Life is fragile.
When we received notice we would need to reschedule our eye appointments due to unforeseen circumstances, we were puzzled. That was nearly six months away. Was Dr. Joe Woschitz anticipating an Indiana University championship run through the NCAA basketball tourney? Or had a scheduling conflict developed on his annual winter sojourn to Siesta Key, Florida? Had he changed his mind about retirement, for which he professed he had no plans?
It turned out to be none of the above. Following what was reported to be a full day of eye surgeries, Joe died suddenly and unexpectedly at his Fishers home on Sept. 24 at age 63.
Dr. Joseph Frank Woschitz, who had practiced ophthalmology in his hometown of Anderson for 34 years, seemed bigger than life. I knew his dad, Frank, from the time I started at The Anderson Herald in the 1960s. Joe, born the year I graduated from high school in 1957, excelled in basketball and baseball at Anderson High School and graduated with honors in 1975. Playing baseball at IU while enjoying the fraternity life, he was a Phi Beta Kappa, becoming an M.D. in 1983.
Joe never met a stranger. Wherever he went, live or online, he was the life of the party. He spent summers at Lake Webster, winters in Florida and followed the fortunes of his favorite teams and individuals in football, basketball, baseball and golf. He even coached baseball briefly. Yet he had time to care for the eyesight of thousands of Andersonians at his Brown Street office over the years.
Anytime I was in his office for my annual eye exam I could count on him engaging me in lively conversation about sports or medical issues or something. As he added more sophisticated sight-measuring devices, he joked that machines were making his job that much easier.
Thousands of friends, patients, associates and teammates followed him on social media, where he kept things lively with his penchant for photography and humor. His favorite photographer’s model was his wife of 41 years, Michelle, whom he affectionately referred to as Boots.
Signs of his sudden demise were few. I’m told he had complained that his allergies were starting to bother him. Seemingly a man of endless energy, he never slowed down. He appeared to live a healthy lifestyle. Life was good right up to that unanticipated moment.
He had experienced losses during his lifetime, including his father and a son, Michael. But he was enjoying his first grandchild, Miabelle. And his daughter, Brittany Neff, followed in his professional footsteps as a dentist in Carmel.
I’ve just turned 82. I’ve lost several peers of late, including Ed Greenwalt, Don Schlafer, Dick Maish, Steve Rybolt and Leon Zachary. Joe would have been just 64 this month. We never know when our time will come.
But I do know life won’t be quite the same without Dr. Joe adding his personal touch.