Sheldon H. Elsen, died peacefully in his sleep on Friday, March 27 – just shy of his 92d birthday. He had Parkinson’s Disease.
Sheldon grew up in Pittsburgh, was co-valedictorian of his class at Taylor Allderdice High School, and attended Princeton University on a scholarship. He earned a Master’s Degree in sociology from Harvard as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and then enlisted in the Army during the Korean War. He was assigned to Army Intelligence and stationed in Berlin, where he and his new wife, Gerri Sharfman Elsen, very much enjoyed living for three years.
When they returned, he enrolled at Harvard Law School on the GI bill, and then began a long and successful career as a lawyer in New York City. He was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, and then entered private practice. He and friends started a litigation firm that ultimately became Orans, Elsen, Lupert, and Brown. He was an adjunct law professor at Columbia for 50 years, and was active in the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, the American Law Institute, and the American College of Trial Lawyers.
Among many career highlights, he was Chief Counsel of the New York State Moreland Act Commission on the Urban Development Corporation, during the city’s fiscal crisis. He wrote influential law review articles and argued successfully in a precedent-setting perjury case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
He lived in Scarsdale for the last 50 years.
Sheldon loved learning throughout his life. He mastered seven languages and read constantly, often in French and German. He loved The New York Times and Der Spiegel, opera, the New York Film Festival, and his home on Martha’s Vineyard.
He loved his friends and family, and they loved him.
His wife, Gerri, died in 2009. He is survived by his children, Susan Elsen (Charles Rooney) and Jonathan (Ellen Hogan Elsen), and five grandchildren – Michael Elsen-Rooney, Daniel Elsen-Rooney, Maggie Elsen, Ben Elsen, and Becca Elsen.
There was a small family burial at the Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla on Sunday. A memorial service will be held at a later date.
Donations can be made to the City Bar Justice Center, a program of the NYC Bar Association responding to the Coronavirus crisis, at: 42 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036
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