C. Peter R. Gossels
August 11, 1930 – October 25, 2019
C. Peter R. Gossels, an attorney who practiced law for more than 6 decades and served as the Town Moderator of Wayland for 30 years, died on October 25th from complex health issues.
At the time of his death, Peter Gossels was surrounded by Nancy Lee Gossels, his beloved wife of 61 years, daughters Lisa and Amy, son Daniel and daughter-in-law Jackie. Peter is also survived by his granddaughter Sophia, brother Werner, sister-in-law Elaine, and many nieces and nephews.
Peter was born in Berlin, Germany on August 11, 1930 to Max and Charlotte Gossels. In 1938, Charlotte made the heartrending decision to send Peter and his younger brother Werner to safety in France to escape the violent Nazi-sponsored anti-Semitism that was making it increasingly dangerous for Jews living in Germany. It took a year for Charlotte to obtain visas for her sons from the French Embassy in Berlin. On July 3, 1939, only months before the outbreak of World War II, she saw her 8- and 5-year-old sons off at the train station in Berlin. They were hidden in many locations in France, including the Chateau of Chabannes, a Jewish children’s home administered by the OSE (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants). The 1999 Emmy® Award-winning documentary, The Children of Chabannes, produced and directed by his daughter Lisa Gossels and Dean Wetherell, was inspired by this period in Peter’s life and tells the story of how the people in the tiny French village of Chabannes saved the lives of 400 Jewish refugee children, including the two Gossels boys.
While they received many letters from their mother, Peter and Werner would never see her again. Unable to get the $1,000 necessary for a visa to emigrate to the US, Charlotte was murdered (along with others in the family) in Auschwitz.
The boys arrived in the United States in September 1941, in fulfillment of their personal American dream. Peter attended Boston Latin School before graduating from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. As a survivor of Nazi Germany and a refugee, he felt it was a duty and privilege to serve in the United States Army, as he did from October 1954 until July 1956.
He and Nancy moved to Wayland in 1961. After serving on the Finance Committee between 1966 and 1968 and as Town Counsel for eleven years, Gossels was elected Moderator of the Town of Wayland in 1982. He served as moderator until 2011. During this time, he implemented the first system of electronic voting to be used at New England town meeting.
He was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1955, the U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts in 1957, the U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit in 1957, and the Supreme Court of the United States in 1965. In 1970, he worked with Michael Dukakis to create and enact the first system of no-fault automobile insurance protection in the United States. He began his legal career at Sullivan & Worcester and joined the Boston law firm of Weston Patrick in 1972, where he was still practicing at the time of his death.
Gossels published widely in professional publications including The Boston Bar Journal and Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. He has earned the highest “A.V.” rating from the Martindale Hubbell Law Directory.
As a Jewish refugee who lost so much, Peter believed deeply in the importance of giving back, through philanthropy and being actively involved in public and community service. He was especially proud of his work as co-editor of six Jewish prayer books, including Vetaher Libenu (1980), the first egalitarian prayer book to use non-sexist, inclusive language.
Only weeks before his death, Peter completed Letters from Our Mother, a book he labored on over a year containing the 29 letters his mother Charlotte wrote her two sons after they left Berlin. The book, published by Amazon, is a loving tribute to his mother, who sacrificed so much to save her boys.
Funeral services will be held on Monday, October 28th at 10am at Temple Shir Tikva, 141 Boston Post Road, Wayland, MA. Shiva will observed throughout the week. In lieu of flowers, donations in Peter’s memory may be made to The Gossels Fund for Academic Excellence (c/o the Superintendent of Wayland Schools), CJP and Temple Shir Tikva.
- Temple Service Monday, October 28, 2019
C. Peter R. Gossels
November 17, 2019
Peter was Wayland Town Counsel while I was Wayland Editor of The Town Crier, the local weekly newspaper. I remember him as a kind, gracious, and courtly man who was unfailingly courteous. I am sorry to hear of his passing.
November 6, 2019
Bonny told us Peter and Werner’s story and we saw the film when we rented in her building in the South End. Alice and I send our deepest condolences to the family. What a remarkable gentleman.