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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 12, 2009

Public servant dies of cancer
Dubowsky gave the down-and-out a second chance

GUILDERLAND — Hy Dubowsky, a public servant with a passion for helping those in need, died on Sunday, March 8, 2009, at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany. He was 58.

His wife and three children were with him when he died and had supported him as he optimistically pursued difficult treatments over the last year for a rare and aggressive form of cancer, anaplastic T-cell lymphoma.

A member of the Guilderland School Board, Dr. Dubowsky was involved in a wide range of youth activities, coaching sports for his children, organizing events for the Guilderland Elks, and helping local Boy Scouts as both of his sons — like their father before them — earned the rank of Eagle Scout.

Dr. Dubowsky was raised in Brooklyn and graduated from James Madison High School there. He went on to earn five academic degrees: a bachelor’s degree in political science from City University; a master’s degree in urban studies, also from City University; two master’s degrees from New York University — one in public administration and finance, and the other in philosophy; and a doctor of philosophy degree in finance, policy, and organization from NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service.

He was particularly proud of his Ph.D.

“When me and my mom went to do the death certificate,” said his oldest child, Eric, “we said, ‘You’ve got to put Ph.D. on there.’ He worked so hard for it; it took him over a decade since he was working at the same time.”

Dr. Dubowsky began his career as budget examiner for the state, and moved on to serve on the state’s Financial Control Board, leaving the board in 1987 as chief budget analyst. He went on to become the director of Fiscal Studies for the New York City Council Finance Division and then became assistant comptroller for the New York City Office of the Comptroller.

In 1991, he and his family moved to the Capital Region where he served as the director of research for the New York State Senate Committee on Taxation. Dr. Dubowsky had said he and his wife chose to settle in Guilderland because of the schools.

From 1991 until his death, he worked for the state’s Department of Labor. He was the director of the Economic Development and Business Services unit within the Division of Employment and Workforce Solutions.

“He worked up until last Wednesday, writing memos for the state,” said his son. “On Thursday, he was put on a respirator. One of his co-workers came in with his last memo he was editing.”

As part of his job, Dr. Dubowsky oversaw economic development programs that gave tax relief to companies that hired workers who might otherwise be considered undesirable, said his son. “A normal employer wouldn’t hire them,” he said. “A lot of people got a second chance that way. They got a chance to better themselves.”

Dr. Dubowsky testified about the programs before the Unites States Senate Finance Committee and also before the Joint Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

At the time of his death, Dr. Dubowsky was working on a draft proposal for federal legislation that would supply low-income individuals with vouchers to upgrade their skills in education and training programs.

Eric Dubowsky described his father as “very gregarious” and said, “He loved talking to everyone...He’d talk to the Price Chopper cashier until we said, ‘OK, Dad, it’s time to leave.’ He loved meeting people, hearing their stories.”

Being a Boy Scout was central to Dr. Dubowsky’s life. He earned the rank of Eagle Scout and saw that his sons did, too.

In fact, all seven of the Scouts in Eric’s Eagle Patrol earned the top rank.

“He made sure every one of us got our Eagle Scout,” said Eric.

“His best friends to this day are from Boy Scouts,” said his son.

In 1998, when Eric was 17, the two of them made the journey to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. They decided to take the hardest trek there — 11 days and 150 miles, including scaling Mount Baldy, the second highest peak in the Cimarron Range at 12,441 feet.

“They don’t offer it anymore,” he said of the arduous hike.

Eric recalls how, when the going was rough at first, and his spirits flagged, his father encouraged him. “By the sixth day, his knees gave out,” recalled Eric. They were given the option to be taken out by helicopter. “I took all of his stuff, his tent, his gear, so we could finish together,” said Eric. And they did.

Dr. Dubowsky went back to Philmont six years later with his younger son, Ryan.

Dr. Dubowsky and his wife, Carol Kaelin, a former Altamont Enterprise reporter, shared a liberal political philosophy and worked to achieve their ideals, frequently being involved in election campaigns. Dr. Dubowsky was the president of the Hudson-Mohawk Region chapter of Democracy for America, the grassroots political organization founded by Howard Dean. This past fall, despite Dr. Dubowsky’s cancer, the couple traveled to Ohio, a swing state, to campaign for Barack Obama.

“They loved watching MSNBC together and talking politics,” said Eric.

Eric Dubowsky described his father as “a very wild individual,” explaining, “He came right to the edge of being socially unacceptable yet fit in real well.”

Dr. Dubowsky’s presentations at state conferences were legendary, he said. “One time he got up there in a gorilla suit. He loved using a sock puppet. He would wake up a dead room and get his point across. He really hit the spot.”

Dr. Dubowsky’s enthusiasm never flagged, even after his cancer diagnosis in January of 2008. “Even at the end, he was always very energized,” said his son.

His son went on, “He was always very well prepared. He got that from the Boy Scouts...He remembered everything.”

What his father valued most, Eric Dubowsky said, were his family and his friends. “He didn’t put value in physical possessions,” said Eric. Indeed, Dr. Dubowsky used to make frequent references to his long-on-mileage used cars.

“Me and my mom cleaned out his office today,” Eric said on Monday evening. “There were pictures of the family everywhere...He really valued his relationships.”

He concluded, “People keep calling up to say, ‘Your father is a great man. He really helped me out.’”


Hy Dubowsky is survived by his wife, Carol Kaelin, and their children, Meg Dubowsky and Ryan Dubowsky — all of Guilderland — and their son and daughter-in-law, Eric and Sarah Dubowsky of North Arlington, N.J.

He is also survived by his mother, Doris Dubowsky, and his sister and brother-in-law, Debbie and David Bernstein — all of Livingston, N.J.

A memorial session will be held on Saturday, March 21, at 10 a.m. in the auditorium of Guilderland High School, located at 8 School Road in Guilderland Center.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

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