A medical doctor for many decades, Joseph Wethington helped build a network of suburban Twin Cities clinics now part of the Allina Health system, so he understood the dangers of COVID-19.
“He read the Wall Street Journal every day, and he saw what was coming down,” said his son, Mike Wethington. “He remembered the flu of 1968, which was a really bad year. And he didn’t want to stay in the nursing home, but it was to a point where we couldn’t take care of him anymore.”
Wethington, of Minneapolis, died of complications of the coronavirus on April 20. He was 93. He is survived by Ellen, his wife of 65 years; children Michael Wethington of Minneapolis, Anne Wethington of Minneapolis, Margaret Arnold of Kimball, Joseph Wethington of St. Paul, Elizabeth Vaughan of Corona Del Mar, Calif., and Patrick Wethington of Edina; and 14 grandchildren.
Raised on a dairy farm in Huntington, W.Va., Wethington moved to Minneapolis in the early 1950s for graduate school. After medical school in Canada, he and Ellen made their home in the Twin Cities.
“He loved it here, the lakes and the land,” his daughter Margaret Arnold said.
During his residency at St. Mary’s hospital, Wethington met two other doctors; one later opened a clinic in Coon Rapids that Wethington and his other colleague soon joined.
By the time they sold the system in 1998, it had grown to seven clinics with 47 physicians. Joseph also served as Anoka County medical examiner for 25 years.
Joseph and Ellen raised their family in a home along the Mississippi River in Coon Rapids. They also had a hobby farm in Monticello.
“Every summer he’d bring us kids up there to pick vegetables, and then we’d sell them out of our little red wagon outside the clinic,” Arnold said. “Everyone knew us as the vegetable kids. He wanted us to know the value of work.”
Wethington retired in the early 1990s, but he kept his medical license active until he was nearly 90 and saw patients at a free clinic. He and Ellen downsized to a condominium in Minneapolis, also near the Mississippi River.
In recent years, he battled health problems because of congestive heart failure. Wethington moved into a senior care facility, where he contracted the virus. He died two days after his diagnosis.
Even in his last days, he visited with family over Zoom. They stood outside his first-floor room, waving at him through the window.
“He was inside, taking pictures of us with his 35-millimeter camera,” Arnold said. “We want to get that camera back. We want to see how he last saw us.”