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Wallace M. Shaw dies; physician and filmmaker was 95

Dr. Wallace M. Shaw, born June 21, 1919,

Dr. Wallace M. Shaw, born June 21, 1919, in New York City, died January 2, of peripheral vascular disease, at age 95. Credit: Shaw family

To Dr. Wallace M. Shaw's family, the former Melville resident didn't do a single thing well -- he did everything very well, even hard stuff.

He was not only a physician, but also founding director of anesthesiology of New Island Hospital, now St. Joseph Hospital, in Bethpage. He was not just a filmmaker, but one who took up the hobby later in life and won critical acclaim internationally. He didn't just tinker with gadgets, but he could repair seemingly all things mechanical.

What's more, his dry sense of humor was known to make stern-faced strangers chuckle.

Shaw, who excelled in nearly everything he set his mind to, amassing milestones and accomplishments in disparate fields, died Jan. 2 of peripheral vascular disease.

He was 95.

"Among his talents was that he liked to make other people happy," said son Cary Shaw of Norwalk, Connecticut. "And he liked to be humorous in a variety of ways."

Relatives called Shaw, who was born in Manhattan and raised in Woodside, Queens, a master of all trades and a jack of none.

The son of a homemaker and office manager, Shaw graduated from Newtown High School and then Columbia College in Manhattan, where he earned a bachelor's in 1940. He attended medical school at New York University, graduating in 1943.

He married the former Geraldine Sax in June 1942 and, just after completing his medical internship, enlisted in the Army in World War II, during which he was in charge of anesthesia in a 1,000-bed hospital for American soldiers in England.

After being discharged as a major at the end of the war, he moved to Rego Park, then Flushing, and settled in Holliswood. The couple had three sons and were married until Geraldine Shaw's death in 2003.

Following stints at Horace Harding Hospital in Queens and Prospect Heights Hospital in Brooklyn, he worked at New Island Hospital. He relocated to Melville in 1972 to shorten his commute.

He served as director of anesthesiology at New Island for 36 years. He retired in 1990 and moved to Florida, then to Philadelphia in 2001.

Throughout his career, Shaw published 18 scientific articles and produced six medical motion pictures. For 20 years, he also was assistant clinical professor of anesthesiology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx.

He began filmmaking when he was 40 and was the highest-ranked amateur filmmaker in the Motion Picture Division of the Photographic Society of America. He won awards in competitions in 19 countries, from Cannes to Melbourne. He served as president of the Society of Amateur Cinematographers and Video Makers.

One of Shaw's movies, "The Listmaker," was described in The New York Times in 1989 as "a wonderful film with the richness of an O. Henry short story." A comedy, "The Model Anesthesiologist," was a smash at medical conventions, so much so that a pharmaceutical company offered to pay him for screening rights. He declined, cherishing his amateur status.

He encouraged and taught other filmmakers through Long Island Movie Makers, which honored Shaw, stating "His knowledge of the technology of movie making had few peers."

Shaw also took up sculpting in clay, stone and wood. His sculptures are now family heirlooms.

Shaw is also survived by two other sons, Richard of Los Angeles and James of Philadelphia; a companion, Pearl Novick of Philadelphia; and five grandchildren.

In keeping with Shaw's belief that the time to show appreciation toward someone is while they are living, there will be no funeral or memorial service, his family said.

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