Dr. Robert Lewis Beilman

Adapted from the Wisconsin State Journal

Dr. Robert Lewis Beilman, age 91, died Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, at his home in Madison. He was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Nov. 8, 1925, to Lewis Beilman and Anna Klein and grew up in Hollis, Queens.

A soldier, doctor, and mental health advocate, Bob lived a disciplined, full life dedicated to the service of others. As a sergeant in the 42nd Rainbow Division during World War II, serving in France, Germany, and Austria, he received the Bronze Star for heroism. After the war, he earned a B.S. from Fordham University in 1949, followed by an M.D. in 1953 from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. In 1957, Bob and his bride, Catherine, moved from New York City to Madison, where they raised their large family in the beloved neighborhood of Woods End.

Bob was a world citizen who visited all seven continents and 45 countries with Catherine by his side, but he was also a leader in his local community. He was one of the original doctors of the Dean Clinic and served as its president; he was also president of the Dane County Medical Society, a member of the Wisconsin State Medical Society Board of Directors, and president of the Urban League of Greater Madison. Bob’s wisdom and leadership was well appreciated by state and national medical organizations: the American Medical Association appointed him to a committee of medical professionals assigned to visit England, evaluate the National Health Services, and determine best practices for application to the U.S. medical system; and the Wisconsin State Medical Society appointed him to three separate legislative commissions on health policy issues.

Bob was also an innovative mental health advocate, and leaves a legacy of truly innumerable lives changed for the better. He was president of the Wisconsin state affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and served twice as president of the Dane County affiliate. After he visited the first U.S. mental health court in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Bob pioneered support for a mental health court in Madison; he also wrote a manual to improve treatment for incarcerated people living with mental illness. Bob worked tirelessly as president of the Madison Housing Initiatives, Inc., to provide affordable, independent homes for those living with mental illness, and served as a committee member and the NAMI liaison for the VA Hospital in Madison, where he was charged with improving mental health conditions for veterans. For his devotion to these causes, Bob was honored with the Madison Rotary Club’s Manfred E. Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award in 2016.

In the midst of his advocacy and professional commitments, Bob somehow also found time to race sailboats at the Mendota Yacht Club, where, as proud skipper of Ultimotion, Fleet Captain for three years, and sometime secretary of the Board of Directors, he patiently trained and captained his devoted crew. A master birdwatcher, he was appointed by the Wisconsin Audubon Society to assist with redesigning Madison sewer ponds to provide a habitat for migrating shore birds. He was a lifelong student of history, especially fascinated by the lives of Teddy Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. He loved to ski with Catherine and his ever-growing family. As a founding member and president of the local Night Owls dance club he took great pleasure in partnering with Catherine on the dance floor.

Bob is survived by three sons, Thomas R. (Diane Dulin) of Salem, Ore., Theodore G. (Judith) of Sarasota, Fla., and Charles E. (Iris) of Valley Stream, N.Y.; two daughters, Patricia M. (David Poor) of New York City, and Mary A. (Saeed Assadi) of Bryan, Texas; seven grandchildren, Joanna, Laura, Andrew, Elizabeth, Benjamin, Taylor, and Emery; and four great-grandchildren, Clara, Neil, Carter and Everett. Bob was united for 60 years of marriage to Catherine Ann Beilman, who predeceased him.

A Memorial Service will be held at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, at CRESS FUNERAL HOME, 3610 Speedway Road, Madison, with the Rev. Diane B. Dulin presiding. A visitation in Bob’s honor will be held from 4 p.m. until the time of the service at the funeral home on Saturday.

Memorials in Bob’s name may be gifted to Housing Initiatives, Inc., of Madison, NAMI of Dane County, or SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Madison. Bob will be missed by the countless friends and family whose lives he touched, and will be remembered for his mischievous sense of humor, his encyclopedic memory, his stoicism, his impeccable style, and his deep respect for everyone he encountered.

Bob Beilman