NISKAYUNA, NEW YORK
Dr. Arnold Ritterband of Niskayuna, NY died on December 14, 2021, at the age of 95.
Family, medicine, and public health activism were the three pillars of Arnold Ritterband’s long, happy life.
Dr. Ritterband found his calling early, following in the footsteps of his favorite uncle, Lou Abelson, an anesthesiologist. He graduated from Townsend Harris High School in Manhattan at 15 and Columbia College at 19. He earned his M.D. from the College of Physicians & Surgeons at Columbia University and did an internship and residencies in medicine, pathology, and neurology as well as a fellowship in rheumatology at several New York City hospitals, launching him into a career in internal medicine in his adopted home of Schenectady. He loved the art and science of internal medicine and took excellent and compassionate care of generations of Schenectadians for 60 years. During WWII, he served in the U.S. Navy as a radar technician on an aircraft carrier.
In addition to his medical practice and work as a clinical professor of medicine at Albany Medical College and a stint as the director of medical education at St. Clare’s Hospital, he immersed himself in numerous other projects and campaigns that made good use of his fiery passion, powers of persuasion, and boundless energy. He was the founder and chair of the Schenectady County Committee on Health Care Issues. Among its accomplishments: increasing the area’s supply of much-needed nursing home beds; helping convince the state to allow Ellis Hospital to perform open-heart surgery; and playing a major role in establishing the Schenectady County Public Health Services, a public health department that addresses critical health care issues that transcend local boundaries.
Dr. Ritterband was also an anti-tobacco crusader in the early days of the movement. His successful campaign to eliminate smoking in Schenectady restaurants earned him the ire of many business owners, although he eventually won over one restaurateur who made sure he had the best table when he visited.
Dr. Ritterband retired from private practice at age 78, but not from medicine. His second act was as the co-medical director, with his lifelong friend Clifford Tepper, MD, of the Schenectady Free Care clinic, which leveraged the talents of retired physicians, nurses, and other volunteers to provide health care annually to 2,500 low-income, uninsured patients. It became a national model and Dr. Ritterband advised other communities on how to start similar programs. He and other clinic leaders kept the shoestring operation running for a decade through lots of advocacy and grassroots fundraising.
Dr. Ritterband will be remembered by those who loved him as endlessly curious; generous with his time and money; a born teacher; an excellent writer; and a dyed-in-the-wool lefty who became even more liberal as he aged. He read voraciously (he would read medical journals at red lights until his kids told him the light had turned green) and cherished the traditions and history of Judaism.
He often talked about how he had lived the luckiest life imaginable, and while his doctoring and activism often took him away from home, it was his wife, children, and grandchildren who made him the happiest. He laughed harder at their jokes than anyone else; asked the probing, interesting questions most people never think to ask; taught a couple of generations how to sail and ride a bike; carried countless grandchildren on his shoulders; hugged often and hard; and dispensed Tic Tacs like there was no tomorrow. His favorite spot in the whole world was a cushioned chair on the deck of his summer home overlooking White Pond in Chatham, MA, next to his beloved Phyllis, reading the New York Times.
He leaves Phyllis, his wife of 64 years, as well as his children, Alan (Beth Altman), Vicki, and David (Corinne Tobin); grandchildren Sara, Lauren, Mollie, Abby, Leah, Gabriel, Julian, and Rebecca; grand-dogs Tucker and Gatsby; and his wonderful aides Rosie and Sunny, who cared for him tenderly in the last years of his life. He was predeceased by his parents, Max and Sara, and siblings Jerome and Gloria.
Services at the Agudat Achim Cemetery Schermerhorn Street in Rotterdam, NY on Thursday, December 16, 2021, at 11:00am.
In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation in his memory to Congregation Agudat Achim (www.agudatachim.com), his spiritual home for most of his adult life.
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