Joan Wilson Appel

February 22, 1945March 8, 2019

Joan Wilson Appel, who spent her entire career as a Physician Assistant, working alongside her husband, Dr. Stanley Appel, for more than 20 years, providing hope and improving the quality of life for patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, died on Friday the March 8th at Houston Methodist Hospital. She was 74.

Her husband said the cause was respiratory failure.

Joan’s early career was working with Dr. Steven Greenberg at Ben Taub Hospital, conducting HIV research, participating in studies that provided a positive outcome and benefited from new therapeutic advances in AIDS. Then in 1998, she joined the Department of Neurology at Houston Methodist Hospital and the community of highly motivated professionals dedicated to patients with ALS and neurodegenerative diseases.

Joan Elizabeth Wilson was born on February 22, 1945 in Galveston, Texas. Her mother Elizabeth Dixon Wilson was in Marketing, and moved to San Antonio, where Joan graduated from Alamo Heights High School. She graduated from the University of Houston, and was in the 2nd class of graduates as a Physician Assistant at Baylor College of Medicine. After graduating, Joan joined the U.S. Army and served as a PA in Stuttgart, Germany. She was very proud of having served in the Army, and relished the lifelong friendships she made during that time. Upon returning to Houston, she rejoined Baylor College of Medicine and then joined the Department of Methodist Hospital.

From her early days, Joan Appel was an independent woman, and did her best to fulfill most of the lyrics from one of her favorite songs, Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” “She traveled each and every highway, and more, much more than this she did it her way.” She had a passion for life, a remarkable intelligence, a warmth, wit, and wry sense of humor with a great ability to make people laugh. She kept us all humble, especially with her array of casual Friday T-shirts labeled “I don’t need Google, my husband knows everything,” or “Sarcasm, just one more service I offer.” She especially enjoyed her repartee with Dr. Marc Boom, the President and CEO of Houston Methodist Hospital, commenting on many of the announcements emanating from his office, and earning her the nickname “Thorn.”

Her major passion was working with ALS patients at Methodist Hospital, and easing their difficult journey - above all, providing them the hope that research and quality care could offer. For 18 years the Appels worked together 24/7. Not many could do this, but Joan’s sense of humor and their mutual commitment made it possible.

In 2015, Joan made an unprecedented and remarkable gift, naming the Department of Neurology, the Stanley H. Appel Department of Neurology, after her husband. Dr Boom noted that “the gift was extraordinary in many ways. It’s from a professional whose work inspires the utmost respect and admiration. It’s also a transformational gift that will continue to grow and support the organization forever; and finally it’s from a wife honoring her husband in a very unique way,” The gift also created the Stanley H. Appel, M.D. Chair in Translational Neurology. Joan’s legacy will live on forever as her generosity will benefit neurology patients for generations to come.

Joan made friends from around the world, as she loved to travel, and lived life to the fullest. She is predeceased by her mother, Elizabeth Dixon Wilson. Joan is survived by her beloved husband, Dr. Stanley Appel, her sister, Sheralyn Humble (Bob), her much-loved nephew and niece, Rob Humble (Nicole) and Jennifer Humble Haugh (Tim), and Stan’s children, Evan Appel (Kellie), Jonathan Appel (Julie), Tanya Close, six grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Burial services will be private. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to MDA/ALSA ALS Clinic at Methodist Hospital, Houston, Texas, to charity animal care at Meyerland Animal Clinic, Karen Werner DVM, or to the charity of your choice. .


  • Private Burial Service Will Be Held.

Joan Wilson Appel

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James Ling

March 18, 2019

Dr. Appel, our hearts are broken to hear this sad news. Tiffany and I were just fondly recalling Joan’s wisdom and strength yesterday while discussing people who have inspired us in our lives and shaped our growth not just professionally, but in our marriage and family life. We have all been not just students, but children in this amazing family you and Joan have raised. We send our deepest condolences. Please let us know if we can do anything to help.


James and Tiffany Ling

Greg McLauchlin

March 14, 2019

I was so sad to hear about Joan's passing. The world was already short of good hearts, broad smiles and mischievous twinkles. Reach out any time.

Kurt Evenson

March 13, 2019

Dr. Appel ---

Will miss seeing you and Joan walk down the halls of Methodist with those big smiles. She was a great lady and partner for you. Will miss Joan's wit and her ability to tell you exactly how she felt. Learned that from her days in Medicine. I am so happy that the two of you found one another and were able to share happiness and cherish one another. May God Bless you and comfort you during this time.

Kurt and Yuqing Evenson

Arnakeia White

March 13, 2019

Sharing my sincerest condolences to the family. Praying God's comfort remains with each of you during this time.
-Love Arlean, Toni and Keke

Palmira (Mel) Britton-Wilson

March 13, 2019

The first day I met Joan I have always thought she was a beautiful woman inside and out. Her infectious energy and her genuine smile will be deeply missed. My heartfelt prayers got out to Dr. Appel, The Appel Family, The Wilson Family and our Houston Methodist Neurology Family.
She is deeply missed by all of us and will forever remain in our hearts and memories.

We Love you Joan!!!

2 Corinthians 1:3, 4


Clay Goodman

March 12, 2019

We are devastated by the Joan's sudden passing. She was a force of nature who helped her patient's face adversity with humor, strength and dignity. She made the world a much better place and we will miss her very much. May Stan and her family gain comfort in knowing how much good she accomplished.

Clay Goodman and Claudia Robertson

Doug Hoovee

March 12, 2019

Joan was a pillar in her support for her patients She will be missed

Eugene Lai

March 10, 2019

We are so saddened by the news of Joan’s sudden passing. Our sincere condolences to Dr. Appel and all her family. We will always remember her lively personality, friendly laughter, and energetic manners. We will miss her tremendously.

Gene and Yung Yung Lai