KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – “I’m everybody’s father, said Dr. Joseph Kendrick of Knoxville’s Asheville Highway Animal Hospital. I see them in the street, ‘hey Papa Joe how you doin’?’ And they all think I can solve everybody’s problem…. ‘somebody told me to call you Papa Joe!’
“He’s always been someone’s dad, even if he wasn’t really their dad,” Joseph’s son Dr. Rick Kendrick said.
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Joseph Kendrick has a reputation for being the man with all the answers while having served the Knoxville community for 40-years now.
As a veterinarian and founder of the family-owned Asheville Highway Animal Hospital.
“There are so many kids now, especially people of color, who don’t have real parents living in a household so every one of us who can afford to do it with our time and with our money — we need to have some non-biological children to help bring this country back where it needs to be,” ‘Papa Joe said as he mentioned that he has hundreds.
“Sometimes when I go to a school to give a talk, there may be 50-kids in the class, and they will all have my telephone number and sometimes they will call me when they get in trouble and their parents will call me all kinds of times day and night when they get in trouble,” Joseph explained.
When you ask why someone would do such things for complete strangers his response is effortless.
“If you were to see where I came from, I came from a little town called Sanford, Florida … it’s 20-miles from Orlando,” Joseph said. Explaining how they lived on a farm with no electricity. “I was about 10-year-old before I knew a toilet flushed.”
It’s that humble beginning Joseph says not only kept him in business but kept him resilient through life’s most trying times.
First, losing one of his son’s – Dr. Brian Kendrick – and more recently his wife Gloria of more than 50-years, their pictures still fill the walls of the clinic they built as a family.
“Everything that’s happened to me that’s in quotation marks ‘bad’ has made me a better person,”
In turn, ‘Papa Joe’ as well as the clients and their pets, who become family, share their lives with him.
“It’s more of a legacy for him… of him doing an excellent job,” said Ricardo. “He’s always been a great father, he’s been one of those guys that I was always at his hip, it wasn’t one of those that if dad was working you didn’t know where dad was because he always had us here at the clinic with him. He’s had this honor before with us ok? He’s been a great dad.”
To this day Joseph makes house calls for the clients who aren’t able to drive anymore. Going a step further with a group he started, Knoxville Community Step-Up, identifying hundreds of people recently released from prison, learning their needs and helping connect them with resources such as getting their records expunged.
“Everyday of your life you oughta look back before you go to bed and say who did I help today,” said Joseph.