Alfred Anderson Ratcliffe, Jr. M.D., 77, of Albertville, died Tuesday, July 13, 2021.
Services were Saturday, July 17, at Adams Brown Service Funeral Home with Revs. Sam Huffstutler, Andrew Gregg, and Tammy Jackson officiating. Burial followed at Memory Hill Chapel Mausoleum.
Dr. Ratcliffe, originally from Virginia, determined he would become a physician near the age of 4 after surviving acute appendicitis. He told the story that the physician caring for him always brought Juicy Fruit gum to help his patients feel better and he wanted to be able to do the same.
Dr. Ratcliffe successfully completed his undergraduate degree through Virginia Polytechnic University in 3 years before completing his medical education with the Medical College of Virginia through a rural medical scholars program. He held various odd jobs to support his young family while completing medical school including as funeral home night security man, allowing him to study without distraction.
In exchange for his medical education, Dr. Ratcliffe provided care to underserved rural Virginia communities. He met his first practice partner Russell L. Anderson, M.D. during their medical training and together they moved from their shared rural medicine practice to academic medicine with The University of Alabama founding the Family Medicine Residency Program.
Local physicians M. Wayne Peters, M.D., and J. Michael Belyeu, M.D. trained with Dr. Ratcliffe through the College of Community Health Sciences at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. After being invited to see the practice being built by Drs. Peters and Belyeu and other founding partner Larry Sullivan, M.D., Dr. Ratcliffe was so impressed he left academic medicine and joined Sand Mountain Family Practice in 1978.
After Dr. Sullivan’s departure to ER practice, Drs. Ratcliffe, Peters, and Belyeu worked together for over 30 years until Dr. Ratcliffe’s retirement. The three were close friends for 46-plus years.
In his medical career, Dr. Ratcliffe impacted the lives of thousands, from delivering upwards of 2500 babies, providing care wherever needed such as saving a choking patron in a local restaurant, as a good Samaritan on site of any auto accident he encountered, when need for a doctor was paged on an airplane, and “running a code” in his pajamas while a hospital patient himself.
Dr. Ratcliffe was a Charter Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians and a diplomate of the American Board of Family Practice. He served as Chief of Staff at Marshall Medical Center South, on the Marshall County Medical Society including as president, as an appointed Deputy Examiner for Oral Examination for Medical Licensure with the State of Alabama Board of Medical Examiners, and as a member of the Admissions Committee for the UAB School of Medicine.
He was team physician for Catholic High School Springfield OH, Page County High School in Virginia and for Albertville schools for sports, bands, and medical physicals for students for 29+ years. On occasion, he might have been on the sidelines for the Crimson Tide filling in for team medical staff.
Many of those deeply affected by his generous spirit who also chose to enter medicine have recently shared how his example and the attention given to them led them to medicine just as his early experiences with another doctor led him.
The impact of an initial home visit with then Hospice of Marshall County founder Gayle Roadruck in the 1980s changed his perception of the needs of the terminally ill, even as a seasoned physician. The care of his then-wife Gaynell was entrusted to Hospice. Dr. Ratcliffe was dedicated to Hospice of Marshall County, on the board for 11 years, as Board President for 7 years, and in a term as its Medical Director. It was during his tenure that Shepherd’s Cove was funded and built, along with the fundraising and volunteer efforts of his current wife Nancy. They were honored to receive the Hospice of Marshall County “Heart of Hospice Award” together in 2011.
His family noted he always found the time to be present regardless of such a significant work load. Communities in which he lived benefitted from his dedication to the Methodist Church from Luray, Virginia, to Hargrove United Methodist in Tuscaloosa, to Hewett United Methodist, now Hope of Albertville. Friends and colleagues have commented on his knowledge of Methodist doctrine noting he was often a resource for questions about the why and/or how of church administration. A long-time teacher, a Sunday School room still bears his name in honorarium. He has been described as truly having a servant’s heart.
Dr. Ratcliffe’s influence was felt in almost every administrative committee, in the choir where his booming bass will be missed, as Lay Leader and frequent guest speaker, and as delegate to United Methodist Conference. Handwritten copies of his talks can be found in his desk. Dr. Ratcliffe, late-wife Gaynell, and current wife Nancy contributed countless hours to the service of the greater community through their collective efforts within the United Methodist Church.
After his retirement, he applied the same discipline and selflessness to community service, joining the Albertville Rotary Club where he spent a term as President and was a Paul Harris Fellow. He joined the Chamber of Commerce Board also completing a term as President. An avid gardener and lover of all things yard work, he had great joy in being a founding member of Keep Albertville Beautiful.
Dr. Ratcliffe initiated the Albertville High School Hall of Fame Honorary Society, spent hours researching potential candidates, and was so excited to share the accomplishments of Albertville’s own. He was subsequently granted an honorary diploma from Albertville High School allowing his own induction as an honorary member of the Albertville High School Hall of Fame, which surprised and delighted him.
Last, he was truly humbled, feeling a deep sense of fulfillment when named the 2017 Albertville Citizen of the Year. Never one to seek recognition, that extended to him over the last several years was truly cherished.
Rarely was a cross word spoken by or about him. Dr. Ratcliffe was described by his family, colleagues, and friends as a confidante, comforter, wise advisor, advocate, and mentor. He loved well and deeply and was well-loved in return.
Survivors include his second wife of 17 years Nancy Adams Ratcliffe; three sons and two daughters-in-law, Alfred A. Ratcliffe, III of Alabaster, William F. Ratcliffe (Cappy) of Helena and Masara Gumiro (Loretta) of Frisco, TX; two daughters and two sons-in-law, Dr. Ann Elizabeth Jacobson (Jeremiah) of Granger, IN and Megan W. Carter (Bence) of Dothan; eight grandchildren, Aly Kate Ratcliffe; Ethan and Owen Jacobson; William, Benjamin, and Anne Elizabeth Ratcliffe; Georgia Carter; and Masara and Mason Gumiro.
He was preceded in death by his parents and one sister, Alfred. A. Ratcliffe, Sr. and Elsie R. Ratcliffe and Phyllis Ratcliffe, and late wife Alethia Gaynell Morris Ratcliffe. He and Gaynell were high school sweethearts and were married for 37 years until her death in 2002.
Pallbearers were J. Michael Belyeu, M.D., M. Wayne Peters, M.D., R. Scott Anderson, M.D., John Gullahorn, Tony Cochran, Shane Davis, Steve Denney, Ben McGowan, Paul McAbee, and Kyle Harbor. Honorary pallbearers were Russell L. Anderson, M.D. and B. Allen Watson, M.D., along with members of the Medical Staff of Marshall Medical Center South and the Albertville Rotary Club.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Shepherd’s Cove Hospice, Keep Albertville Beautiful, or Hope United Methodist Church.