Robert A. Provost, Jr., an orthopedic surgeon who combined cutting-edge medical acumen with a compassionate and upbeat bedside manner, died on Dec. 15, 2012 from pulmonary complications in Boston. He was 78. Dr. Provost, known as Bob, spearheaded the introduction of arthroscopic surgery in the Boston area through his practice at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge and his office in Lexington. One of his former patients, whom he cared for after a terrible car accident, saving both of her legs, said at the funeral that she had never forgotten his dedication and tender care. Numerous former patients and friends of Dr. Provost commented on his passion for medicine; he was a healer who loved his profession, and took great pride in providing empathetic care to people from all walks of life. Bob and his wife Cynthia (Hutchinson) Provost moved to Lexington in 1969. Dr. Provost made a lasting and unique impact as a town doctor in an era when those did not exist anymore. Like the banker George Bailey in the classic film Its a Wonderful Life, through his medical skills, boundless energy, and passion for life, Bob touched and enhanced the lives of countless people. He took care of a remarkable percentage of the towns residents, and his work allowed many to continue to play competitive sports and lead active lives when they feared that was no longer possible. Dr. Provost had no concept of office hours as he was ready and available whenever and wherever his patients needed him. Family members became accustomed to patients stopping at their home at all hours so Bob could examine them. Many then stayed for dinner. Bob was a constant figure on the sidelines of Lexington High School sports games, serving as the team doctor for the hockey, football and baseball teams. His photographs of those teams in action hung prominently in his office waiting area. Bobs intellectual curiosity led to a remarkable academic career: he graduated from Arlington High School in 1952, where he served as class president and valedictorian. He then earned his bachelor of science from Harvard University in 1956 and his doctorate in medicine from Tufts University Medical School in 1960. Shortly thereafter, Bob answered his countrys call to service by completing a tour of duty in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968. Leaving behind his wife and three small children, Bob was stationed in An Khe, in the Central Highlands, where he served as a captain in an Army surgical unit. During his stay, he repaired countless soldiers and villagers. This was an experience he would never forget and rarely discuss. Bob was an avid sportsman with an indomitable competitive spirit. Club ice hockey at Harvard and semi-professional baseball in his youth gave way to competitive tournament tennis in his middle years. A lefty with a slicing serve and two-handed backhand, Bob won the Lexington town tennis championship a number of times in the 1970s before trading in his racquet for a set of golf clubs in his later years. Bob possessed a keen sense of humor, a seemingly endless list of passions and interests, and a wide circle of friends. He had a zest and appreciation for life that were contagious. From his family to sunsets to a nice glass of wine to sinking a long putt to a French film, his good fortune always seemed unbelievable to him. The Provosts love people and hosting parties: their annual Easter Egg Hunt in Lexington and chowder party on Martha's Vineyard are legendary. Marthas Vineyard was an important part of Bob's life. He first went to the Island in June of 1970 with his family. From the moment they set foot on the Island, they were enraptured by its beauty and tranquility. Their house on the Island became their home-away-from-home for over 40 years. Bob was surrounded by his beloved family when he died. He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Cynthia; his three children, Michelle, Robert and David and their spouses, Bill, Katherine and Allison; and 10 grandchildren: Chris, Ryan and Tyler Gelnaw; Robert 4th, Caroline and Jonathan Provost; Sarah, Julia, Elizabeth and Katherine Provost. The family is committed to carrying forth their patriarchs legacy of curiosity and passion. In lieu of flowers, the family requested that donations be directed to Camp Jabberwocky (Martha's Vineyard Cerebral Palsy Camp), P.O. Box 1357, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568.
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Published in The Lexington Minuteman from Jan. 15 to Jan. 22, 2013