Dr. John V. Abbott Jr., former resident of Warwick, N.Y., passed away on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with his husband and stepson by his side. He was 94.
Distinguished as a psychiatrist, a collector of Renaissance and Baroque clocks and bronzes and a Hanoverian horse breeder, he is remembered for his zest for life and irreverent sense of humor.
The son of an attorney who worked in the silk manufacturing business, Dr. Abbott was born in Paterson, N.J., to John V. and Ethel Bonser Abbott in May 1925, and raised in Ridgewood, N.J.
A wartime 18-year-old, he joined the U.S. Navy in 1943 and trained as a meteorologist, travelling as far as China before his discharge in 1946. Having recognized the importance of education during his military service, he attended the University of Iowa and graduated with high distinction, going on to earn a medical degree from Cornell University Medical College in 1955.
By the time he completed his residency in psychiatry at Columbia University Medical School in 1958, Dr. Abbott knew he was a gay man. However, he realized that he could not pursue the academic path that most appealed to him because public knowledge of his sexuality would exclude him from the psychoanalytic training that was a necessary first step.
With typical pragmatism, Dr. Abbott decided to protect his autonomy by establishing a private practice in Manhattan. That decision led to a multi-faceted psychiatry career that also included positions as Medical Director at the Brooklyn Center for Psychotherapy, a staff position at the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital and advising the New York City Board of Education and Brooklyn court system.
After moving to Warwick in 1998, he founded Valley Behavioral Medicine Clinic in Goshen, N.Y., to support the underserved mental health needs of this rural community, where he worked until 2018, when he retired at the age of 93.
Dr. Abbott was in a committed relationship for 61 years with Dr. Peter Guggenheim, a psychiatrist and collector of antique clocks, whom he legally married in Toronto, Canada, in 2007. After meeting in medical school, they lived together in New York City and Warwick until Dr. Guggenheim died in 2012, after a long illness. The two traveled the world together, building their renowned Abbott Guggenheim collection of Baroque and Renaissance bronzes and clocks, which have been exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum, the Frick Museum, the Royal Academy in London and the Louvre in Paris. Their bronzes received their own exhibition at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco, while their clock collection was displayed at the Smithsonian Museum and the Bavarian National Museum in Munch, Germany.
On their farm in Warwick, Dr. Abbott also pursued his interest in breeding and training horses, and his enjoyment of boxer and corgi dogs. An avid sportsman, he also loved skiing, swimming, tennis and equestrian dressage.
The experience of having to leave the United States in order to marry his partner of many decades, and paying taxes on Dr. Guggenheim’s estate in the absence of death benefits for married partners of the same sex in the U.S., inspired Dr. Abbott to retain the services of attorney Roberta Kaplan. With her help, he filed an Amicus Brief in the case Kaplan argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of Edith Windsor, which resulted in the June 26, 2013, ruling that led to the legalization of same sex marriage and the equalization of death benefits throughout the U.S.
As a widower at the age of 88, living in Manhattan and Warwick, Dr. Abbott joined Match.com, where he met Dr. Edwin Gerald Dabbs. Also a psychiatrist on the brink of retirement from private practice, Dr. Dabbs was a faculty member of the Cornell Medical School Department of Psychiatry for 49 years and is currently Emeritus Clinical Associate Professor.
Although they were then living three blocks apart in the city and had many mutual friends, the two had never met. They bonded over a love of family and friends, travel, art, theater, architecture and design, and were married on August 5, 2017.
The ceremony at Dr. Abbott’s new home in Ridgefield, Connecticut, was the subject of an New York Times article, "For a Couple a Combined 171 Years Old, a Young Love."
When Dr. Abbott died, the couple were in the process of moving into their new oceanfront residence in Fort Lauderdale, where they have spent the last three winters.
Dr. Abbott is survived by his husband, Dr. Dabbs; nephew Bruce Baughman; cousin Charlotte Abbott; stepchildren Stephen Dabbs and Devon Dabbs; and seven step-grandchildren.
Memorial gifts in Dr. Abbott’s name can be made to The New York City LGBT Center at gaycenter.org/memory.
A memorial service will be held in New York City in March.
Funeral arrangements were made by Serenity Funeral Home & Cremation in North Lauderdale, Florida.