave., for Dr. Joseph Washington Price IV, a truly beloved, unconventional doctor with a family practice on Sedgwick Street in Mt. Airy for 54 years.

My wife and I were patients of Dr. Price for several years, having been referred to him by the late Angela Rapalyea, a lifelong Chestnut Hill resident and Springside School graduate who ran the Shamanic Reiki School in Chestnut Hill for 30 years and practiced and taught alternative therapies. Price, who was affiliated with Chestnut Hill Hospital, was an unassuming, unpretentious, modest healer who called himself a “holistic” medical practitioner because he embraced alternative methodologies such as Reiki and acupuncture in addition to traditional Western medicine.

 “Whatever works,” he would say.

The testimonials to Dr. Price's skill and compassion have come in waves online. According to Mae Henry, of East Mt. Airy, “Dr. Price was a wonderful person and the best doctor. He cared about the whole you both physically and spiritually. He treated me and my daughter during her early years, and I saw him for over 50 years. I was one of his first patients. I will miss him.” 

Jacqueline Bomher DiMisa, now of Frederick, Maryland, stated, “I will miss Joe for the rest of my life. I considered him my big brother and loved him for 60 earthly years … I met Joe 60 years ago, when I was 11. He was dating my stepsister, Barbara Miller, whom he met at Swarthmore College. I have loved him since I met him, and he remained so special to me as a link to my dearly departed stepsister. He was so dear, so intelligent, so caring, so interesting. I loved the sound of his sweet voice. I will always remember him. As my husband came to know him, he also had affection for Joe. Who couldn't like Joe?”

Price died at the age of 80 on Dec. 19 of age-related ailments. A lifelong Philadelphian who was born in Hahnemann University Hospital, he attended William Penn Charter School, Swarthmore College and Temple University Medical School. He completed his internship at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia before completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Drexel University, where he received his master of science in electrical engineering, specializing in  biomedical engineering. He was an expert in treating obesity, arthritis and hypertension, among other conditions.

After work, Price could often be found chatting with friends, both old and new, at the bar at Osaka Japanese Restaurant, 8605 Germantown Ave., which is now Sakura Ramen & Sushi Bar. “He was so great to have a conversation with,” Rapalyea once said. “He was the most open-minded person I have ever known. People would say things that would get them put down by other people, but Joe was so humble. He would say, 'Nobody has a monopoly on the truth. This could be a really good idea.'”

Price called his family practice “Partners In Wellness,” which he said “takes an integrated approach to care, combining conventional Western medicine with other complementary methods. We know that imbalance can cause and worsen illness, so our staff works to help patients find equilibrium.”

Price would say that optimal health involves more than the absence of disease. It is the conscious pursuit of the highest qualities of spiritual, emotional, physical, cognitive and social well-being. He would say that preventing illness is preferable to treating illness, and addressing underlying issues is more effective than treating symptoms alone. He encouraged patients to “build on their own innate healing capacity.”

According to long-time patient Maggie Nicholson-Schenk, “I remember the first time I walked into Joe's waiting area filled with light, lush plants and the gentle sound of a fountain. It was a healing space, and I was immediately calm. Over 50 years later that feeling remained, and whenever my husband or I needed care, Joe provided it … He will be forever remembered, forever missed.”

Another longtime patient, Audrey Simpson, said, “Joe was the doctor to my grandmother, mother, myself and my sons during their early school years. Joe required a full rundown on the status of us all, no matter which one of us was visiting his office. I'm the last patient of our family, and I will sorely miss him.”

Dr. Price was predeceased by his parents, Joseph Price III and Margaret Ellis Price; his son, Joseph Price V; and his brother, Drew Price. He is survived by his close friend, Janie Zaitz; his son, Michael David Price; and his siblings, Penny Price Lavin, Kim Price and Anthony Price.

Len Lear can be reached at