Thomas P. Kugelman was a dermatologist of the old school — a medical dermatologist, not a cosmetic one. His practice, which eventually included his daughter Lisa, concentrated on repairing skin damaged by accident or disease, rather than enhancing beauty.
After hours, Kugelman was a skilled cellist, a historian and author who specialized in early American furniture, and a talented genealogist.
Kugelman, 78, died Aug. 18 of ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease. He lived in Bloomfield.
Kugelman, who was born on Oct. 28, 1934, grew up in Riverdale, N.Y., and graduated from Yale, where he majored in the history of music and played the cello.
At Yale Medical School, he met Alice Kirkpatrick, a student at the Yale School of Music, and they married in 1959. When their three daughters were old enough, the whole family played chamber music concerts.
The Kugelmans moved to Hartford in 1964. As a doctor, Kugelman "had a wonderful assortment of talents which he used in a very gentle way, and yet was very sure of making his point with the patient," said Dr. Al Herzog, a psychiatrist, who persuaded Kugelman to serve as chief of medicine at Hartford Hospital from 1991 to 1993, after Herzog's term.
"He was well respected, but he was never involved in medical politics," Herzog said. "He [was like] the shop steward. He didn't seek [the post] out, but he did a wonderful job."
Soon after arriving in Hartford, Kugelman joined what was then known as the Connecticut String Orchestra — now the Connecticut Valley Chamber Orchestra, where he assumed many roles in addition to cellist. He was the orchestra's librarian, and stored hundreds of scores in his basement, and he also served on the executive committee of the board.
"He had this phenomenal knowledge of repertoires and what pieces would go well in a program," said Ginny Allen, the concertmaster.
Some years ago, Kugelman was the driving force behind the orchestra's tour of Austria and Hungary. Today, Kugelman's daughter Alice and her son, Sam Wiseman, play in the orchestra, which will dedicate a piece to Kugelman on Nov. 10.
Kugelman was an albino who had poor vision, and needed special glasses, like small binoculars, with which to read music. His glasses gave him a somewhat unusual look, "but he overcame that to satisfy his love of music," Allen said.
A honeymoon trip sparked Kugelman's interest in antiques.
"Mom gave us a tour of Winterthur," said Alice, referring to the DuPont museum of decorative arts in Wilmington, Del. "He spied the chairs, and was captured by the Queen Anne and the Chippendale styles and how they evolved."
The Kugelmans would get in the car each Wednesday and visit antique dealers, collectors and museums in a systematic effort to learn more about 17th and 18th century furniture. They started with the idea that they knew nothing. "Let's look and observe everything we can that's germane," Alice said.
They carried with them a 12-page form to annotate everything about a particular piece. Kugelman began to read probate records that described the furniture owned by individuals at their deaths, and became an expert genealogist. With these techniques, plus an eye for tiny details in each table or chair, "Tom's brain was working to connect the dots," said Alice.
After many years of research, they wrote "Connecticut Valley Furniture by Eliphalet Chapin and his Contemporaries," published in 2005 by the Connecticut Historical Society.
Kugelman owned a monumental 18th century cherry desk with an attached bookcase that was 9 feet tall, and wanted to discover its first owner. He found one name and two sets of initials probably carved by apprentices, in places that were largely invisible.
"He knew from the design that it came from Chapin's shop," said Richard Malley, head of research and collections at the historical society, but the owner was still a mystery.
Research showed that a resident of East Windsor owned the piece, but Kugelman had to figure out who had been wealthy enough at that time to own enough books to fill the bookcase — and have a ceiling over 9 feet tall. Probate records that detailed property owned at death led them to a John Watson as the owner.
"It was pretty amazing," said Malley.
More recently, Kugelman was able to help his daughter, Margi Hofer, who is a curator at the New York Historical Society, learn the names of several donors of silver from the initials engraved on them from his probate research. "The maker was elusive; the owner was elusive," Hofer said. "He was able to fill out those stories."
Kugelman served as a board member of the Connecticut Historical Society from the 1970s on, and was chairman of the collections committee.
In addition to his wife and his daughters Lisa and Margi, Kugelman is survived by another daughter, Karen Parullo, and eight grandchildren.
"He was an enormous asset because he had really high standards and understood how things worked [at the museum]" said Kate Steinway, the former executive director of the Connecticut Historical Society. "He was a thoughtful, careful person who could give great advice."