Dr. George Moses, Known For His Commitment To Community, Dies At 81
Dr. George Moses loved being a surgeon. He liked helping people. He enjoyed supporting charitable causes.
A well-known local doctor for decades, Moses died unexpectedly Tuesday at his home in Wilkes-Barre. He was 81.
Moses was the longtime chief of staff of the former Mercy Hospital in Wilkes-Barre, earning the nickname “Mr. Mercy Hospital.” Moses was a driving force behind an annual high school basketball all-star game that bears his name and has raised more than $1 million to help local families facing medical hardships.
“His death will be felt by everyone in this community in one way or another,” said Moses’ brother, John, a prominent attorney based in Wilkes-Barre. “He was very well known and committed to the community. Everybody just loved him. He was just a good guy.”
A legendary area doctor, Moses was perhaps best known for his devotion to Mercy Hospital in South Wilkes-Barre, which eventually was acquired by Geisinger Health System.
The hospital was founded in 1898 by the Sisters of Mercy to treat local coal miners and Moses tried to keep the compassionate history going. He formed great bonds with the nuns and volunteered his services to the hospital’s Catherine McAuley Clinic, which provided free medical care to Luzerne County residents without health insurance.
“George was Mercy Hospital,” said Dr. Gerald Maloney, chief medical officer for Geisinger hospitals who started working with Moses in 1998. “George ran that clinic singlehandedly. He was the entire medical staff. He took care of people completely for free.”
At work and outside of work, Moses was “a compassionate humanitarian,” Maloney said.
Friend and champion
Moses lived his whole life in Wilkes-Barre, except when he attended Thomas Jefferson School of Medicine in Philadelphia, his brother noted. Prior to medical school, he attended St. Nicholas High School and then King’s College in Wilkes-Barre.
“He loved the area,” John Moses said.
Outside of his medical service, Moses dedicated himself to helping area charitable causes.
The Dr. George P. Moses Senior All-Star Classic — a high school basketball game for the area’s best players which is cosponsored by The Citizens’ Voice and the Wyoming Valley Athletic Association — has raised over $1 million the past 49 years.
Neil Corbett, former Citizens’ Voice sports editor and current member of the Wyoming Valley Athletic Association, called Moses a “champion” for the area’s less fortunate.
“I don’t think I’ll ever meet someone with a bigger heart than Dr. Moses,” Corbett said. “The Wyoming Valley has lost a great man.”
At fundraising dinners for various local causes, Moses often served as emcee and toastmaster. One time, he even volunteered to be the subject of a roast to benefit Mercy Hospital.
He loved to read, was a fan of Shakespeare and carried around index cards with inspirational quotes, those who knew him say.
A blemish on Moses’ long list of accomplishments was when he was charged in 1986 in connection with an illegal gambling ring involving sports betting.
“I got George in trouble,” said longtime friend William Ruzzo, a local attorney.
Ruzzo said he was the bookmaker and Moses merely accompanied him to bars to root for the teams Ruzzo needed to win. Ruzzo said he’d give Moses some cash for his time and company. The two entered the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program for first-time offenders, had their records expunged and continued their successful careers, Ruzzo said.
In Moses, you could not find a better friend, Ruzzo said.
Ruzzo and Moses met at a bar in 1970 and became fast friends. Ruzzo said he needed a doctor and Moses performed hernia surgery on him.
“He and I were close friends since 1970 when I met him, when he did surgery on me. We talked a few times a week, went out to dinner,” Ruzzo said. “In our younger days, we chased women around together. And to him, these still were his younger days. He enjoyed life. He did a lot for the community and he’d do anything for his friends.”
An icon in local sports
Beyond medicine, Moses made an big impact on area sports, serving as a mentor to the area’s youth. He was also a founding member of the Luzerne County Sports Hall of Fame.
Prior to the annual all-star game, he hosted a tournament at the Catholic Youth Center featuring some of the top local players. He fielded a team.
John Leighton, a collegiate basketball official, recalls losing to Moses’ team by two points one year.
“Doc came in our locker room and told me I was on his team next year,” Leighton recalled. “That started a friendship that lasted until this morning. He was my No. 1 fan as I went through the ranks of high school and collegiate basketball.”
Moses served as the team doctor for GAR’s football squad for more than 25 years and helped the players on and off the field, said Tony Khalife, former GAR football coach.
“He was always a great guy to be around. He was the best team doctor you could possibly have. He knew football and what it took to get a player back on the field safely,” Khalife said. “He would send kids to camp across the state and he would pay for it. He would ask the coaches who were going to camp and which ones were being highly recruited. He would pay for it out of his own pocket and nobody would ever know.”
Mark Atherton, current Crestwood boys basketball coach and son of the late local basketball coaching legend Jim Atherton, remembers Moses coming to his house on Sundays for dinner.
Atherton’s father would always joke that Moses saved three lives today, because he didn’t operate. In all honesty, they knew he was “one of the top surgeons around,” Atherton said.
He recalled a story about one time how Moses fooled traffic cops while trying to get to a NCAA Tournament game at the Meadowlands.
“Doc was telling everyone who was directing traffic that he had one of the coaches for one of the teams in the car and they needed to get to the arena. They were letting his car through. I don’t know how he was able to pull it off, but he did,” Atherton recalled. “This area will never see another guy like Dr. Moses. I will miss him and I’m sure he already met up with all his family and is exchanging jokes with my father.”
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