Nelson A. Gelfman, 91, of Ridgefield passed away Sunday, February 3. 2019.
Born to Herman and Rosalie Gelfman in Brooklyn, NY, Nels grew up in Caldwell, NJ. An Eagle Scout, he spent summers at Camp Glen Grey in northern New Jersey. He went on to college at Rutgers, medical school at UPenn and an internship in Wisconsin, where he met Mary Boyce.
Nels served in the Air Force as a flight surgeon in Greenland. Nels and Mary married in 1958 and he began work at Yale New Haven Hospital, moving to Ridgefield in 1964 after he was hired as pathologist at Danbury Hospital. His interest in blood chemistry led to work in kidney dialysis.
He helped with the first dialysis machine to arrive at the hospital and was appointed director of the dialysis unit in 1969, serving in that role for 26 years. The unit was named in his honor upon his “retirement”, but he continued to see patients for many more years. He was chief of the Danbury Hospital medical staff in the 1970s and taught pathology at Yale, the VA, and Quinnipiac.
Nels was very involved in local land issues. An early member of the Ridgefield Conservation Commission, he served for 46 years on the Ridgefield Planning and Zoning commission, winning election twelve times before retiring in 2013. He tried to encourage wild areas for native flora and fauna in the development of the town, and held a special love of reptiles and amphibians.
He considered Great Pond a town treasure, and was proudest of the open space protection of the Camp Adventure land in its watershed. A lifelong allergy to fur meant turtles, fish and birds were Gelfman family pets and he led his children on countless adventures with nets and buckets.
He was a passionate amateur photographer who loved to show his photos mounted in custom wood frames created from branches and logs found in the woods and milled himself. Lucky friends and family received gifts of photos, sometimes accompanied by maple syrup he boiled down in turkey fryers, trees tapped in his front yard with medical tubing and carboys.
Nels is survived by his wife Mary and their children, Celia Gelfman and her husband Tom Sgouros, Kay Gelfman, and David Gelfman and his wife Claire Gladstone; grandchildren, Timi and Lydia Sgouros, Octavia Gelfman and Zane Gelfman; his brother Sam Gelfman and his family; several turtles, two gar fish, and Ollie the parrot.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, March 2, 2019, 2 pm, at the Ridgefield Community Center, Lounsbury House, 316 Main Street, Ridgefield. In lieu of flowers please consider becoming an organ donor, donate blood, or contribute to the Land Conservancy of Ridgefield, P.O. Box 32, Ridgefield, CT 06877landconservancyofridgefield.org or to Friends of Glen Gray, Inc. 200 Midvale Mountain Road, Mahwah NJ 07430.