Complete Story

Lawrence Ragone, OD

Dr. Lawrence A. Ragone passed away on March 7, 2022. He was born in Camden, New Jersey in 1928. He attended the Camden School System and after his graduation from Camden High School in 1946, he attended Temple University for his undergraduate work. Subsequently, he attended Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO – now known as Salus University) from which he graduated with a Doctor of Optometry in 1953. After graduating from PCO, he served in the US Army as an optometrist at US Army Hospitals in California and Osaka, Japan.

Since beginning his practice in 1956, first in his hometown of Camden, and then later moving to Cherry Hill, Dr. Ragone had been extremely active in all phases of his profession. He was a founder of the South Jersey Eye Center in 1961 and served as President/CEO for 55 years. Dr. Ragone saw a need to help those who were considered underserved and could not afford eye care. His mission was to ensure that all people had vision care regardless of their ability to pay and lack of insurance. Over the years, more than 450,000 patient visits were made to the Center. During his tenure, the South Jersey Eye Center continued to fight against preventable and reversible vision loss. Projects under his care included Sight First for Kids and Families, Sight for Seniors, free and low-cost comprehensive eye care programs including identification and treatment for lazy eye, glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, cataracts, macular degeneration, and low vision services for the visually impaired.

As the consultant to the Camden County Department of Health and Human services, he initiated eye care programs at Regional Health Centers throughout the County serving children, adults, and seniors. Dr. Ragone was appointed by the Governor to the New Jersey State Board of Optometry from 1972 to 1976 along with an appointment to the New Jersey Optometric Education Advisory Committee.
Dr. Ragone joined the Order of Sons of Italy in 1956, was a member of the Grand Council and in 1982 was instrumental in organizing the Cherry Hill Lodge and served tenure as president from 1998-2001. Dr. Ragone was a member of the Cherry Hill - Enrico Fermi Lodge after the two lodges merged and served in many capacities. He served as the first Chairman of the Sons of Italy New Jersey Foundation from 1997 to 2002. He developed many new initiatives during that time, including the re-institution of the Purple Aster Ball, the Golden Lion Society, and the Donor Brick Walk at Columbus Monument in Cherry Hill. He recently served as a trustee of the Grand Council and was most recently awarded State Trustee Emeritus. Simultaneously, he joined the International Association of Lions Clubs and has served 65 years in that organization, is a Past District Governor and Past Council Chairperson.

From 1990 to 1994, Dr. Ragone served as NJ State Chairman for Campaign Sight First, a Lions International project, which raised $200 million to combat preventable and reversible blindness worldwide. He was instrumental in raising $500,000 for that project in New Jersey to assist visually impaired people throughout the world.

He was a member of the NJ Society of Optometric Physicians and the American Optometric Association. Between 1965 and 1990, Dr. Ragone served on the faculty of Pennsylvania College of Optometry as an Associate Professor of Clinical Optometry. He served as President of the New Jersey Academy of Optometry, President of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry Alumni Association, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry.

In addition to the many awards from the Sons of Italy, including the Humanitarian Award from the Vita Nuova Lodge, Dr. Ragone received other awards including: the Pennsylvania College of Optometry Alumnus of the year, the Lions Club International Presidents Award, and State of New Jersey Assembly and Senate and Camden County Resolutions of Commendation for service to improve the visual health of our communities. He has also received the Dr. E.C. Nurock Award, New Jersey Optometric Association’s most prestigious award for service to improve the visual welfare of the community, the Camden County Rev. Martin Luther King Freedom Medal, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Campbell Soup Foundation and most recently, an honored recipient of the Camden Schools Foundation Hall of Fame. Dr. Ragone was an accomplished musician for many years before entering private practice. He played the saxophone and clarinet in Camden High School band and in 1943, organized his own professional 15-member big band performing in Camden and Greater Philadelphia area hotels and other venues. Along with his original saxophone, in recent years, he bought himself a Selmer saxophone and would play it nightly. He was also the co-founder and president of the Delaware Valley Musician’s Club.
Dr. Ragone and his late wife, Anna Marie, were married in 1951. He has two children, son Larry (Ellen) and grandchildren Larry III (Miranda), Kevin (Erica), and Alyson (John) and daughter MaryAnn (Bob).

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