Dr. Arnold Geiger — “Cap”, Pop, and “The Fish Doctor” — of Chilmark died on Friday, January 17, at dusk. He lived a rich and full 95 years and five months. He was predeceased by his loving wife, Ruth Geiger.
Arnold was born August 11, 1918, in New York City to Ervin J. and Celia Geiger. He and brother Morton were raised in the Bronx, New York. Arnold attended New York University, and then the University of Pennsylvania College of Dentistry. Following a Surgical Internship at Harlem Hospital in 1941, Arnold embarked on a life-long career in dentistry. In 1950 he began a private orthodontic practice in Manhattan and Port Chester, N.Y., finally retiring in 1995. Along the way, he taught dentistry at Columbia University, gave lectures at various institutions including Howard University, was active in dental and orthodontic associations on the state and national level, and co-authored a textbook, “Minor Tooth Movement in General Practice,” which was required reading at universities and translated into six languages. Arnold also served on the ethics committee of the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, bringing his professional knowledge, intellect, and compassion to the complexities of health care. Over a career that spanned 45 years, Arnold improved the lives and smiles of countless patients.
That was the professional side of “Pop.” The other side was a crusty fisherman, at home on his beloved boat, Noe-pe, in pursuit of stripers, blues, fluke, and lobster — earning the nickname “Fish Doctor” from his fellow fishermen. He and Ruth first brought the family to Martha’s Vineyard in 1961 for a two-week holiday; it immediately became a second home. As much as Dad loved fishing and his boat, Ruth preferred gardening in the rich earth of the Vineyard. Dad became quite the gardener himself, as these things tend to go. I’ll always admire my father for the ease with which he wore this duality: medical professional in New York, and man of the land and sea on the Vineyard. Arnold was a devoted family man and husband. Even alone on his boat, surrounded by only sun, wind and ocean, he would smilingly receive a radio hail from Ruth — just checking that he was well and the fish were biting.
When Dad retired, he and Mom settled on the Island full time. Arnold was a lifelong campaigner against racial, gender, and class prejudice, and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. He loved music and the performing arts, Mexican painting and sculpture, and his many friends. Arnold also loved his dogs — a golden retriever was always a constant companion.
Pop was and still is an amazing man. He was charming and warm; universally admired by people he met. He was also calm and logical — a reassuring presence for his patients, and a source of sound advice for his family as we navigated the storms of life. With his quiet intelligence, high standards, and unwavering ethics, he has always been — and always will be — the family’s moral compass. He gave generously to his children and took great pleasure in helping them at work or play, even as he expected them to always strive to be their best.
Dr. Geiger was a gentleman, a prince among men. His wish for his children was simple, but profound — a long and happy life. He led by example.
Arnold is survived by his children Julie Geiger; William and his wife, Donna, and their daughters, AJ and Stephanie; David Nathanson and his wife, Kathy McKeough, and their son, Samuel; and Adam Geiger and his wife, Colette Beaudry, and their sons, Addison and Aidan. All of us owe a special thanks to Sheryl Enos, CNA, who cared for Dad with professionalism, love, and compassion in his final months.
Donations may be made in his memory to Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard, PO Box 1748, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568, or online at www.hospice.vineyard.net.