March 17, 1930 – Dec. 14, 2017
Dr. Milton M. Weiser, of Buffalo, a nationally-known researcher and former chairman of the Gastroenterology Department at Buffalo General Medical Center, died Thursday after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 87.
Born in Detroit, the son of impoverished immigrants from eastern Europe, he worked as a factory laborer, an artist and a draftsman as a young man.
He earned a degree in chemistry from Wayne State University, then attended the University of Michigan Medical School. There he met Helen Freedman, a nursing student, while working in the morgue. They were married in 1959, the day after he graduated from medical school.
He was awarded a fellowship in molecular biology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in The Bronx. Later he worked at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and headed the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences.
“Once when I was a kid,” his son, Carl, said, “Pop took me to his office at Mass General and a janitor there riding the elevator with us told me, ‘Your father is a kind and gentle man.’ That stuck with me.”
Dr. Weiser came to Buffalo in 1978 and was a professor of medicine and biochemistry at the University at Buffalo. He also served as head of research at Buffalo General and as a program director for the National Institutes of Health.
A researcher into properties of intestinal cells and membranes, he was author of more than 100 articles and chapters for professional journals and books.
He also helped found the Western New York Chapter of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.
After he retired in 1998, he returned to art, becoming one of the first tenants in the Buffalo Arts Studio in the Tri-Main Center. His oil paintings, which featured images of the Holocaust, the Bible and local industrial landscapes, were featured in several shows, most recently at Hallwalls in 2015.
His reinterpretation of 16th-century German master Matthias Grünewald’s multi-panel Isenheim Altarpiece as a Holocaust commemorative work was featured in the 2012 Dia de los Muertos altars exhibit at El Museo Francisco Oller y Diego Rivera.
He took up sailing in Buffalo, naming his boat “My Funny Valentine,” his and his wife’s favorite song. He became a member of the Buffalo Yacht Club and organized a racing team. The races were usually followed by spaghetti and wine at Santasiero’s restaurant, his son said.
Dr. Weiser and his wife, a docent for Albright- Knox Art Gallery and Burchfield Penney Art Center, were avid supporters of the arts. They traveled extensively to Europe, Israel and South America, and often went to New York City to see the Metropolitan Opera. Despite declining health in recent years, he still attended Metropolitan Opera screenings in local movie theaters.
In addition to his wife and son, survivors include a daughter, Julie; another son, Daniel; a brother, Martin; and five grandchildren.
A celebration of his life will be held next summer.