Edward I. Selig

Ed Selig: Eulogy, Apr. 12, 2024

By Tersh Boasberg

Hello. My name is Tersh Boasberg. I’ve been a friend of Ed and Renata’s for about 70 years and then, Collin and Diana’s. I knew Ed, first at Yale as a member of the Class of 1956. Then over the years after college, fishing in Nantucket, skiing in New England & Colorado, & at reunions and football weekends.

Ed was a brilliant student: a Rhodes Scholar, Valedictorian of our class, and a Scholar of the House. He was also a swift athlete, a good piano player, and he had a fine a capela bass voice. He also had a wicked sense of humor.

One story he liked to tell was about taking Collin back to see Andover and running into his old football coach. “Selig,” the coach gruffly barked, “Why did you ever fumble the football in the Exeter game?” Of course, Ed didn’t say that as he was racing around end in that game he crashed into Bill Lovejoy, the 6 ft 3, 230 Lb. all-star Exeter tackle who knocked out Ed with a forearm to the mouth; he was carried off the field on a stretcher, leaving a scar down his upper lip which he carried to this day.

Another story Ed liked to tell on himself was that one day, long after college, when he was consulting for EPA. He got a call from a man at the Library of Congress. “Could I please speak to Mr. Edward I. Selig, the speaker asked.” “This is he,” Ed answered. The man went on, “Well, we have a book here about the poetry of the early 17th C English poet, Thomas Carew, called ‘The Flourishing Wreath,’ published by the Yale University Press in 1958.” “Yes” said Ed. The man went on, “but we just received another book by a Mr. Edward I Selig, entitled, ‘Sewage Effluent: Discharge by Sewage Treatment Plants.” Ed softly answered, “It’s by the same man.” What a polymath!

One of Ed’s best practical jokes came at my expense. As I said, I didn’t know Ed well at Yale. Soon after Sally and I moved to Washington, we invited Ed and Renata over to dinner. After a few glasses, Ed turned to me and said in a loud voice, “Tersh, that was a wonderful Class History you gave at our graduation!” My chest puffed up; I knew Ed was smart, but how could he remember what I said 10 years ago? Then he added, “and I’ll never forget the symbolism of the Yale Music box.” How could he have remembered that detail?” At the end of the evening, we said our goodbyes. And I kept murmuring to Sally, god, what a memory Ed has. A few years later Ed could hold his secret no longer, and confessed that the night before our dinner, he had re-read my talk!

Well, my dear friend, we have reached the end of the trail. May you find the wind always at your back. We loved you so.


Obituary

Edward I. Selig, loving husband, father, and grandfather, died on April 8 at age 89, surrounded by his family. A man of great integrity, Ed was noted for his generosity, intellect, and humor.

Ed grew up in Leominster, Mass., the son of Mendell and Mae and the younger brother of Annie. He excelled in academics and athletics at the Fessenden School, Phillips Academy Andover, Yale University, where he studied English literature, and Merton College Oxford, where he studied philosophy as a Rhodes Scholar. He later served those schools with great loyalty. He studied at the Jewish Theological Seminary and earned a law degree at Harvard Law School.

In Washington, D.C., Ed worked at Covington and Burling and then joined the U.S. Justice Department in the Office of Legal Counsel. He then moved back to the Boston area to help run the Council on Law Related Studies at Harvard Law School. That work led to his interest in the emerging field of environmental law, in which he became an early expert. In his practice, he focused on water and air pollution control. One of his proudest achievements was drafting the original Massachusetts Clean Water Act, which went further than federal laws of the time by defining “waters of the state” to include groundwater, thus requiring stricter regulation. Ed also taught environmental law courses at BU and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Ed served on a number of boards, including the Merton College Charitable Corporation and the All Newton Music School. On his retirement from law practice, he became a mediator, volunteered with the Executive Service Corps, and returned to English literature, his first love, leading classes on poetry, short stories, and philosophy for adult learners.

Ed pursued other passions after retirement as well. He took up piano lessons, learned to prepare gourmet meals, and participated in book clubs. Whatever he undertook, he set high standards for himself. Ed also reveled in becoming a grandfather.

Central to Ed’s life were his friendships, many dating to his youth. He and Renata, his beloved wife of nearly 64 years, maintained deep and lifelong connections with classmates and friends, traveling with them over many decades. They hosted numerous guests at their home with hospitality and warmth.

Ed loved poetry, from lyric odes to off-color limericks. He was especially moved by Shakespeare, Yeats, Thomas, Eliot, and Frost, with dozens of poems committed to memory. He was an elegant writer who took great delight in the English language, relishing puns, jokes, word play, and rules of grammar. With great wit, he crafted clever verses to celebrate friends and relatives. He loved classical music, especially works by Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Bach, and Mozart. He cherished laughter and lively conversation over good food and fine wine.

Ed is survived by his wife, Renata; his children, Colin and Diana, and his grandchildren, Anya and Jonah.

Funeral Service will be held on Friday, April 12 at 10:45am at Temple Beth Elohim, 10 Bethel Road, Wellesley, followed by burial at the Newton Cemetery. The family will hold shiva at his late residence on Friday, 1:30-4:00pm and on Sunday, 11-1pm.

As Ed requested, contributions in his memory may be made to the All Newton Music School, 321 Chestnut St., West Newton MA 02465.

For additional information and Livestream link please visit brezniakfd.com.