In Memoriam: Joseph O'Dea, DVM (USA)
Avon, NY, USA
Establishing his practice in Avon, he was called into active duty with the U.S. Army and served in Europe from 1945 to 1947.
Returning to Avon, he married his wife Nancy (Farnum) O'Dea and developed a commercial breeding farm for Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds in 1952, beginning a fifty year legacy of farming and veterinary care in the Genesee Valley. He was also appointed the official vet for the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden and held that position for twenty-five years. Called "Doc" by his clients, he was "Joe" to his family and friends.
In 1955, Joe was named as Team Veterinarian to the U.S. Equestrian Team and provided care for Olympic horses at the Stockholm, Rome, Tokyo and Munich Games.
He purchased Roscommon Farm in Geneseo in 1960 and launched a highly successful breeding program, producing stakes-winning Thoroughbred racehorses for three decades. Joe was voted president of the Genesee Valley Breeders Association in 1961. In that position, he led the organization to increased membership and the development of many new programs. He was appointed a Steward and Acting General Manager of the newly-opened Finger Lakes Racetrack and was responsible for programs that encouraged breeding of Thoroughbreds in New York State. He became the president of the NYTB (New York Thoroughbred Breeders) for two years. Concurrently, Joe was named president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners.
Joe resigned his Olympic appointments in 1975 to assume membership to the Veterinary Commission of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI). He officiated at the World Championships in Lexington, KY in 1978 and the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, CA. Appointed as the FEI Technical Delegate at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto in 1983, he served in that capacity until 2001.
A NY State appointment placed Joe on the New York State Racing and Wagering Board in 1978 and he held that position for six years while continuing his private practice and operation of his breeding farm at home. He continued his service in the late 1980's and 1990's serving as the New York State Racing and Wagering Board Steward at Finger Lakes Race Track. His love of local racing led to the establishment of the Roscommon Races, steeplechase races that ran at his farm for eleven years. A practicing vet through the 1990's,
Joe continued to research and write prolifically. In 1997, he was named The Chronicle of The Horse's Horseman of the Year for his support of scientific study of the effects of added dead weight on eventing horses.
Joe appreciated and collected artwork and supported the work of local artist Colin Coots. He was also greatly interested in architecture and the theater. A great joy to his sportsman's ideals, Joe's beagle pack was established in the early 1980's and his ambition to see the Roscommon Beagles recognized as a national hunt pack came to fruition in 2001, the first and only beagle pack in western New York. As Master and then Joint Master, Joe provided great sport for the hunt's followers and he encouraged interest in the activity.
Joe was a published and noted author, his works embracing topics ranging from veterinary medicine and artwork to hunting and Thoroughbred racing. The book "Olympic Vet" (1996 Castlerea Pess) recounted his experiences "hands on" in the field as well as vignettes with international flavor. "The Racing Imperative" (1996 Castlerea Press) highlights the history of the Thoroughbred sport in an exhortation to participants at every level to do what they can and must do to help return racing to the mainstream of sport in America. Better known locally were his extremely popular "Genesee Valley" (2002 Castlerea Press) and "Genesee Valley II" (2004 Castlerea Press). These books were the tales of local characters and their influence on the history of the bluegrass region of western New York, where he made his home for nearly sixty years. His writing captured local lore and humor touched many of his stories.
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