BLOOMFIELD, CONN. — Thomas Peter Kugelman, a noted authority on the furniture of Connecticut and the Connecticut River Valley, died August 18 at his home in Bloomfield. He was 78.
Born in New York City on October 25, 1934, to the late Bernhard Kugelmann and Ingeborg Bielschowsky, Kugelman attended Fieldston School and Yale College, where he met his future wife, Alice Kirkpatrick. He received his medical training at the Yale School of Medicine and completed his internship and residency in dermatology at the University of Michigan. He practiced dermatology at Hartford Hospital from 1964 until his retirement in 2011, serving as the hospital’s chief of dermatology from 1986 to 2001 and chief of staff from 1991 to 1993. A dedicated teacher, he supervised physicians and students at Hartford Hospital and Yale School of Medicine.
During the early 1970s, the Kugelmans began studying and collecting Eighteenth Century Connecticut furniture under the mentorship of Yale University Professor Charles F. Montgomery and, later, Patricia E. Kane, the Friends of American Arts curator of American decorative arts, Yale University Art Gallery. In 1990, the couple launched the Hartford Case Furniture Survey, which they undertook with conservator Robert Lionetti.
The team’s methodical examination of their subject resulted in the landmark 2005 book Connecticut Valley Furniture by Eliphalet Chapin and His Contemporaries 1750–1800, praised as a model of regional scholarship. In addition to the Kugelmans, Lionetti and Kane, contributors to the book included Robert F. Trent, Philip D. Zimmerman and Susan Schoelwer. An accompanying exhibition based on their research opened at the Concord Museum in Massachusetts in January 2005 before traveling to the Connecticut Historical Society. Dr Kugelman remained active at the Connecticut Historical Society, conducting research on the museum’s behalf, serving as a trustee and chairing the museum’s collections committee from 1980 until shortly before his death.
A long-term member of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford, where he served as deacon and moderator, and a classical music enthusiast who played cello with the Connecticut String Orchestra, Kugelman is survived by his wife of 54 years, Alice Kugelman; a sister, Barbara Merrill of Saratoga, Calif.; three daughters, Lisa Kugelman and her husband Roy Wiseman of West Hartford, Conn.; Karen and Robert Paruolo of Glastonbury, Conn.; and Margaret and Andrew Hofer of Princeton, N.J.; and eight grandchildren.
A celebration of his life will be held at Asylum Hill Congregational Church on Sunday, August 25, at 3 pm. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to the Connecticut Historical Society, 1 Elizabeth Street, Hartford CT 06105; Asylum Hill Congregational Church, 814 Asylum Avenue, Hartford CT 06105; or the ALS Association, 4 Oxford Road, Milford CT 06460.