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Ralph (Doc) Giarnella, M.D.

January 14, 1941 ~ January 26, 2021 (age 80)


Ralph (Doc) Giarnella

January 14, 1941 - January 26, 2021


Ralph A. (Doc) Giarnella, M.D., 80, of Southington, passed away from complications of Covid 19 on Tuesday, January 26, 2021, at the Hospital of Central Connecticut, New Britain. 

Ralph was a determined dreamer with a big heart and a long list of hobbies. Nothing kept him from learning new things and trying, not cancer, and certainly not age. 

He grew up in New Britain, the oldest son of the late Silvio and Maria (Simeone) Giarnella. He was educated at the Don Bosco Seminary in New York, where he began his lifelong hatred of eggplant, his love of lemon meringue pie, and his understanding of the power of learning.  He earned his B.S. from the College of Don Bosco and his M.S. from Boston College. Never one to follow the expected path, he decided to become a doctor while he was studying to be a priest in Italy.   While in medical school in Pisa, he met the love of his life, Sandy Pickard.  They met on her first day in Italy and, in that moment, he promised he would marry her - a marriage that lasted 50 years.  They married in Pisa and lived adventurously in Italy, before returning to  New Britain, Connecticut to start their family and practice medicine.

Ralph “Doc” Giarnella ran his private practice in New Britain and Southington for 45 years. He felt that having a private practice allowed him time to really connect with each patient.  He believed that time spent talking to patients was the most important part of medicine.  

His life was full. Doc and Sandy raised four unique children and freely opened their home to their children’s friends.  It was a home full of people, laughter, and good food. Everyone was welcome and everyone was treated like family.  Their home was the site of many joyful gatherings of friends from neighborhood cookouts with the wonderful Mason Drive crew to soccer team parties to their oldest daughter’s wedding and everything in-between. Their home was a warm place to gather and laugh.

Doc was an extra father to whoever needed an ear to listen and advice- cyclists he coached, soccer players, and Irish coaches.  

He was an active part of the community in so many different ways throughout his life.He dedicated his time to Unico, St. Joseph’s school board, Farrell Treatment Center and spearheaded the computerization of the New Britain cycling criterium. He also spent time coaching cyclists, soccer players, or just listening to a friend - he was always willing to help whenever it was needed.

While he was very much a man of science, (if it could not be proven, he did not believe it) he was an artist as well. He explored many different forms of art. He was an avid woodcarver for many years, carving whenever he had down time- often carving on the beach while waiting for the tides to allow him to take out his kayak and fish. After wood carving, he taught himself to draw and worked hard to perfect new techniques. In the last few years, he renewed his love of horticulture and landscape design moving tons of stone in his backyard to create a patio and growing plants in his basement- all while dealing with daily pain from stage four prostate cancer.  Nothing kept him from moving and doing things.

Doc fought hard the last few years, harder than the cancer he battled.  He was back on his bike shortly after his stage four prostate cancer diagnosis. He rode a little each day, despite his family insisting he rest, he kept going.  Eight months later, he rode that bike 100 miles. This determination and focus was part of his life and served him well. 

Doc lived every minute of his 80 years with vigor, curiosity, and compassion. He truly was a renaissance man.

He was known as Doc to many and Paco to his grandkids - because grandpa never seemed to suit him.  

At 5’ 5” he was a giant.

In addition to his wife, Sandy, he leaves his children, Yvonne Giarnella-Scirpo (Frank Scirpo), Tanya (Ben) Helmen, Serena (Noah) Bliss, Ralph Giarnella, Jr. and Jeff Mace;  his grandchildren, Caleb and Gabriel Helmen, Nick and Rogan Scirpo, and Makena and Scarlett Bliss.  He also leaves his sister, Lorraine Calegari, his brothers Tom (Sue) Giarnella, Andrew Giarnella, his sisters-in-law, Kathy (Joe) Certo, Patty Scofield, and Holly (Earl) Rittenberry; his brothers-in-law, Dennis (Pam) Pickard and Tracy (Kathy Jo) Pickard; along with many nieces and nephews.

A celebration of Ralph’s life will be held at a later date, when all are able to safely travel and gather together.  The staff at Plainville Funeral Home extends their gratitude to the Giarnella family for their trust.  For online expressions of sympathy, please visit

In lieu of flowers, please share your memories and stories of Doc with his family on his tribute wall.

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