Helene J. Casselli, 74, of Manayunk, an internist in Roxborough who was loved by her patients for her honesty and ability to listen, died Thursday, May 10, of complications from peripheral artery disease at the VNA Hospice of Greater Philadelphia in East Falls.
Initially, Dr. Casselli set her sights on becoming a pharmacist, said her close friend and former physician Joan Hurlock. Dr. Casselli never told Hurlock why she made a career switch to internal medicine.
"She was a pharmacist first," Hurlock said. Dr. Casselli earned a bachelor of science degree in 1965, followed by a pharmacy and medical degree, all from Temple University.
Dr. Casselli served an internship and internal medicine residency at Albert Einstein Northern Division, where she decided to specialize in rheumatology, the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disease and systemic autoimmune conditions. However, she never became board-certified in the specialty.
"I think she did more general medicine," Hurlock said. "She practiced internal medicine for adults, not kids."
Dr. Casselli maintained a private practice in a medical building at 5735 Ridge Ave., Roxborough, until retiring in 2012. Hurlock said she was greatly loved by her patients and respected by her colleagues.
Three attributes set her above others, Hurlock said: "Simplicity and honesty, and she listened."
Dr. Casselli was on the medical staff of Roxborough Memorial Hospital for 35 years ending six years ago. She also was a staff physician at a clinic at 30th and Walnut Streets in West Philadelphia, where members of AFSCME District Council 33 go for medical treatment.
Born and raised in Roxborough, she attended St. Josephat's School in Manayunk, which included kindergarten. Over the years, she maintained friendships with her kindergarten friends.
"She was a very good friend," Hurlock said.
The only child of Nellie Zawislak and James Casselli, Dr. Casselli grew up in Roxborough in a home next to that of an aunt and uncle, Vicky and Raymond Kaminski.
"A lot of her childhood she spent with her beloved aunt and uncle," said Hurlock. "They all gathered at the Cassellis'."
Dr. Casselli was a 1961 graduate of John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls' High School before pursuing higher education.
Last year, she was given an award by the College of Internal Medicine for attending the group's annual continuing-education seminar in Boston for 30 consecutive years.
"She was ecstatic" to be honored, her friend said.
Although she never married or had children, Dr. Casselli served as a godmother to the children of friends, Hurlock said. She cared for her mother and aunt in her home, and once they died, she lived in the house alone, reading and enjoying visits with friends.