Our Community lost a great man in 2020 – Dr. Morris Shelanski
by Brian Coll
Sadly, I have wanted to write this for a few months and always found myself tripping over the words. Despite our age difference, I would like to think that I can call him an old friend. Morris was a customer of mine and my dads frame shop in Conshohocken. He was one of our first customers at our old address and he quickly became one of our favorites. He would walk in with a smile and a calmness to him. Personally, he pushed my design capability and I will always thank him for that and be very grateful. He was so kind, while he was always the smartest person in the room, he had a way of getting you to think through a problem yourself, so that if he wasn’t around next time, you could come to the better conclusion on your own.
In the official obituary which is listed below, it talks about how ahead of the times he was as well as his company located in Conshohocken – Product Investigations INC, it doesn’t mention the art gallery he had for a few years above (the Lab). It was there that he brought famed artist Peter Max to Conshohocken among other notable artists. And it doesn’t talk about his sense of humor. One of my go to stories comes from him, and in text it won’t be as funny, so if you ever want to hear it, ask me about my friend Morris and the time the Pope came to America. I won’t have the same reflection as him when I tell it, but it has been with me for years and years now. Truly, one of the best things I have ever heard.
Morris, to your family, I am sorry. I know they are missing you. You were a special person who made the world a better place, for all.
MORRIS V., M.D.,Called “Doc” by many, passed away peacefully at home in Wynnewood, PA, the morning of 23 July 2020. He lived a long and fruitful life and he leaves us one month shy of 99 years of age. The son of Lithuanian immigrants, Dr. Shelanski grew up poor in South Philadelphia with a childhood that nurtured his exceptional intellect and intense curiosity. He earned an academic scholarship to Harvard College, then later his M.D. and Master Surgeon degrees from McGill Univer-sity. He began his professional career as a surgeon at Philadelphia General Hospital, where he met, and later married the love of his life, Rita, a registered nurse. They were married for 65 years.
Dr. Shelanski served in the United States Naval Reserve as a doctor doing special research in chemical warfare protection, for both the Army and Navy, and promoted to Lieutenant Commander. After the Navy he worked with his brother, Herman, at Industrial Toxicol-ogy Laboratories in Philadelphia, and both were among the nation’s first toxicologists. Together they invented Povidone- Iodine, commonly known as Betadine, an iodine-based anti-bacterial liquid, in use now since 1953 in hospitals and clinics throughout the world as a pre- and post-surgical wash. This has helped save millions of lives. He started his own company, Product Investigations, Inc., testing many chemicals, substances and cosmetics for safety and efficiency for both the government and commercial marketplace.
While at Harvard, he took coursework in archeology and ancient civilizations that kindled his passion for classical art and antiquities. Dr. Shelanski amassed a much-admired collection over 40 years and was well known at antique stores from Philadel-phia to Boston. His passion for collecting was tempered only by Rita, and he often had one of his children sneak the latest painting or Chinese vase into a closet in the house, lest he be caught and have to face her wrath.
He was a true Renaissance man in terms of his talent for calligraphy, his multiple patents for “ahead-of-their-time” technical medical devices, his expertise and unwavering devotion to the Sunday New York Times Crossword Puzzle, and for his love of classical music and high-end, high-fidelity stereo equipment.
Above all else, Morris Shelanski was a deeply kind and generous man who loved his large family. Nothing made him happier than to have them all together for Shabbat dinners, where he would hold court afterwards for hours telling jokes and hilarious stories.
He leaves his much-adored wife Rita, his 5 children, Joseph (Sharon), Herman (Patty), Samuel, Anne (John Dougherty) and Stephan. His legacy also includes 12 beloved grand-children and 2 great-grand-children in a long, happy life guided by the ethics and morals of Judaism. The world is a better place because of him, and he will be greatly missed.