October 23, 2012

Ithaca Town Board Member Called ‘Model’ Public Servant After Death

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After years as an involved community member, Ithaca Town Board member Nahmin Horwitz, 84, died on Oct. 17. Horwitz, a retired physics professor who taught at Syracuse University, served for two years on several of the board’s committees.

“He kept us on our toes in terms of financial issues,” Town Supervisor Herb Engman said. “As a retired physics professor, it’s not surprising that he was kind of a numbers guy.”

Horwitz helped the board finance Ithaca’s fire protection efforts more efficiently, Engman said. In addition to visiting and observing several fire departments in Tompkins County with other board members, Horwitz visited other departments on his own.

“He was an inspiration to a lot of us, working as a volunteer well into his 80s,” Engman said. “It’s an indication that one can have a productive, long life after retirement. Many of us hope to reach his level of involvement — as well as his age.”

Prof. Emeritus Peter Stein, physics, remembers Horwitz’s enthusiasm for government.

Stein, a former Ithaca Town Board member, said he met Horwitz 25 years ago when Cornell sought faculty from other schools to assist in the University’s first experiment with the Cornell Electron Storage Ring. He was friends with Horwitz during the experiment, but they grew closer years later, when Horwitz retired and moved to Ithaca.

“He really liked Ithaca and fully enjoyed getting to know our little town,” Stein said. “We spent a lot of time talking about things that wouldn’t interest other people” — like where waste water goes after passing through the sewer, or how long a street lasts before it cracks, or the cost of running a fire department.

When Stein resigned from his post on the Town Board, he urged Horwitz to pursue the position. Horwitz joined the board, where, Stein said, “we spent a lot of time talking about roads, sidewalks –– mundane things you notice when they’re not there. That’s really what local government is all about.”

Both Stein and Engman said Horwitz was eager to be involved in his community no matter where he lived. Even when he moved to Kendal At Ithaca, a retirement community on North Triphammer Road, “he had a certain intensity” in learning how retirement homes were run, Stein said.

When Engman gave a talk at Kendal, he found that Horwitz was the one setting up the sound system.

“He was a good citizen wherever he lived,” Engman said.

Horwitz was also remembered for his curiosity. Deputy Town Supervisor Bill Goodman, who worked with Horwitz on the board’s Public Works committee, said he was “a very engaged, very intelligent man.”

“He had a lot of good questions about the issues we dealt with on the committee,” he said.

Throughout his life, that inquisitiveness led him to affect many different communities throughout his life, Stein said.

“There was something that characterized him — a calm sense of reason and reasonableness,” Stein said. “I never saw him angry or unwilling to listen to someone else, and he never accepted things he didn’t fully understand. He was the model of a good public servant.”

Original Author: Sarah Cutler