OBITUARY

Martin S Willick

July 4, 1933September 3, 2021

Martin S. Willick, father of four, grandfather of seven, and long-time psychiatrist and advocate for the mentally ill, died Sept. 3 from complications of Parkinson’s disease in Bergen County, N.J. He was 88.

Marty grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., where his parents, Polish-Jewish immigrants, owned a grocery store. He met his wife, Nancy, in algebra class at Erasmus Hall high school when he was 15. For their first date, Marty took her to the local movie theater for her 14th birthday.

As an undergraduate at Harvard College, Marty decided he wanted to be a psychiatrist because the field merged scientific rigor with humanistic insight. He graduated from New York University Medical School in 1958 and did his psychiatric residency at Jacobi Medical Center. He opened a private practice, first in New York City and then in Teaneck, N.J., after serving for two years as a psychiatrist in the U.S. Army in Germany.

Trained in psychoanalysis at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, Marty stayed up to date with the literature and adapted his practice with the advent of new approaches and medications—though he maintained the importance of talk-therapy in the treatment of mental illness. He had a singular gift for projecting empathy and making patients feel at ease. He became a lecturer in psychiatry at Columbia Medical School in 1977.

When one of his sons was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the 1980s, Marty turned his attention to that devastating disease, organizing an annual conference at Columbia University designed to support families of schizophrenia patients, attended by hundreds each year. He worked to reduce stigma around schizophrenia, writing and lecturing on his own experience as a parent. He also influenced the way his field understood the disease, and his paper “Psychoanalysis and Schizophrenia: A Cautionary Tale,” published in the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association in 2001, emphasized schizophrenia’s biological roots.

Though he had a full professional practice, Marty’s family was the priority. He made sure to gather his children and grandchildren, scattered across the country, for regular reunions in Teaneck or resorts, and called each of them frequently to check in. After the death of his eldest son, Jeffrey, at age 40 in a car accident in 2000, he and Nancy continued to visit Jeffrey’s wife and three young children in California monthly.

Marty was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan who transferred allegiance to the Mets when the Dodgers defected, and he was invested in his grandchildrens’ athletic pursuits. He was unusually generous with his money and time—an invaluable source of wise advice and reassurance when a child or grandchild (now aged 18 to 28) was struggling or just wanted to talk.

Marty lived a full life, though it was not without hardship, which he weathered with determination and grace, and an overriding concern for the well-being of others. His 67-year marriage with Nancy was a model to all who knew them. He was a source of unwavering leadership to his family. He continued to see patients until the very end of his life, and improved the lives of hundreds of people over his career.

In addition to his wife Nancy, Marty is survived by his children, Gary Willick, Stuart Willick and his wife Jennifer Eden, and Karen Willick; his daughter-in-law Ellen Schneider; and his grandchildren Jason Willick and his wife Sarah, Emily Willick, Julia Willick, Dylan Willick, Rachel Willick, Jacob Burke and Sean Burke.

Services

  • Chapel Service

    Sunday, September 5, 2021

  • Interment

    Sunday, September 5, 2021

  • Shiva

    Sunday, September 5, 2021

Memories

Martin S Willick

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Barbara Gray née Ampolsey

September 16, 2021

Dear Nancy,
So sorry about Marty.
Fond memories at Erasmus. You too were “Joe & Josie Erasmus”
We also married 67 years ago.
No more sorrow.
Sincerely,
Barbara Ampolsey Gray

Herb Sontz

September 15, 2021

Dr. Willick was, literally, a lifesaver.
In addition to being a brilliant and patient practitioner, he was a fountain of empathy.
The world will be a poorer place without him.
With love and sadness,
Marilyn Meyer and Herb Sontz

Kristine Pendy

September 7, 2021

May greatest sympathies to the Willick family during their time of loss. I have had the great honor and pleasure of working with Nancy when I was a new Director in the field of mental health. Many of our colleagues got together at the Willick's home to write a ground breaking housing grant and partner many Agencies together to provide compassionate care to those in need. It is a memory that I cherish and reflect on many times in my career, My best to Nancy and her family as they take this journey together!

Judith Chused

September 6, 2021

Marty was the kindest man. I was a participant in his CAPS psychoanalytic study group, which is where I first met him. Impressive as was his mind, his psychoanalytic knowledge and skill, his warmth, compassion, and capacity for empathy were even more memorable. He was a true healer, not only of his patients but also of his friends, whom he was able to comfort, not with false hopes, but with wise thoughts, loving advice, and clear responses to our questions. I feel blessed to have known Marty and truly will never forget him. Judith Chused

A Former Patient

September 5, 2021

Dear Willick family,
You already know and should take great comfort in what a fine man Dr. Willick was. Please allow me to express my sincere condolences. From my perspective as a former patient, he was kind, attentive and genuine. From the time I first met him about twenty years ago he treated me with respect and dignity. I was feeling as low as one could feel, and he rescued me by his calm, supportive demeanor. By the time we parted I thought of him more as a friend than as a treating physician. I will miss him greatly.
- a former patient

Bennett Simon

September 4, 2021

Dear Nancy,
So many memories and so sad at your loss and the loss for all of us who knew Marty and shared so much with him. Condolences from me and Robbie to you and your family.
Love,
Bennett

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY