Dr. Al Ratcliffe Jr. wore many hats during his time in Albertville. Physician, Albertville High School football team doctor, Hospice of Marshall County/Shepherd’s Cove Hospice Board of Directors member and president, Citizen of the Year, father, husband … the list goes on. 

Ratcliffe, 77, died July 13 at Shepherd’s Cove Hospice, leaving behind a legacy of care, compassion and generosity spanning decades. 

Ratcliffe came to Albertville in 1978 to join the fledgling Sand Mountain Family Practice Center with Drs. M. Wayne Peters, Mike Belyeu, Larry Sullivan and Mike Wells. He retired from the practice in 2008. He also served on a board that helped recruit doctors to the area for Marshall Medical Centers. 

Dedicated to his practice and the well-being of his patients, Ratcliffe was often at work from dawn to late evening. 

“He would often get up, maybe have breakfast with mom, go on his rounds at the hospital and then go to the clinic,” said one of Ratcliffe’s daughters, Ann Elizabeth Jacobson.

“We might go to the hospital to eat lunch with him in the cafeteria. He would come back and see his evening patients, then go back to the hospital. 

“We would eat a late lunch with him when we got home from school. When he got to a stopping point, he would have a late supper with us.

“I can honestly say that no matter how busy he was, we never felt his absence. He was always there for our piano recitals, dance recitals, ball games, whatever.”

Ratcliffe’s son, Alfie, called his dad a wizard. 

“We would go days without seeing him,” Alfie said. “He was there at every performance, play, ball game and band concert. He may have only been there for the few minutes we performed, but he was there.”

Ann Elizabeth said it was likely only possible because Ratcliffe “never took time for himself.”

Ann Elizabeth followed her father into the medical field, becoming an audiologist working with people suffering from hearing and balance disorders. 

“I followed him into medicine, but not in the same way,” she said. “We bonded over medical type things. We talked about medical sciences and patient care. I take a lot of how he approached caring of others from him and mom, who was a nurse. 

“We all follow dad’s work ethic. He took time for everybody, not matter where they stopped him. Someone might stop him in a restaurant to ask a question, or they called him at home after he retired. It didn’t matter. He took the time to talk to them. 

“He made an impact on me and others in the community who are new physicians and medical professionals. He was an open and generous teacher.”


Team doctor

He acted as the AHS football team doctor for nearly 30 years, walking the sidelines at every home and away game. 

“He did it for all the right reasons,” said former AHS Principal and Football Coach Paul McAbee. 

“He was the team doctor long before his son, Will, became part of the team and he continued as team doctor long after Will left the team.

“There is no telling how much money he donated to the kids and the school simply through his services that he provided. He went to the emergency room after every game to check on any injured players. He would see them at his clinic. He was a tremendous legacy in this community.”


Citizen of the Year

Tony Cochran presented Ratcliffe with the 2016 Albertville Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year award during a banquet at Sebastien’s on Main. 

“There is no board, no place, no activity you won’t find his fingerprints on in our city,” Cochran said at the time. 

Ratcliffe served as part of the Rotary and Chamber of Commerce, taught Sunday school, served on many committees and boards as a longtime member of Hewett Memorial United Methodist Church, was part of many civic organizations in the city, Cochran said. 

Ratcliffe was also active in Keep Albertville Beautiful and many other causes in Albertville.


Shepherd’s Cove Hospice

“Dr. Al” as he was affectionately known at Shepherd’s Cove Hospice, was characterized as a friend and advocate to the agency, staff and families served. 

“Dr. Al made his first hospice home visit with founder of Hospice of Marshall County, Gayle Roadruck, in the mid-1980’s,” Hospice officials wrote in a statement released Wednesday. 

“He told of the impact that visit made on him – a seasoned physician – in seeing the needs of the terminally ill in a different light.

“Not only did Dr. Al entrust SCH with the care of many of his terminally ill patients, he also entrusted us to care for his then-wife, Gaynell.”

Ratcliffe joined the SCH volunteer board of directors, serving from 2007 to 2018. 

He and his wife, Nancy, were awarded the Hospice of Marshall County “Heart of Hospice” award in 2011. 

“Hospice of Marshall County has been the beneficiary of Dr. Al and Nancy’s thoughtfulness and generosity. They provide their time, their gifts, their ideas, their leadership and their hands and feet to make things happen. They are hard workers who jump in to work alongside the team. On behalf of the entire Hospice of Marshall County Board of Directors, we are forever grateful to Dr. Al and Nancy for their many contributions toward our business of ministry.” 

Will Ratcliffe said his father felt “extreme comfort” knowing he was going to Shepherd’s Cove Hospice for his final days. 

“I think it was obvious they took it as a honor to be able to serve him,” Will said. “They did an excellent job making sure every need was met for him and for us too. He was at peace with that decision.”

Alfie agreed. 

“The impact on the people he helped were apparent,” he said. “From the staff to the custodians to the administration, they all knew him and loved him. Several had stories to relay to us. That was so meaningful to us.”


Funeral arrangements

Ratcliffe will be laid to rest Saturday, July 17, 2021. Funeral services will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at Adams Brown Service Funeral Home Chapel with Revs. Sam Huffstutler, Andrew Gregg and Tammy Jackson officiating. Burial will follow in Memory Hill Cemetery. 

Ratcliffe is survived by his wife, Nancy; daughters, Dr. Ann Elizabeth Jacobson (Jeremiah) and Megan W. Carter (Bence); sons, Alfred A. Ratcliffe III, William F. Ratcliffe (Cappy) and Masara Gumiro (Loretta); and nine grandchildren.

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