Photo: Bishop Rick Hollingsworth, with photo of Robert Coffey, MD.
Dr. Robert Coffey was friendly and caring just like any other pediatrician. What set him apart was his fiery dedication to helping patients living with HIV/AIDS.
While he built a bustling practice as pediatrician to the children of stars like Ray Romano and Willem Dafoe in New York City’s SoHo, he began to meet people suffering from this devastating and deadly virus.
Coffey “put feet on his prayers,” according to his pastor at the Parish Church of St. Jerome, Rick Hollingsworth. When Coffey moved back to Tulsa in the mid-90s, he threw his meticulous efforts into Tulsa CARES.
He also became a member at St. Jerome’s back when it was still meeting at Ninde Brookside Funeral Home, and got involved with his church, too. Coffey helped his church, the parish whose claim to fame is its openness to every gender, sexual orientation, race and creed, find a permanent home.
A big part of Coffey’s spirituality was not in “just going to Mass,” said Hollingsworth, “but in actually walking out the doors and doing something with his life.”
So he donated a small loan to the Parish Church of St. Jerome, which now offers the seven sacraments to everyone in one of the oldest, most visually interesting buildings in downtown Tulsa.
Coffey, the unpretentious physician with inviting eyes, died Feb. 18 of complications from pneumonia. He was 61.
Hundreds of Tulsans showed up for Coffey’s funeral Mass on Feb. 24. He will be remembered for greeting everyone from nursing assistants to hospital administrators, from people with HIV/AIDS to church pastors, with a hearty and heartfelt, “Oh hi!”
To hear Hollingsworth’s recollections of Coffey, listen to the Goodbye Tulsa podcast below: