Norman F. Boas, 93

Fri, 08/05/2016 - 9:00am

Norman Francis Boas, MD, of Mystic, Conn., died July 19, 2016 in New London, Conn., at the age of 93. He was born in New York City to Ernst and Helen Boas and spent his childhood years in the city, summering in Wilton, Conn., where his family purchased a home and 80 acres in 1926. Following undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin, he earned his medical degree at Harvard Medical School at age 22. He met the love of his life, Doris Whitehead, while in medical school. They married in 1945. After post graduate training, he served in the United States Public Health Service during the Korean War attaining the rank of Senior Surgeon.

As a member of the Public Health Service, he continued clinical and biochemical research at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland until 1955 when he moved his family to Wilton and entered private practice. He served the Wilton community from 1955 to 1976 where, in addition to providing medical care to his patients, he became chief of rheumatology at Norwalk Hospital, police surgeon, assistant clinical professor of medicine at Yale University, and he served on the first chronic renal dialysis unit in the state of Connecticut. In 1976, he and his wife moved to New London, Conn., where he practiced rheumatology until he retired. Over the course of his career he published numerous scientific books and articles.

He had an abiding belief in the need to give back to his community and and he loved the woods. In 1961, he purchased 43 acres off Boas Lane in Wilton. Fearing that the land might be developed, he convinced the town fathers to purchase the land at his cost to create what became the Wilton Town Forest. He was president of the Wilton Community Park, Inc. and chairman of the first board of trustees of the Wilton YMCA. After moving to Mystic, Conn., in 1976, he joined the Stonington Historical Society. As president, he was instrumental in leading an effort to acquire and restore the Captain Nathaniel B. Palmer House in Stonington. This was the home of the explorer who discovered the Antarctic Continent in 1820. The Palmer House was established as a National Landmark in 1996 and Dr. Boas served as its first director.

Following his retirement from the practice of medicine, he had a long and lively second career studying, researching, and collecting historical documents. He authored numerous books on American history including a reference book on Abraham Lincoln, First Lady Jane Pierce, and a biography of anthropologist Franz Boas, his grandfather.

Dr. Boas grew up amidst the beautiful trees of New England, and wherever he lived he planted trees. He recently visited many of the trees he planted as a boy. Among those is a sequoia tree he planted in view of his living room. The tree is now over 50 feet tall.

The family purchased Innisfail, their summer home, on Block Island in 1967. They spent many hours enjoying the island and building a lifetime of memories. He enjoyed building stonewalls, doing his own home improvements, traveling, clamming on Block Island, and spending time with his family. He will be remembered for his quick wit, generous heart, ethical standards, and the belief in the goodness of mankind.

He is survived by his loving wife of 71 years, Doris Whitehead Boas; daughter Deborah Howarth (Frederick); son, Stephen Boas (Jane Oniki), and daughter, Barbara Boas (Joseph Johnson); grandchildren Jason Howarth, Jessy Howarth (James Murray), Maxwell Boas (Jessamy Davidson), Lauren Roberts, Erika Boas (Kevin Powell), Rachel Brown (Jimmy Brown), Alexander Johnson (Emily Rich), and his sister, Barbara Crutchley. He was blessed with four great-grandchildren and one great-great grandson.

He was buried on Block Island on July 22, 2016. A memorial service will be scheduled for a later date. Contributions in his memory may be made to the Stonington Historical Society ( or American Forests (