Fayette County

Doctor for Ky. open-heart surgery dies

A Lexington doctor who performed the first open-heart surgery in Central Kentucky died Saturday. Dr. Richard Crutcher, 97, died at his home in Lexington.

In March, Crutcher attended the 50th anniversary of his landmark open-heart surgery at the St. Joseph Heart Institute.

Crutcher, a thoracic and general surgeon, performed the open-heart surgery on March 3, 1959, on an 8-year-old boy to correct a heart valve defect.

In 1954, Crutcher performed the first heart catheterization in Central Kentucky.

A graduate of Kentucky Military Institute and the University of Kentucky, Crutcher went on to get his medical degree from Vanderbilt University.

He also served as a surgeon in the U.S. Army during World War II. It was his years as a surgeon on the front lines in Italy and Africa that Crutcher credited with the success of his surgical career.

"There were a bunch of doctors that came out of the Second World War that were doing very inventive things basically out of necessity," said Rick Crutcher, one of Crutcher's five children.

The elder Crutcher's medical career spanned three decades. He served in a variety of capacities at St. Joseph Hospital, including several years as the hospital's chief of surgery.

After retiring from medicine, Crutcher started a second career and became a successful investor.

Many local organizations benefited from Crutcher's business acumen. Crutcher, a music lover, was a long-time supporter of the Lexington Philharmonic Society, serving on the philharmonic's board of directors.

"He was a very generous man," Rick Crutcher said of his father. "He supported all kinds of worthy causes. People knew about the philharmonic but he also gave to so many organizations. But he never wanted his name attached to it."

His father put several students through school, Rick Crutcher said.

The Crutchers have a family foundation that will continue to support Dr. Crutcher's causes, Rick Crutcher said.

Crutcher is survived by his five children, nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

He also leaves one special friend, Rosie, a Jack Russell Terrier. One of Crutcher's daughters-in-law got Crutcher the dog after his wife of 60 years died in September 2009.

The doctor and the dog took to each other, his kids said.

"They were inseparable," Rick Crutcher said.

Funeral Services will be at 10:30 a.m., Wednesday at the Newman Center, 320 Rose Lane, with burial following at Lexington Cemetery. Visitation will be 5-8 p.m., Tuesday at Milward's Funeral Home, 159 N. Broadway. In lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy may be made to the Lexington Philharmonic or Hospice of the Bluegrass.

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