Ralph G. Engelsman, a former Madison mayor who was active with many community organizations, died on May 24, 2012, in Amherst, Mass., while attending his 60th Class Reunion at Amherst College.
Engelsman, the borough's mayor from 1988 to 1991, was known for planning for the future, honoring volunteers and reaching a settlement with the state Department of Environmental Protection, according to his obituary. He was 82.
"When I prepared to be mayor here, Ralph was constantly giving me advice," Mayor Bob Conley said during Wednesday's Borough Council meeting. "And I look back on watching him up here and how he was a consensus builder and how he had a great look to the future."
A moment of silence was held in his honor and the mayor asked for flags in the borough to be flown at half-staff on Thursday, June 7.
A memorial cocktail party is scheduled for that day from 4 to 7 p.m. at The Madison Hotel.
Born Feb. 4, 1930, in New York City, Engelsman graduated from the Landon School in 1948 and Amherst College in 1952. He went through Naval OCS and served as a deck officer on the USS Harold J. Ellison for two years. Following in his father’s footsteps, he entered the life insurance business in 1956 with MONY and then Mutual Benefit Life Insurance. In 1972, he established an independent consulting firm, Engelsman Associates, from which he retired in 1998.
Engelsman, a lifelong Democrat, became active in Madison politics in the mid-1960s. He was appointed to the in 1986 and was elected mayor in 1987.
During his tenure, he established a Committee on the 1990s to examine what might be improved and to plan for the future. He also introduced an annual planning meeting and a New Comers Night, and provided medallions to volunteer citizens who served five or more years working for the borough. He was proud of negotiating a settlement with the DEP regarding a Madison-Chatham sewer plant.
Other civic activities included being president of the Green Village School PTO in 1965; serving as chair of the Madison Florham Park Human Relations Council in the late 1960s; serving on the Madison Recreation Committee in the 1970s; service on the Board of Trustees at Cheshire Home and on the . After serving as Mayor, he was Chairperson of Madison’s Downtown Development Commission, and served on the Madison’s Housing Authority for seven and a half years.
For 20 years, he was actively involved on the Board of Morris Tomorrow, working to improve shared services, visioning and diversity questions with that organization. He felt his involvement with Family Service of Morris County was a capstone in his life. He was president of the Board of Managers in 2001-2002, during which time the organization decided to buy property on which a new headquarters was built. He was made an Honorary Manager in 2004.
Engelsman loved playing tennis and platform tennis at the Morristown Field Club, where he was a member for more than 40 years. He was an active Rotarian for 18 years, president of the Madison Club in 1997, and a Paul Harris Fellow. He led Rotary exchange trips to Japan and Brazil. A loyal alum of Amherst College, Engelsman worked on planning reunions and was the primary editor for the Class of 1952’s 50th and 60th reunion books, and served as class president, vice president, secretary, and reunion program chair over the years.
Engelsman was predeceased by his wife Joan LePage Chamberlain who died in 2001 and his brother Alan Engelsman. He is survived by his chum, Sally Epstein; his two sons Marc Engelsman and Daniel Engelsman; Daniel’s wife Susan; and five grandchildren—Robertson, Joshua, Anna, Alison, and Patrick Engelsman.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Family Service of Morris County. In accordance with Engelsman’s wishes, a memorial cocktail party will be held on Thursday, June 7, at , 1 Convent Road Morristown, N.J. from 4 to 7 p.m.