An homage to a great humanitarian

Farewell to a friend

Harry I. Zeltzer, OD, DOS, FAAO, FVI

Executive Director Emeritus VOSH/International


It is with great sadness that we communicate the passing of Harry I. Zeltzer, OD, DOS, FAAO, FVI. Harry represented the ideals and values that VOSH/International stands for and has and will continue to be a source of inspiration to make quality eye health accessible by all.

The VOSH/International family feels proud to have counted with Harry’s leadership, expertise and commitment throughout the years. Since 1997 when he joined the Board of directors to 2001 when he became President of VOSH/International he promoted organizational changes and innovation in our operations that we continue to benefit from. In 2008 he was awarded the VOSH/International Lifetime Achievement Award. The award, now in his name, is conferred to other VOSH humanitarians, following in Harry’s footsteps.

For those who knew him personally, Harry will be remembered as a humanitarian full of energy, ideas and initiatives. He kept a very special place in his heart for VOSH/International. From the first time he joined an eye care VOSH clinic, his commitment to share his professional skills continued taking him to participate in a multitude of clinics around the world and in the US. Harry volunteered for month-long clinics in order to reach those most in need often in very remote locations. His wife Joan Richards became an active partner in all this work and a constant supporter of Harry’s initiatives

Harry was also a visionary and the best ambassador VOSH/International could have wished for. The growth and change that the organisation has experienced, it is in a big extent due to Harry’s constant awareness raising about VOSH/International, its chapters and work. Under his Presidency (2001-2003) he grew our membership, profile, financial stability and partnership building; all focused on building capacity so we can reach more people in need.

Harry and V/I President Ruth McAndrews, OD Honoring Al Rosenbloom, OD in Tampa, 2007

In 2003, Harry accepted to become the first volunteer Executive Director of VOSH/International and until 2013 he represented, advised and mentored several generations of VOSH members. From 2013, Harry has been our Executive Director Emeritus. Without a doubt Harry made all the difference.

Harry made many friends within VOSH and the global eye health sector. He will be remembered for his kindness, gentle nature, strong commitment and leadership. He treated everyone with respect and dignity all the times everywhere.

We thank Harry for all he did for VOSH/International and commit ourselves to continue his example. Our deepest condolences go to Joan, Harry’s lifetime soulmate, family and friends.

To view Harry’s obituary, please click here

Harry showed compassion and professionalism to patients and colleagues everywhere

We have opened up a guest book here for visitors to share their thoughts and memories of Harry with others.

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19 entries.
Greg Pearl Greg Pearl from Hermosa Beach wrote on September 7, 2020 at 9:20 pm
VOSH became so much of what it is today under the guidance of Harry Zeltzer, as it's tireless Executive Director. Harry inspired each new Board member to do their best for VOSH and we know he truly enjoyed guiding and serving the development of our beloved organization. He was such a compassionate humanitarian, an interested learner and a sweet soul. We shall all miss him.
Dr. Younis Doudin Dr. Younis Doudin from EMCO President wrote on August 21, 2020 at 2:38 pm
EMCO is deeply saddened with the news of the loss of the former VOSH President. We send our condolences to the current President and members.
Ellis Potter Ellis Potter from Kansas wrote on August 20, 2020 at 11:04 pm
I'm at a lost for words to describe my feelings from the loss of our fellow VOSHER, Dr. Harry Zeltzer. All through my VOSH voyage, Harry, was a constant: my mentor, advisor, counselor, fellow travel, host and friend. No one had the passion he exhibited for VOSH; his love for VOSH was unparalleled. His was a shining example of life time achievement and the award we give to others is a great tribute to him. No one can do more than he DID. We miss him already.
Bina Patel Bina Patel from Boston wrote on August 19, 2020 at 10:54 pm
The Northeast chapter -VOSH-ONE- have meetings twice a year. In November 2019, we decided to have the meeting at a pub in Ipswich - in his home town. We were so fortunate to have his wife and him join the meeting. That will be a treasured memory. Harry was a gentle soul and had a keen interest in knowing what made us tick. He saw the good in us and encouraged us in many ways, to do more and provide to mankind. He introduced me to the board of VOSH International, and was very supportive that I accompanied students on the humanitarian trips. He had a friendly smile and is someone you can never forget. He lived a full life with so many accomplishments and leaves a legacy. He will be truly missed.
Ruth S McAndrews, OD, FVI Ruth S McAndrews, OD, FVI from Davenport wrote on August 19, 2020 at 8:17 pm
It was indeed a privilege to have served with Harry and VOSH/International. After going to Ghana with Dale, he was relentless in filling a container with optical equipment and getting it shipped to support optometric education there. Harry was a friend, colleague, and mentor who had an uncanny ability to pull me way beyond my comfort zone. He was always looking for a new way to promote awareness of the need for vision care throughout the world. One of his gifts was to be an astute listener who connected with people and then invited them to join in his cause. He will be deeply missed, but his love and dedication will always be remembered.
Ann Edmonds Ann Edmonds from Portland, OR wrote on August 19, 2020 at 6:32 pm
Harry was my mentor and very dear friend. Harry and I took our first VOSH trip together in March of 1987 to Choco, Colombia. Harry was upset that his wife Joan was in Afghanistan working as a nurse. He thought it was dangerous and decided that he would go to Colombia with the new NECO students and have a dangerous adventure of his own! Jordan Kassalow was our organizer and it was the first trip for all of us. Harry and I had many more trips together over our next 33 years together. We shared a love of Optometry, VOSH, Sailing and many other things. He just celebrated his 91st Birthday on July 3rd and truly lived a very full and remarkable life.
Tracy Matchinski, OD, FAAO, FVI Tracy Matchinski, OD, FAAO, FVI from Chicago, Illinois wrote on August 19, 2020 at 5:55 pm
Dr. Harry Zeltzer was a kind, dedicated and thoughtful person. He always took time and effort to support and motivate everyone he came into contact with. His insight and guidance has helped VOSH/International to develop and expand its reach and provide the care that is needed by so many. He has left quite a legacy in VOSH. As he always wrote: Yours in VOSH, Harry. Tracy
Mel Muchnik, Ph.D., FVI Mel Muchnik, Ph.D., FVI from Olympia Fields, Illinois (Chicago area) wrote on August 18, 2020 at 6:08 pm
When I was appointed to the VOSH/International Board as a communications specialist, I happened to be in France. The person I contacted on Facetime video to learn more about VOSH (I had been on a few missions) was Harry ay his home in Massachusetts.. He introduced me to his dog, And so much more. We were in contact frequently. And we roomed together at one annual VOSH meeting. His mentorship, wisdom, love for so many things flowed from him like a stream . I loved Harry. He was and will always be an inspiration to me in so many many ways.
Ellen Weiss Ellen Weiss from Omaha wrote on August 18, 2020 at 4:43 pm
Harry was a wonderful mentor to me while I served on the board of V/I. I especially appreciated his guidance as I moved into the presidency. His depth of knowledge due to his many years serving as the exec of V/I made him a great resource to tap into. He always provided me great guidance and feedback, while letting me lead. Outside of VOSH, Harry was a talented artist and I enjoyed our conversations about non-VOSH related topics.
Victoria Molnar Weiss, OD, FVAO, FVI Victoria Molnar Weiss, OD, FVAO, FVI from Charlottesville, Virginia wrote on August 18, 2020 at 3:35 pm
Harry will always have a special place in my heart and I will carry his mentorship with me for my entire life. Dr. Zeltzer encouraged and helped inspire me to establish the VOSH-Virginia chapter of VOSH/International in 2002. I was fortunate enough to have him work with us in several clinics in Virginia.I remember walking alongside him in the early mornings of a clinic chatting about growing membership and ideas of providing vision care to those in need in the U.S. and around the world.With his enthusiasm he helped to bring VOSH/International to a much expanded and visible non-profit for Vision in the world community. Luckily I was able to "chat" with him during the recent VOSH/International midyear zoom conference!Thank you Dr. Harry Zeltzer.
Charlie Covington Charlie Covington from Lake Mary, FL wrote on August 18, 2020 at 3:22 pm
I had the privilege to work with Harry when I was Treasurer and even had the privilege of staying with Joan and him in Ipswich where I got to sleep in my very first feather bed. In addition to everything else, he sold antiques and his house was a veritable museum of antiques. On top of all that, I was his partner out fishing there. He was a larger than life as part of my life.
Yogita Rajgandhi Yogita Rajgandhi from Mumbai India wrote on August 18, 2020 at 8:47 am
It is very saddening to hear the news of very inspiring Leader and great Humanitarian in Optomety as well as in VOSH international. He was my inspiration and because of him I am in VOSH till today. While writing this mail I am emotional and tears are flowing from my eyes. Please convey my deepest condolences to his family and near ones. May god give strength and courage to his family members and friends to overcome this irreplaceable loss.. It is a great loss to the Optometry Fraternity and VOSH Family. May Almighty bring peace to the departed soul. He’ll always be remembered for his great contribution to Optomety Profession and VOSH international at large and for the sweet smile he always had on his face. .🙏🙏
ilir lecaj ilir lecaj from Ipswich wrote on August 17, 2020 at 10:21 pm
I met Harry in Lac, Albania, in the end of August 1994, 26 years ago. I was his interpreter for 2 weeks. His team of students and optometrists checked peoples eyes and gave glasses for free. He stayed in my home for two weeks and we became good friends. Harry was a very good communicator, he even had learned few Albanian words. The day he left Harry told me that if you ever come to USA come and see me in Ipswich MA. I came, I won a Diversity Visa Lottery controlled by the State Department, and in the end of December 2000 I ended up in Clearwater FL. The beginning was thought in Florida, I contacted Harry and he asked me to come to Ipswich MA. In May of 2001 my family and I ended up in Ipswich MA. So, we met Harry again after 7 years. Harry and his wife Joan, helped us to settle in Ipswich MA. Back in early 2000 Harry was very much engaged with VOSH International. He took care of the website and finances, later he became the President of VOSH. As I had realized, I could tell that VOSH was growing and they were getting more donations, new chapters were being created all over the world. Over the years I remember driving Harry in and out from Logan Airport. He would go to 2-3 missions a year and few VOSH meetings. I have been living in Ipswich ever since and would Harry and I would get together weekly. He had a very good way of talking about issues, very good memory and was a pleasure to have a coffee or beer with him. He will be missed, his place that no one can fill. ilir lecaj
Michel Listenberger Michel Listenberger from Niles wrote on August 17, 2020 at 10:18 pm
Harry was a breath of fresh air and energy as he joined the VOSH Board after working with VOSH ONE. He 'kick-started' the funding of VOSH by sponsorships so we could de-emphasize the international dues system. Harry was kind, he cared deeply for his work and other people. We miss him dearly.
Natalie Venezia Natalie Venezia from Del Mar, CA wrote on August 17, 2020 at 8:49 pm
Harry was a brilliant man, a true gentleman, a dedicated friend and a kind soul. His passion for VOSH and dedication to enriching the lives of others was endless. He was incredibly smart and creative, and at the same time practical and grounded. He made others feel valued and appreciated. Anyone who had the honor of knowing Harry was inspired by his integrity, in awe of his inquisitive nature and grateful to be his friend. His memory will reside in us all and we will be forever grateful that we knew such a great man.
John Gehrig John Gehrig from Casselberry, FL wrote on August 17, 2020 at 12:46 pm
I first met Harry in a hotel lobby almost thirty years ago at a VOSH Annual Meeting in Detroit. He had just flown to Detroit from Russia and he had not slept in almost two days. I was a brand new member to VOSH. Despite his obvious and well deserved physical collapse, Harry got me registered and then spent two hours sitting in the lobby with me and getting me "squared away" in VOSHdom. That type of warm and human action was "pure Harry". He was a wonderful friend, mentor and collaborator. Brilliant, witty and truly alive but always caring and compassionate. Harry was a real mensch. Now we are saddened by his loss but for the rest of our lives we will be indebted to him for what he gave us by his presence.
John Spencer John Spencer from St Paul wrote on August 16, 2020 at 5:44 pm
Dignity, respect, intelligence, honour, compassion, love.....Harry Zeltzer exemplifies these traits past, present, and future. We will always be better because of his continued presence in our lives and the lives of those we have yet to meet; a "better" human I will not meet.
Dale Cole, OD Dale Cole, OD from Salina, KS wrote on August 16, 2020 at 5:32 pm
I was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of a true friend—Harry Zeltzer. Our first meeting was at a V/I annual meeting. He had no room at the hotel so he became my roommate for the weekend. We ended up talking way into the night. Such a fascinating man. Even learned he had invented the first X-chrome contact for color deficient folks. We quickly formed a life-long friendship. Harry became President of V/I and I was Vice-President. Together we travelled the world representing VOSH. I was continually amazed that Harry knew so many of the folks we met—and never forgot a name! Through his connections with Vistakon, Marco and B&L, we generated funding for V/I programs. One example of Harry’s efforts—In Ghana, Harry had been visiting with their college Optometrist and discovered a major need for equipment and books. With his guidance, we delivered a cargo shipment of exam chairs, pheropters and accompanying equipment for their clinic (and surrounding area clinics). Marco donated 4-5 opthalmoscopes and retinoscopes which we presented to the clinic. From that experience, a program was developed to collect used equipment in the US and shipped it worldwide. I have so many great memories of our travels together. So many laughs and so much accomplished for the good of humanity. VOSH/International came to life with Harry’s enthusiasm, knowledge and people skills. I will truly miss Harry. He will live in my heart forever. Enjoy your new ventures, Harry!
Larry Hookway, O.D., FAAO, FVI Larry Hookway, O.D., FAAO, FVI from Columbus wrote on August 16, 2020 at 6:21 am
Harry was one of the first people I met from the VOSH International board. He was one of the people who asked me to become involved with VOSH International. He was always available to answer questions and was a wonderful resource. He often would answer e-mails in the middle of the night. Harry was a visionary, he knew the power of networking and I believe he is the main reason that VOSH International is where it is today. He also was an artist, a webmaster, a fisherman, an inventor, a teacher, to name a few. We will all miss his smiling face.