Obituary of Eugene Zeltmann
Eugene William Zeltmann, age 77, passed away peacefully with his loving family by his side on Saturday, February 24, 2018 after a heroic battle with acute myeloid leukemia.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Gene attended Lindblom High School. He was a paperboy and was also active in Boy Scouts, achieving rank of Eagle Scout. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Beloit College with a Bachelors degree in Chemistry and a minor in Political Science, he went on to attend The Johns Hopkins University, where he obtained a Master of Arts degree and Doctorate in Physical Chemistry.
Gene was a force to be reckoned with upon graduation and enjoyed a long, successful career. From 1970 to 1971, he served as the New York State Alfred Smith Fellow to New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) Chairman Joseph C. Swidler, concentrating on environmental and energy regulation. Prior to that time, he was a radio chemist with the Knolls Atomic Power Lab in Schenectady.
Gene had more than 25 years experience as an executive with General Electric. He served in many senior management positions related to energy, environment, international trade, market development and communications programs, and operational planning.
After his successful career at GE, he returned to the PSC in 1995 after being appointed by Governor George E. Pataki to serve as Commissioner; he was subsequently named Deputy Chairman in 1996. In 1997, he began his role as President and Chief Operating Officer of the New York Power Authority (NYPA), assuming the position of President and CEO of NYPA in 2002, a role in which he served until his retirement in February 2006.
Retirement did not stop Gene, however. He served as an active member of numerous civic and educational organizations and boards both during his career as well as in retirement, including (but not limited to) the Mid-Continent Independent System Operator (MISO), WMHT (pubic radio and television station in Albany, NY), Ellis Hospital Foundation, Beloit College, Boys and Girls Clubs of Schenectady, Schenectady Symphony Orchestra, Albany Pro Musica, Albany Chamber of Commerce, the Advisory Board to the Johns Hopkins School of Arts and Sciences, the Advisory Board to the Wild Center of the Adirondacks, and the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. He was able to positively impact many lives through his many years of community outreach.
While Gene clearly accomplished much in the business realm over the course of his career, in his mind his biggest life success was his family. He was the best husband, father, grandfather (Papa), and friend imaginable. Everything else paled in comparison to the importance of his family and friends, and he was beloved by so, so many people. Gene had a heart bigger than the great
outdoors. He was generous and kind, honest and selfless. Gene always did the right thing and was full of integrity. He was extremely bright and well-respected, while at the same time unassuming and approachable. On many occasions he has been described as “brilliant” when in his own mind, he was anything but; he was always working to be even better. He was witty and fun, and all who knew him enjoyed him immensely.
Many who knew Gene know of his passion for Lake Placid and the Adirondacks, as well as his love of hiking; he summited 23 of the 46 High Peaks in the Adirondacks. His love for trains was well-known and many friends can attest to retiring from a delicious dinner down to the basement, where he would proudly operate his extensive train set. Gene was a master chocolate chip cookie baker as well as waffle maker extraordinaire. He happily cooked and baked while hosting many friends and family at his home in Lake Placid, his “happy place.” Gene absolutely adored his three grandchildren and saw them every chance he had. He loved baseball and could not be stumped when it came to knowing every rule and regulation there was in the sport. Gene enjoyed traveling all over the world as well as sticking close to home, spending time with his family and enjoying an engaging and active social life with his many friends. Gene never met a social event he didn’t like and simply enjoyed interacting with new and older friends alike, always looking for opportunities to learn new things and hear about what was happening in his friends’ lives. Along those lines, Gene was a member of many groups and clubs, including Whiteface Club (Lake Placid), 50 Group, Langmuir Group, and the Mill Reef Club in Antigua. He was active in the First Reformed Church in Schenectady, which he attended for 50+ years, serving on the Consistory as well as in the role of Senior Elder.
Gene will be deeply missed by those who knew him. In addition to his devoted wife of almost 44 years, Susan Craig Zeltmann, Gene is survived by his daughter Laura Zeltmann Smith of Niskayuna, New York; son John Craig (Rebecca) Zeltmann of Madison, NJ; beloved grandchildren Grant Smith, Ben Zeltmann and Abby Zeltmann, and sister Mary L. Zeltmann of Chicago, IL. He is also survived by many close friends and loved ones. He was predeceased by his loving parents, Eugene Charles and Ruth Zeltmann.
A heartfelt thank you to all who cared for Gene during his illness, with a special thank you to the staff at Ellis Hospital, the Albany Medical Center ICU, NYOH – Clifton Park, and Jim Hurley, Kamatch, Rikhi, and Sheryl at Home Instead.
A memorial service will be planned for sometime in the spring. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (www.lls.org), or to the charity of your choice.