Dr. Edward W. Posey was a beacon — to his classmates while he was still a boy, to his colleagues after he became the first black licensed psychiatrist in Minnesota, and to his family, whom he loved above all else.
He was a beacon, too, to the veterans he treated at the Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center and to the North Side community of Minneapolis, where he saw clients at North Point Health and Wellness Center (formerly Pilot City) for 40 years.
Posey, 86, of Burnsville, suffered a stroke in August and never recovered, said his daughter, Ada Posey of Silver Spring, Md. He died Jan. 13 at the Walker Methodist Home in Minneapolis.
Posey lost his mother when he was only 6. He and his younger siblings were raised by their father, a bricklayer, who ingrained the importance of education in his children and grandchildren.
A native of Youngstown, Ohio, Posey was valedictorian of his class at South High School there, then graduated from Ohio State University.
“There happened to be a couple black doctors in his neighborhood,” his daughter said. “He wanted to be like them.”
Posey went to Meharry Medical College, an all-black medical school in Nashville, where he originally intended to specialize in what is now called internal medicine, his daughter said. He moved to Minnesota in 1956.
A colleague at what is now the Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center influenced him to become a psychiatrist. He was a staff psychiatrist at the Veterans Medical Center for just three years before he was promoted to chief of psychiatry. It was during the time that Vietnam vets were returning home from the war that Posey founded the Day Hospital, a program for those who needed psychiatric care but didn’t need to be admitted to the hospital.
His work became a model for other hospitals around the country, his daughter said.
Posey saw the reluctance of some white patients to be treated by a black psychiatrist, his daughter said. But word-of-mouth accounts of his manner, his caring and his approach spread, and “eventually people came to know him as a physician for everyone,” Ada Posey said. “One of his colleagues said he was a bridge over troubled waters for thousands of Minnesotans of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.”
In the 40 years that Posey also worked for Pilot City, he became a community resource, “a fixture almost,” Ada Posey said.
“It was an opportunity for him to serve people within his own community and culture,” she said.
Although Posey retired from the Veterans Medical Center in 2001, he continued at Pilot City until 2009.
He was proud of his work as an examiner for the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and was responsible for certifying many young psychiatrists, his daughter said.
Posey had met his future wife at an outdoor concert in Ohio when both were just 14. They wed in 1955 when they were 28.
“There were two things my dad always told us he wanted to do in life,” his daughter said. “The first thing was get his medical degree; the second was to marry Fanny Berryman. She was his counselor. She kept him grounded.”
Fanny Posey died in 2009. Their youngest son, Michael, died last year. Besides his daughter, Posey is survived by his son Bruce of Burnsville and two grandchildren.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, 511 Groveland Av., Minneapolis. Visitation will begin at 10 a.m.