Ben Handelsman, M.D.July 31, 1947 – January 20, 2013.
On January 19, 2013, a sunny day in Little Rock, Arkansas, Dr. Ben Handelsman spent 15 hours sitting in his hospital recliner and talking with his sister, Linda, brother, Larry, and nephew, Amiel. From his room at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, he discussed the many people and events that had shaped his productive life, the miracle that has been my life and the miracle that is all our lives.
Ben was finishing his seventh straight week in the hospital fighting an aggressive form of multiple myeloma (a cancer of the bone marrow) and bearing the devastating impact on multiple body organs resulting from his final round of four years of chemotherapy. For everyone who had watched his energy and voice gradually weaken, this last day was a wonder.
At 9 PM, with full control of his faculties, Ben thanked his family and declared: Ive really had a great life. Its my time. He proceeded to exercise his right to receive the sleep and relief from pain that he desired and that his severely deteriorated medical condition required. Minutes later, on his own terms, he left waking consciousness. Early in the morning of January 20th, almost exactly 12 hours later, with the sun again shining into his room, his life peacefully left his body.
Bens unique combination of kindness, friendliness and dry wit touched the lives of his family and friends, his wonderful Ogdensburg, N.Y. office staff and physician colleagues, and his patients. For Ben, a man of humility until the end, this special way of relating to people was not that special at all. It was how every person should treat everyone else.
A member of the Weisinger family of Brooklyn, NY, Ben was grateful for the breadth of knowledge provided by his parents, Thelma and Jack Handelsman. He believed that childhood was not just a time to produce healthy adults. It was also a time worthy of its own pleasures and wonders. Ben grew up in Queens, NY and then New Hyde Park, NY. He attended Great Neck South HS class of 1965. He graduated from the U of Rochester (NY) in 1970 and earned his Medical Degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin in 1974. His graduate training included an internship at Los Angeles County Hospital, residency at the Sepulveda, CA Veterans Administration, and a fellowship in gastroenterology at Cedar Sinai Hospital in L.A. After a stint in Michigan, he moved to Ogdensburg, NY. He and the Ogdensburg community formed a mutually supportive relationship that lasted for over two decades.
In 2012 Ben left Ogdensburg to be closer to his cancer treatment team. He moved into a high rise overlooking the Arkansas River in downtown Little Rock. To the end, he was grateful for his University of Arkansas healthcare teams high level of clinical ability and caring. He was also extremely thankful and felt honored by those in Ogdensburg who came to his aid by travelling to Little Rock to provide him with assistance during some of his chemotherapy courses. He read and kept every card and letter that was sent and knew that he was in a lot of folks hopes and prayers.
Bens final visit to Ogdensburg during a treatment furlough was memorable. He was astounded and gratified by the number of people who attended a luncheon held in his honor that was called on just one days notice. Dr. Michael Seidman remarked there that Ben was one of the giants of the north country. Ben considered this among the greatest compliments he had ever received.
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Ben would wish no flowers, but contributions may be sent in remembrance of Bens life to the Full Medical/Dental Staff, Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center, attention to the Dr. Ben Handelsman Scholarship Award fund. This fund begun last year supports the education of a qualified local high school senior interested in a leading a productive life in a healthcare career.