Dr. Robert Blabey Jr., 61, Was Surgeon, Naturalist

Dr. Robert Groesbeck Blabey Jr. of New Canaan, Conn., and Spring Island, S.C., a former surgeon at Stamford Hospital, died Tuesday, Oct. 8, at Fairfield Manor in Norwalk, Conn.

Dr. Blabey was 61 years old and succumbed after a 16-month battle with frontal temporal lobe dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease).

Known as Bob, Dr. Blabey was a dedicated family man and an enthusiastic naturalist as well as an eminent surgeon. His many interests led him to worldwide travel and into leadership positions in various activities.

He loved the outdoors and was particularly fond of hunting and fishing, pursuing those hobbies in extensive travels around the globe, including summers on Martha's Vineyard. He was also a beekeeper and a golfer, an oenophile and a gourmand; he enjoyed fine cigars and music ranging from opera to country and western.

He and his family had a cottage in Harthaven from 1972 until 1996.

Mr. Blabey was born on Jan. 16, 1941, in Albany, N.Y., one of four sons of Margaret Ellis Blabey, now of Slingerlands, N.Y., and the late Robert Groesbeck Blabey, and spent his childhood in Albany and, during summers, at Thompson's Lake in East Berne, N.Y.

After graduation from Milne School in Albany, he received a bachelor of arts degree with honors in biology from Hamilton College in 1963 and then his medical degree from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1965. His medical training continued in general, pediatric and vascular surgery at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York.

On two occasions, Dr. Blabey and his wife lived and worked in Gbranga, Liberia, where he was resident surgeon at the Phebe Hospital. He also was a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Corps as well as a fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

He started his private practice in Stamford in 1974 and became an attending surgeon at Stamford Hospital and the former St. Joseph's Hospital while also having privileges at Greenwich Hospital.

During his 27 years at Stamford Hospital, he served on the medical board and was associate surgeon-in-chief.

Mr. Blabey was a member of the Fairfield County Medical Association, the Connecticut Medical Association, the Stamford Medical Society and the Connecticut chapter of the American Medical Association. He also was on the risk management committee of the CMIC Insurance Company.

In a comment on Dr. Blabey and his career, the Stamford Hospital Medical Center once wrote that he "was always recognized as a leader in the surgical department. He was a man of stature, a physician's physician and a good friend to many of us. Bob was not afraid to speak out, always championed patients' rights and set high standards in the medical community. He was a frequent anchor at the physicians' lunch table where he would lead medical discussions or regale the table with his hunting and fly-fishing exploits."

In January 1994, BusinessWeek magazine featured Dr. Blabey on its cover and in its lead article, The Hospital - An Inside Look at How One Institution is Struggling to Remake Itself. Later that year, Dr. Blabey was selected as a community surgeon to participate in an NBC broadcast, To Your Health, moderated by Tom Brokaw and featuring Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Mr. Blabey was also a member and former chairman of the board of trustees of New Canaan Country School and was active in alumni affairs at Hamilton College, serving also as chairman of the parents committee there.

In addition, he belonged to the Anglers Club of New York, the Spring Island Club, the Country Club of New Canaan, the Tabunsintac Club of New Brunswick, Canada, and North Pack Lodge, and he was a life member of Trout Unlimited, the National Audubon Society and the Miramichi Salmon Association and a past president of the Verbank Hunting and Fishing Club.

He is survived by his mother, Margaret Ellis Blabey, as well as his wife, Susan Everett Blabey of New Canaan, Conn.; a daughter, Elizabeth Ellis Blabey of New York city; a son, Robert Groesbeck Blabey 3rd, and daughter in law, Kristen Bornemeier Blabey, of New Canaan, and a grandson, Weston Fisk Blabey of New Canaan.

Relatives and friends are invited to attend a memorial service for Dr. Blabey at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, at the New Canaan Congregational Church, 23 Park street, and a gathering in celebration of his life, immediately following, at the Country Club of New Canaan.

Contributions in memory of Dr. Blabey may be made to the Atlantic Salmon Federation, P.O. Box 807, Calais, ME 04619-0807, or to the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer's Disease and the Aging Brain, Attn: Carol R. Tycko, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, 630 West 168th street, P&S Box 16, New York, NY 10032.