Syd Geltman, died peacefully at his home in Boulder on March 17th following a very recent illness surrounded by his three children, Seth, Rachel, and Debbie, who were privileged and honored to provide all of his end of life care giving him dignity and privacy. He was almost 87 years old, and led a very full and vibrant life. Until a week before, he daily enjoyed walking along Boulder Creek to his physics office, playing tennis, swimming, doing crossword puzzles, being with his family, all the things that he loved best. He never used a cane, walker, wheelchair, or any type of assistive devices, which pleased him greatly. |
Syd was born in Philadelphia, the only child of Russian immigrants, and grew up in the Northeast. He often recalled fond memories of his childhood in New Haven, Connecticut and in Roosevelt, New Jersey, where he had a large, loving extended family. He served in the US Navy, stationed in Chicago, and was an FDR loyal. A cousin said, "Syd represents the tip-of-the-iceberg-pinnacle for a true hard-work immigrant American success story that started in small rural villages in Russia and will continue to unfold for generations."
He received several degrees from Yale University, (with George HW Bush as a classmate), and his PhD from Yale University in his early 20's , he was elected to the board of the Yale Scientific Magazine, followed by a long, distinguished career in physics that always provided him great fulfillment. He was recognized nationally and internationally and had numerous articles published in the physics literature and journals as well as authoring books on the subject. He was honored as an international Humboldt Scholar in the early 1980's. He had very recently submitted an article that is currently being reviewed for publication. We hope to complete the process and have the article published with the help of our PhD mathematician, Nate, and/or Syd's physics colleagues.
Throughout Syd's search for answers in science, he discovered and offered ideas that sometimes went against the grain of the physics establishment. He would at times refer to himself as a "contrarian." He relished the give and take of ideas. Syd's persistence and dignity, sometimes in the face of significant opposition, will always be a touchstone to his son, his daughters, and his grandchildren.
His physics career began at Westinghouse in Pittsburgh, PA then in Washington DC. Syd moved his young family to Boulder in 1961 where he was one of the original physicists to work with the National Bureau of Standards (NBS, now NIST) jointly with the University of Colorado at JILA (Joint Institute of Laboratory Astrophysics) and the University of Colorado Physics Department.
Prior to moving to Boulder, Syd had been very much a Northeasterner, a big city person. He was somewhat apprehensive about moving to Colorado, the "Old West" with "dirt roads" and "Cowboys and Indians. " Fortunately, he soon discovered that Boulder was the most wonderful place in the world to live, work and have a family. We have always been grateful for the privilege of growing up in Boulder, where the three of us attended Boulder Valley Public Schools from elementary through high school years. We lived in a house that faced the Flatirons close to the CU campus and every single day, we could enjoy that amazing view and be involved in all that beautiful Boulder and the mountains had to offer.
After we became adults, Syd continued to love being in Boulder. He played tennis throughout his life and was the oldest current member of the Rocky Mountain Tennis Club at the time of his death, a fact that made him smile.
For 17 years, he had lived in a 3rd floor apartment with no elevator, only accessible by six flights of stairs carrying groceries, packages, luggage and all. Prior to any significant illness, very thankfully, after much conversation and discussion, last summer he agreed to move to another apartment in the same complex he loved right by CU and his tennis club, which had an elevator and underground covered parking, both of which he insisted he would never use. But we all agreed, including him, that we were grateful to have had those during his short illness.
Syd was an avid reader, he loved working on long and complicated physics problems, and doing extremely challenging crossword puzzles. He loved classical music, art, and watching the news and sports on TV. He loved playing chess with his grandchildren and was the master lox and bagel maker. He was always extremely knowledgeable about history and all current and international events. Stoic and self-sufficient, he was an independent person throughout his life. He never complained, and liked things to be very simple - he defined the words "low maintenance" which included choosing to rent a small one bedroom apartment rather than buy a place, he re-used and repaired everything instead of buying something new, never having a microwave, cordless phone, answering machine, cell phone, home internet, newer car, fancy clothes or furniture, etc, - all of which were inconveniences and puzzling to the rest of us, but suited him just fine and was the way he liked things to be. His son-in-law Marty described him as being firmly planted in the Analog Age.
He personified the word humility; arrogance and pretentiousness were simply not part of his being. He gave us the gift of the love and value of education. In fact, he started saving for his childrens' college education before we were even born. As a direct result, his three children and six grandchildren greatly value education, are life-long learners, and hard workers.
Syd traveled extensively throughout his life, making physics presentations all over the world. He spent a great deal of time over the years with his long-time companion, Rosemarie, in Vence, France. Syd loved his family dearly, always a source of great joy for him. Syd is survived by his three children, Seth (and his wife, Carol) of Centennial, CO, Rachel (and her husband, Marty) of Scarsdale, NY, and Debbie (and her husband, Steve) of Englewood, CO; and his six grandchildren, Elijah Geltman, Gabriella and Jackson Susz, and Nathan, David, and Leah Aragon, as well as his former wife, Eve, of Boulder, and his long-time companion, Rosemarie Kahan, of Vence, France. Numerous friends, colleagues, extended family, and tennis partners will remember Syd fondly.
We will all miss Syd very much but are so grateful for his life well-lived and all that he taught each of us. We are very thankful for your expressions of care, and so to honor Syd's practicality, rather than flowers, our desire is that any donations would go to a hospice organization to support death with dignity and comfort.
We will have a memorial gathering and reception following on Sunday, April 13 at 1:00 pm on the 11th floor of the CU Physics building with beautiful panoramic views of the CU campus and all of Boulder. Please share thoughts, memories and condolences at legacy.com/obituaries/dailycamera
Published in The Boulder Daily Camera from Mar. 31 to Apr. 1, 2014