William F. Ranieri, 80, of Ventnor, a psychiatrist who created an enduring mental health service system in South Jersey, a mentor, veteran, and teacher, died Tuesday, Oct. 19, of complications from diabetes at Jefferson Rehabilitation center in Washington Township.

Beginning in 1978, when he created an unprecedented psychiatry service at Cherry Hill’s Kennedy Memorial Hospital, Dr. Ranieri embarked on a lifelong quest to create, oversee, and empower mental health support programs for previously underserved people.

In 1983, he founded the department of psychiatry at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, now part of the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, and served as its chairman for 20 years, increasing the staff from three doctors to more than 40 and training nearly 100 psychiatrists over his career.

Dr. Ranieri was one of the first osteopathic doctors in the United States to be board certified in psychiatry. He served five years as UMDNJ’s associate dean of clinical affairs, created its psychiatry residency program, was named professor emeritus in 2016, and won the school’s 2015 Founders Award and 2018 Distinguished Service Award.

“He was a dynamic individual and a serious advocate for the underserved mentally ill,” said longtime friend and colleague Stephen M. Scheinthal, professor and chair of the department of psychiatry at Rowan’s School of Osteopathic Medicine. “He was the consummate professional, and had a passion for education and mentoring.”

Dr. Ranieri was president of the American College of Osteopathic Neurologists and Psychiatrists in 1989, won the 2020 American Osteopathic Association’s President’s Award, and, as a member of the Order of St. Gregory the Great, served as a mental health consultant for the Diocese of Camden.

He reveled in his work, and his family wrote in a tribute, “He loved to introduce himself by saying, ‘But you can call me by my first name, Doctor.’”

Born to Italian immigrants in Philadelphia on April 2, 1941, Dr. Ranieri and his family moved to Yeadon and then Drexel Hill, and he graduated from Monsignor Bonner High School in 1958. He earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Joseph’s University in 1962 and his medical degree from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1966.

After college, he was a captain in the Army Medical Corps and a battalion surgeon in Vietnam, earning a Bronze Star Medal and Combat Medical Badge. He married Roseann Mobilio in 1964, and they lived in Cherry Hill, Haddonfield, and elsewhere in South Jersey, and raised daughters Cassandra and Alexandra and son B.G.

Dr. Ranieri and his wife had known each other as children, reunited years later, and she worked as his administrative assistant for 22 years. After operating a private practice, he joined the faculty at UMDNJ in 1977.

“He thought it was important to be there for people,” said daughter Alexandra, who remembers her father answering the beeper he carried at all times in the 1980s. “He taught us how to show up, and he always showed up.”

Dr. Ranieri liked to socialize and dance, read history books, and travel. He and his family delivered Christmas presents to hospitalized patients and hosted parties for staff and friends.

“He was a wonderful husband, father, and grandfather,” his wife said. “He had such a positive attitude. He brought such great joy.”

In addition to his wife and children, Dr. Ranieri is survived by three grandchildren and other relatives.

Services were held Oct. 23.

Donations in his name my be made to the William F. and Roseann J. Ranieri Scholarship at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Rowan University Foundation, 201 Mullica Hill Rd., Glassboro, N.J. 08028.