At age 90, Arthur Ancowitz is still dancing…tap dancing, that is. While Dr. Ancowitz has many talents, hobbies, and interests, his passion for tap dancing is one thing he prides himself on the most. However, unlike his passion for medicine, Arthur didn’t always have an interest in tap dancing.
“Five years ago, I saw a YouTube video of Bob Hope and Jimmy Cagney tap dancing,” he says. “I thought to myself if they can do it, I’d like to try.” So he began taking lessons at the local YMCA. He liked it so much that he went on to work with instructor Mike McManus at the Friendship Center, and he’s been taking classes ever since. “I’d say I tap dance at least once a week,” he says matter-of-factly.
Not only does Arthur dance once a week (or more), he was also instrumental in getting tap dancing classes started here at Plymouth Harbor. Along with Wellness Director Chris Valuck, Arthur helped to develop the class with his Friendship Center instructor. Today, the class has at least five resident “regulars.”
It’s not surprising that Arthur is still tap dancing. From a young age, he placed a heavy emphasis on remaining active and healthy, and had a keen interest in practicing medicine. “My grandfather wanted me to be a good doctor. The best I could be, and I was,” Arthur says.
A New Yorker “through and through,” Arthur is one of three children, born and raised in New York City. After Arthur graduated high school, he decided that he wanted a small-school experience and chose to attend Bethany College in Bethany, West Virginia. After one year there, Pearl Harbor occurred. As a result, he joined the Navy as an apprentice seaman. He worked his way up to Pharmacist’s Mate Third Class, and in 1944, the Navy sent him to medical school at New York University College of Medicine.
After graduation in 1948, Arthur went on to complete his fellowship, internship, and residency. After that, he was called back to service, this time by the Army, to serve in the Korean War. He was assigned duties in the Pentagon as an internist, and one of his responsibilities was to accompany VIPs assigned by the President on numerous air flights across the world.
Among these VIPs was General Omar N. Bradley – one of the United States’ most distinguished and respected generals. “I got to know him very well,” Arthur recalls. “He treated me like a son.” In fact, the General and his wife, Mary, hosted the wedding for Arthur and his wife, Marjorie. It was at the Pierre Hotel in New York City for 200 guests. Though they later divorced, Arthur and Marjorie had three beautiful children – a son, Richard, whose full name is Richard Bradley Ancowitz, and two daughters, Nancy and MJ.
After his service in the Army, Arthur returned to the Veteran’s Administration where he served as the Section Chief in Internal Medicine at the Bronx VA Hospital. Following his time there, Arthur went into private practice in New York. But to this day, he articulates a strong respect and admiration for the military. “I identify very strongly with those heroes,” he says, referring to the men he treated throughout his service. “And I hold in high regard those men and women who choose the military as a career.”
Arthur experienced a loss during those years in private practice when his father suffered a stroke. However, out of this unfortunate situation came some good. “I felt that the treatment he received was inadequate. That motivated me to study stroke and improve its treatment,” he remembers. In 1967, Arthur founded the Stroke Foundation – an organization that he still runs to this day.
Extremely motivated and passionate, Arthur has written several books on stroke prevention, and with the help of the Stroke Foundation, he is helping to fund research for the University of Florida, the New York University College of Medicine Department of Geriatrics, and Sarasota Memorial Hospital. In November, the Stroke Foundation will present an award to a young internist who wishes to pursue a fellowship in Gerontology. For more information on stroke and stroke prevention, he encourages others to take advantage of the informative and helpful articles that can be found on the Stroke Foundation’s website: www.strokefoundationusa.org.
After 40 years in private practice, Arthur retired and “migrated to Florida.” In 1980, he purchased a condo on Longboat Key and continued to remain active. He says he chose the area because, after he came down for a 6-mile race many years before, he was impressed by the surroundings, water, palm trees, and, of course, the weather. In 2014, he moved into Plymouth Harbor.
When asked about his hobbies, Arthur again circles back to tap dancing. But he also adds that he’s an advocate for line dancing, applauding Plymouth Harbor for offering both of these “wonderful aerobic exercises” to its residents. In addition to dancing, Arthur was once big into tennis, running, and biking. He completed 11 New York Marathons, and has “biked all over the world” with his now partner of 15 years, Ina Schnell, listing Timbuktu and Mongolia as two of their destinations. Arthur lights up when talking about Ina, who will move into Plymouth Harbor after the sale of her home. “She is a remarkable woman. She is knowledgeable in many subjects. Her charity is selective. It benefits many deserving organizations,” he says.
In addition to exercise, Arthur is also a strong advocate of low-fat and vegetarian diets, and applauds Chef René for “offering a diverse menu which avoids ‘institutional’ meals.” For fun, Arthur has a love of poetry. He is the author of a 2014 rhyming poetry book entitled “The Bard in Me,” available in the Plymouth Harbor Library. When it comes to being a published author, Arthur’s children followed in his footsteps. His son Richard, an attorney, has published several books on legal matters, and his daughter, Nancy, published a book entitled “Self-Promotion for Introverts®.”
Arthur enjoys the theater, the atmosphere here at Plymouth Harbor, and his six grandchildren – Allison, Valerie, Jonathan, Pamela, Joseph, and Benny. “They have been raised to be contributors to our society and a source of pride to our family,” he says of his family.
Arthur Ancowitz is a clinician, professor, lecturer, author, researcher, and scientist. But most importantly, Arthur is a smart, caring, and kind-hearted individual who still has so much to share with the world. “Before the final curtain descends, as it does for all, I intend to remain active, to help others, and to continue to have fun,” he ends with a smile.