Benjamin Gitlow of Wellfleet died at his winter home in Bethesda, Md. on Dec. 6, 2023. The cause was congestive heart failure. He was 97.
The son of Benjamin and Badana Gitlow, Ben was born on July 18, 1926 and grew up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. He attended the now defunct Walden School, where he met his future wife, Joan. He was “a very smart guy, interested in science,” said Joan. “He also played basketball.”
World War II disrupted Ben’s high school years. On an accelerated track, he graduated in three years and then entered officers’ candidate school for the Navy and earned his commission. He served as an executive officer on a ship dispatched to the Pacific at the war’s end.
Ben and Joan married in 1947. With help from the G.I. Bill, he earned a physics degree at Brown University in 1950. He later received his master’s in physics from Trinity College in Hartford.
Ben started his career at Sikorsky Aircraft in Groton, Conn., specializing in fuel cells. He moved to Combustion Engineering in Windsor, Conn. and later worked in the Power Systems Division of United Technologies, from which he took early retirement in 1982.
He was project manager for the fuel cells that powered the NASA space shuttle and Apollo missions. “He would go to Houston to watch the launches,” said Joan. He was also project manager for fuel cells for Navy operations, with an emphasis on powering submersibles.
Ben and Joan first vacationed in Wellfleet in 1957, “and we fell in love with the place,” Joan said. Ben loved everything about it — the ocean, the natural beauty, the culture, the people, and the charm of the town. “We played tennis and swam together for 76 years,” Joan said.
In 1976, they bought a year-round house near Lieutenant Island, and from 1982 through 2002 Ben devoted himself to town affairs, volunteering on many boards and committees and chairing the planning board. During those years, he helped develop plans for the town water system and the relocation of the Post Office.
Ben loved to spend time with his wife, daughter, and grandchildren at Newcomb Hollow Beach. “We spent a million hours at Newcomb Hollow body surfing,” Joan said. “We had a wonderful time before we knew about sharks.”
Ben is survived by his wife, Joan Gitlow, of Bethesda and Wellfleet; daughter Kate Bramante and husband Monty Smith of Bethesda; granddaughter Niki Bramante and husband David Moyer of Washington, D.C.; and granddaughter Ellie Andiorio of Santa Monica, Calif.
He was predeceased by daughter Anne Andiorio.
A memorial gathering is being planned for this summer.