|WILFRED EARL CALMAS|
Will Calmas, psychologist, business coach, family man
If the disarming smile did not do the trick - and often that alone was nearly enough - the basic decency of Will Calmas unlocked long unopened doors in the hearts and minds of patients.
“It was really through his gentle touch that people trusted him and were able to share the deepest parts of their beings with this extraordinary psychotherapist,’’ said Dr. Arnold M. Kerzner, a pediatrician and child psychologist and a longtime friend. “Many had been to other therapists before they ended up with Will. He was able to create a very relaxed, caring feeling with patients, as if he was more their family than an outside professional.’’
Dr. Calmas, who ran his own consulting firm for businesses and formerly was a clinical psychologist at Children’s Hospital Boston, died Sept. 24 at home in Brookline of complications of Parkinson’s disease. He was 86.
“He was just one of the nicest men you’d ever meet,’’ said his son Richard of Brookline. “He truly loved his work, and he enjoyed people. But if someone just wanted to ask him a question, no matter whether they were a patient or not, he was always willing to help.’’
Because Dr. Calmas initially envisioned a life in business, a path his parents hoped he would pursue, he picked up a master’s degree in business administration en route to a career in psychology. That background led him in 1984 to open Calmas Associates, a Chestnut Hill consulting firm that helped supervisors find new ways to connect with employees.
“The workplace should be a safe haven for employees to talk about their work problems, so the issues can be addressed to improve performance and the bottom line,’’ he told the Globe in 1996. “But managers are rarely trained in how to talk with employees about such issues.’’
Once Dr. Calmas stepped in, clients said their businesses ran more smoothly.
“He watches, communicates his insights on how we use the racket, swing at the ball,’’ Larry Marshall, who was then chief executive of the Peabody computer products company NECX, told the Globe in 1996. “ ‘Try it this way,’ he often suggests at the sessions and at one-hour meetings with me every week.’’
For Dr. Calmas, side-by-side encounters with those he helped were essential, whether the client was a company or a patient he saw month after month during his 40 years in private practice.
“No other professionals could get to the innermost fabric of a person as well as Dr. Calmas; he was known for that,’’ Kerzner said. “He believed in long-term therapy because he did not think a short-term, quickie approach worked. He always felt that he and the patient were human beings working out their issues together.’’
The second of three children, Wilfred Earl Calmas grew up in Hyannis and sometimes rode his bicycle to the Kennedy compound to deliver orders from the hardware store his father ran.
He graduated from Barnstable High School and had started studies at New York University when he was drafted during World War II.
He served in the Navy and was assigned in the Pacific aboard the USS Brock. As the war ended, the Navy sent him to Ohio State University, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree.
His family hoped he would take over the hardware store, and Dr. Calmas went to the University of Michigan for a master’s in business administration, but a psychology course during those studies piqued his interest.
After returning to the Cape, he went to Boston University for a master’s and doctorate in clinical psychology.
Dr. Calmas also was keen to change his location.
“He loved living in Boston,’’ said his wife, Sandra Weininger Calmas. “He grew up on the Cape, but he couldn’t wait to cross the bridge.’’
The two married after her mother made it clear just how impressed she was with Dr. Calmas.
“He was so charming that my mother said, ‘If you don’t marry him, I will divorce your father and have plastic surgery, because I do not want to let him out of this family,’ ’’ she said with a laugh.
They married in 1958, “and not only that, we had a love affair for 53 years,’’ she said. “I was most fortunate.’’
Dr. Calmas also formerly taught psychology at what was then Boston State College.
Because of his work as a child psychologist at Children’s Hospital, his office “was filled with toys,’’ said his son James, who lives in the Back Bay. “There were toy soldiers and a dish filled with candy.’’
With his wife, Dr. Calmas traveled the world. “We traveled, I think, to 27 countries,’’ she said. “One of his great thrills was going to Freud’s apartment in Vienna.’’
Dr. Calmas could be just as happy, however, during quick trips to New York City. If they received an invitation to a wedding in another country, they hopped on a plane.
“For a celebration of happy times, he would go anywhere,’’ Richard said.
“Will believed in doing,’’ Dr. Calmas’s wife said. “Will always said: ‘Don’t visit me when I’m ill. Visit me when I’m alive.’ ’’
A service has been held for Dr. Calmas, who, in addition to his wife and sons Richard and James, leaves another son, Steven of Hoboken, N.J.; a sister, Gladys Calmas Robinson of Santa Barbara, Calif.; and seven grandchildren.
Dr. Calmas “always told us being a father was absolutely his most important job,’’ Steven said. “I had an opportunity to speak with him the day before he passed away, and he said he felt that he could have done more and should have done more.’’
Not so, Steven said.
“I think I can speak for my two brothers and say he was always present and caring. And I said to him the day before he passed away that my goal is to try to be as good a father as he was.’’
Bryan Marquard can be reached at email@example.com.