LAWTON – Dr. Richard J. Boatsman’s love of the Lawton-Fort Sill community knows no bounds, and it shows – right on the side of a red brick wall here in Lawton, the community that loves him right back.
Boatsman’s work with the Oklahoma Blood Institute over the decades led to the decision that this caregiver be awarded with a top recognition: the renaming of the OBI office building at 211 SW A Ave. to the Oklahoma Blood Institute Richard J. Boatsman, M.D. Center.
It’s as if his love of community is in his blood. One could easily imagine that it is, being a much-loved physician and area leader in many areas of endeavor.
Oh, and the date the new name was unveiled was on Boatsman’s 80th birthday, this past October 20. That same date was designated “Dr. Richard J. Boatsman Day” by Lawton Mayor Stan Booker, whose community has been working hard to keep COVID-19 infection numbers relatively low. That said, the mayor still encourages local citizens to continue to donate blood, particularly on the 20th of October each year, going forward.
Boatsman is the chairman of the OBI’s Board of Directors and his guidance has proven to be very helpful to the non-profit, which is the sixth largest nonprofit blood collector in the United States. The Southwest Oklahoma region of OBI covers that portion of the state and portions of the Texas Panhandle and Wichita Falls area. OBI itself, however, covers a huge area from Little Rock, Arkansas, westward to the New Mexico state line.
At the dedication, which was videotaped by OBI, Boatsman is clearly pleased, saying, “I’ve had 80 birthdays now, and this is undoubtedly the best birthday present I’ve ever had.”
He added that he appreciated the recognition, even though it was really about OBI and not himself. Regardless, he said he was proud of his association with OBI over the years, while also being a physician and chief of the medical staff at Comanche County Memorial Hospital.
“But this really isn’t about me, it’s about the OBI, and I’m very proud of my association with the OBI over the years. I don’t think that I really deserve this, but I certainly appreciate it,” he said.
President and CEO of the Oklahoma Blood Institute, Dr. John Armitage, who is based in Oklahoma City, spoke to Southwest Ledger after the dedication. Armitage could not say enough good and respectful things about Boatsman, while noting the retired pathologist’s broad knowledge base, down-to-earth demeanor and understanding.
“He’s an appealing human,” Armitage said. “He’s the guy you want behind the microscope and next to you on the barstool.”
“Not everyone can pull that off,” Armitage added with a chuckle.
Armitage noted that Boatsman was part of the original crew that put together what became OBI back in 1977. Over 40 years later, he said, Boatsman continues to be a person who remains very active at this stage of his life, serving on numerous boards and always looking out for his fellow humans in any way he can, particularly close to home in Lawton.
“He always had Lawton’s best interests in mind,” Armitage said. “And naming this building after him – in a time when names are being taken off of buildings – is a way of giving back to him.”
Added Armitage, “We got an upgrade when we added his name.”
Lawton Mayor Stan Booker said Boatsman’s role as a charter member of OBI “is impressive in our community.” He added that Boatsman’s many contributions to OBI and the community at large is “something we should all look to as a leadership example.”
Meanwhile, Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page noted that Boatsman “has done more to help others than just about anyone in the world.” OBI’s “Redcoat Ambassadors” helped “cut the ribbon on their new facility dedicated to his legacy.”
Daren Coats, Director of Southwest Operations and Special Projects for the OBI and Texas Blood Institute, echoed a lot of what Armitage said about Boatsman’s strong work ethic and humanitarianism. Dr. Boatsman, Coats said, “is one of the most important pieces in our history.”
Coats also highlighted Boatsman’s admirable way of decision-making, while also providing top-shelf leadership skills when it comes to dealing with crises like the current COVID-19 pandemic.
“He is very visionary and understanding on how to do business and how to do it in a way to keep a nonprofit growing.”
“You can’t underestimate his contributions,” he noted in the phone interview. Having worked with Boatsman for the 14 years he has been with OBI, Coats did not offer a specific anecdote, but more of a general observation on the man himself.
“His motivation is just to do good,” said Coats. “He has a passion for our community. He has been the county medical examiner, [and] has participated in a lot of (organizations) in our community. He was on 30 boards in the Southwest Oklahoma area.
Added Coats: “He has lived a very full life and he is still going full speed ahead.”
That said, Coats hopes people look at Boatsman’s example of how they themselves can do even more, particularly in these troubled times.
“I hope (Boatsman’s recognition) encourages all people in southwest Oklahoma [to] do more and you participate in our community, just by taking action,” he said. “Those on the sideline don’t make a difference.”