OAKHURST — Longtime area resident, dedicated community volunteer and gifted physical therapist Joy Kagawa is heading out to pasture, quite literally, as she closes the doors on her Sierra Physical Therapy practice for retirement — and prepares to train a newly-acquired Arabian colt.
A native of Arroyo Grande, Joy attended Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo before transferring to Fresno State for their physical therapy program. She took her first professional position with Greater Bakersfield Memorial Hospital in 1980.
That’s where she remained until 1985, when Joy was welcomed at Sierra Physical Therapy in Oakhurst and Mariposa, established by Bud Ferrante in 1978. Sierra was the first and, at the time, the only physical therapy practice in the area, and Joy was thrilled to move to the foothills.
In December of 2005, when Bud relocated to Carmel, Joy took over the busy practice. Now, her last day at work will be Thursday, Feb. 28. She’s retiring early, and is excited to do so while young and healthy. She’ll miss having patients, but won’t miss weathering the challenges of handling insurance, reimbursements, and jumping through all the hoops required to run a practice these days.
It’s been a busy year already, filled with packing, bookkeeping, notifications, and goodbyes — but Joy sees a light at the end of the tunnel.
Joy owns three horses, all Arabian geldings. One is her Search and Rescue posse horse, Dakota Bey V, who just celebrated his 34th birthday. They’ve been together since Joy was a volunteer for the Madera County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Working Posse, for 10 years beginning in 1989.
In addition to Dakota, there’s 10-year-old Alabama Mac. New to the fold is a little colt born last June. Joy will bring him home next month and spend the next few years patiently working with Cimarron until he’s ready to saddle up and ride.
Beyond her volunteer time with the SAR posse, Joy has been a member of Oakhurst Sierra Sunrise Rotary since 2000. Sunrise Rotary is now facilitating the donation of her office and physical therapy equipment to two valley nonprofits for use in their humanitarian projects around the world.
A practice cannot exist without good employees, Joy says, and she has been blessed in that regard by everyone at Sierra PT. Working with patients has made Joy acutely aware of the potential for change in quality of life as one ages, and she feels really good about being able to retire while she can appreciate the bounty her life in the beautiful foothills has to offer.
“I enjoy what I do, helping people regain the function of their body to the best of their ability, and that’s been the most rewarding part of my career,” Joy says. “It’s hard to imagine what life will be like not working but being self employed, and caring about people as much as I do, did not leave a lot of time left over. During that time I enjoyed my horses — and now I will get to enjoy them much more.”
Congratulations on your retirement, Joy, and we’ll always remember, “neutral spine.”