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Dr. Richard Edwards, who once wanted to go into forestry but changed his mind after helping a woman in medical distress, started his career in general medicine, later moving to orthopedics.

Edwards, a popular St. Paul physician, died of cancer April 25 at his home in Hugo. He was 76.

When he was in his 20s, he came upon an accident victim whose hand was pinned between two automobile bumpers. After helping her, he gave more thought to the medical career that his physician father had encouraged.

"He really wanted to do something to help people," said his daughter, Jennifer Albrecht of Oakdale.

In 1949, he graduated from St. Paul's Cretin High School, and then attended the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

He left school for the Army, serving from 1951 to 1953. He had been a star football player in high school, and the Army assigned him to its military football team.

After returning to civilian life, he graduated with a bachelor's degree in earth science, including forestry, at the University of Minnesota.

In 1962, he got his medical degree at Winnipeg's University of Manitoba, joining his father, Dr. J.W. Edwards, in his St. Paul general practice.

From 1969 to 1973, he did his second residency, learning orthopedics in a University of Minnesota program at Minneapolis' Veterans Medical Center.

Dr. Jack Drogt, who heads Summit Orthopedics in the east metro area, said Edwards was a physician who patients sought out.

"He had the rare combination of being a technically great surgeon, while being a caring, compassionate person," said Drogt. "He had the intelligence and warmth that makes a great doctor."

5 broken hips in 1 day

Edwards' wife, Janet, of Hugo, a surgical nurse, worked with Edwards at St. Joseph's Hospital in St. Paul. She recalled a Sunday in the 1980s when the steps of the Cathedral of St. Paul were so icy that five people fell and broke their hips. He treated all the cases that day, she said.

"He was really good with elderly patients," said his wife. "He took all the time that was needed."

Twice in the 1990s he was voted a top doctor in orthopedics by Mpls.St.Paul magazine.

For years, he saw orthopedic patients in Grantsburg, Wis.

He liked to fly and ride his motorcycle, and was a three-time state champion handball player. He also maintained gardens at his home and at his Danbury, Wis., cabin.

His son, Terrence died in 1973.

In addition to Janet, his wife of 19 years, and his daughter Jennifer, he is survived by two other daughters, Kathryn Malchow of Woodbury and Heather Cruz of Pine City; four sons, James Edwards of Ham Lake, Steven Edwards of Roseville, Richard Edwards of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and Lance Highum of Woodbury; his first wife, Patricia Slater Edwards of Roseville, 17 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. today at Assumption Catholic Church, 51 W. 7th St., St. Paul, with visitation at 9 a.m. at the church.