Word came through email this afternoon that Mel Wolfberg passed away on Tuesday at about 4:30 A.M. The email from his wife, Linda, circulated by our friend, Jack Runninger noted: “He had a 5th heart attack last week and chose to decline any heroic measures or medical interventions intended to prolong life. He was aware that his life was ending, was not afraid, and remained a jokester to the last hours. His actual passing was swift and peaceful. There will be no service at his request. His remains will be buried at Arlington National Cemetary with honors deserved by a Silver Star, Bronze Medal hero and a great man.”
I first met Dr. Wolfberg when he was appointed as President of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, circa 1976, the year of the bicentennial in Philadelphia. When I finished my Residency and took over as Chief of the Pediatric Unit of the College’s Eye Institute, Mel (as he insisted I call him) would periodically make the rounds, just to stay connected with what was going on clincially. He often asked my opinion regarding matters that Alumni would pepper him about, particularly as related to Pediatric Optometry, Binocular Vision, and Vision Rehabilitation. I always felt a closeness with Mel, even after I was recruited to be Chief of the Vision Therapy Service at SUNY College of Optometry and relocated to New York.
I would often chat with Mel at national meetings, and regardless of the number of months that transpired, it felt as if we had just spoken. He had that knack of making conversations all about you. The photo above is of Mel from the archives of the American Optometric Association, when he was elected to serve as the 48th President of the AOA at their 72nd Congress in 1969. He was one of a select few AOA Presidents who also served as President of the American Academy of Optometry, which he did in the mid 1980s. Mel was always very dapper, with a warm smile that accenuated his stylish eyewear and progressively silver, impeccable hair. He carried himself as a man of importance at all times, but never put on airs. Upon moving to Florida he seemd to acquire a perpetual bronze glow, and even as he aged his voice was always one of calm and reason.
Mel was one of those people I haven’t spoken to in quite some time, simply due to the logistics of life. But his memory will remain near and dear to my heart, as I am certain it will to many others.