Joel A. Dain

DATELINE: Kingston

Dain, Joel A., 89, died Saturday, August 21, 2021, at Brookdale South Bay. For 64 years, Joel was the beloved husband of Eleanor (Horowitz) Dain. Born in 1931 in the Bronx, New York City, he was the oldest son of the late Charles and Beatrice (Pollack) Dain.

Joel was the caring and playful father of Peter J. Dain (Deborah Blicher), of Sudbury, MA; Jonathan L. Dain (Karen Kainer), of Gainesville, FL; and Leonard E. Dain (Ivetia Paniagua), of Seattle, WA. Joel was the dear brother of Martin Dain of Sun City, FL and was the loving and mischievous grandfather of Rebekah, Beatrice, Kristina, Max, Joshua, and Isabel. He was a resident of Kingston since 1962.

Joel received his doctorate from Cornell University in 1956.  He was Professor of Biochemistry at URI for close to 60 years. After retiring in 2015, he continued working as an Emeritus Professor until his death. Joel was known for his influential research on the biochemical underpinnings of Tay-Sachs, diabetes, and other diseases, and for his caring and dedicated mentoring of numerous graduate students and post docs with whom he maintained regular contact. From early on he opened his lab to female and male graduate students alike from all over the world and from diverse backgrounds. In addition to his undergraduate and graduate teaching and research duties, he served on committees tasked with hiring University coaches, Athletic Directors, and Presidents.

Joel was an active member of various organizations that demonstrated his eclectic interests:

  • AAUP (American Association of University Professors)
  • American Chemical Society (ACS) – In 1995, he was elected chairman of the Rhode Island Section of the ACS.
  • URI Athletic Council
  • Democratic Town Committee
  • American Philatelic Society

As a part of his professional work, Joel and Ellie took their family to live in locations as diverse as Heidelberg, Germany; Santa Rosa, California; and Tokyo, Japan, where he collaborated with scientists at local universities. He gave invited lectures at conferences and universities worldwide.

Joel and Ellie were also generous donors to numerous causes in support of human rights, scientific research and the environment.

Sports were a very important part of Joel’s life. He was a runner in high school; he played junior varsity basketball at the University of Illinois; and into his 80’s he was a regular at weekly pick-up basketball games at URI’s Keaney Gym.  He rarely missed a basketball game by his beloved URI Rams, and for almost 60 years was a fixture at Keaney Gym and then the Ryan Center.  Joel was also a lifelong and ardent tennis player – a love he passed on to his sons.

Joel was an avid reader and was particularly fond of suspense and detective novels. He was a regular at the Kingston Library.

Joel had a wry sense of humor which he applied to most any situation he encountered, particularly politics. He greatly enjoyed bantering with friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances.

Joel was a lifelong stamp collector, reflecting his interest in all things international. For many years, he taught beginning stamp collecting to children through the Neighborhood Guild Community Center in South Kingstown.

Graveside services are open to the public and will be held Tuesday, August 24th 12:00 noon in New Fernwood Cemetery, 3102 Kingstown Rd., Kingston. Due to the age and health of those attending, we ask that mourners please wear a mask and practice social distancing. A private family gathering will be held after the service.  In lieu of flowers, contributions in Joel’s memory may be made to the organizations listed below.

To view a recording of the funeral, please Click Here.

Shiva services will be held this Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm on Zoom, to join the Shiva, please Click Here.
Meeting ID: 853 7551 8300
Passcode: 790798


1. Beatrice Dain Memorial Fund in Diabetes:

To make a gift, visit and click the “Make a Gift” button in the upper right corner. Indicate the amount of your gift, then click “select from a list of options”. Scroll down to “URI Programs and Initiatives” and click “Other Funds”, then “Continue”. In the text box type “Beatrice Dain Memorial Fund in Diabetes“. Complete the form with the required information and follow the payment options.

Memorial gifts may also be made by check, payable to the URI Foundation & Alumni Engagement, and writing “Beatrice Dain Memorial Fund in Diabetes” in the memo line.  Mail to: URI Foundation & Alumni Engagement, PO Box 1700, Kingston, RI 02881.

2. Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation:[[S76:idb


  1. Megan Cohenford
    Aug 24, 2021

    Words seem inadequate to express our sadness over the passing of Dr. Joel Dain. But, there is much to say about this wonderful man. To my father’s professor, colleague, mentor, and second father growing up you will be missed. We are appreciative of all the memories you’ve given us and will keep them close at heart. Thank you for your wisdom and research in the fight to treat and cure complex disease for nearly 60 years. You’ve paved the way for so many doctors and biochemists. The University of Rhode Island has lost a great professor. An irreplaceable one at that. Some of our best memories were coming to visit you and my dad in the laboratory. On behalf of the Cohenford family we send our deepest sympathies to the entire Dain family, students, and former colleagues. We are sharing in your sadness and grief as you remember your beloved husband and father. Rest peacefully sir.

    • Jonathan Dain
      Aug 25, 2021

      Thank you so much for the kind words and memories Megan, we too have wonderful memories of visiting our father in the lab.

      Jon, Peter and Len

  2. Diane Cohenford
    Aug 24, 2021

    My husband, Dr. Menshi Cohenford, received his PhD under the guidance of Dr. Dain. They maintained a friendship and love for over 60 years. We celebrated many holidays at the home of Dr. Dain and Ellie. When Menashi and I married, Dr. Dain took us to a beautiful French restaurant to celebrate. He threw a lovely celebration for Menashi when he received his PhD. My husband truly loved Dr. Dain and he became much more than just his professor. I’m very grateful that just this summer they were able to go to one of their exotic coffee shops and catch up on old times. Dr. Dain will have an everlasting impact on our family. When we think of him we will smile. He was kind, funny and generous. We will miss him dearly but be so thankful we were blessed to have had him in our lives.

    • Jonathan Dain
      Aug 25, 2021

      Thank you so much Diane, we too will miss him dearly. We love that Menashi was able to join him at one of his beloved coffee shops. Your family meant a great deal to him (and to our mother).

      Jon, Peter and Len

  3. Paula de Sa
    Aug 24, 2021

    No words to thanks Dr Dain for everything that he has done for me and my family. I can remember the first time that we met and he start speaking all the words that he knew in Portuguese, while visiting Xapori. From that moment one he convinced me that I could do my PhD, even with three litlle kids (the fourth came in the middle). Besides being my mentor, Dr Dain became my American father and friend. I will always remember his wonderful sense of humor, kindness and soft voice. Unfortunately last time I called him, he was not able to recognize who I am. However, my care, love and respect were there in all the words that I wish he could remember. Hope my warm Brazilian hug can reach Ellie, Jon & Karen; Peter & Debora , Leonard &Ivetia and the kids, just as a good cup of warm coffee in a winter day.

    • Jonathan Dain
      Aug 25, 2021

      Obrigadao pelas palavras tao gentis Paula. Nosso pai (e a mae) sempre lembrou de voce e estava bem orgulhoso das suas conquistas, do doutorado e depois – he was so proud of you. Ele tambem lembrava com risas de carinho dos teus filhos (agora adultos, neh?). It would have meant a lot to him to know that you expressed these sentiments.

  4. Annie A. Spence
    Aug 24, 2021

    Caring thoughts and sympathy to Ellie and the whole family in your recent loss. Joel will be forever remembered.
    Annie and John Spence

    • Jonathan Dain
      Aug 25, 2021

      Thank you so much Annie and John for the kind words, we will share your sentiments with our mother.

      Jon, Peter and Len

  5. Richard Pollack
    Aug 25, 2021

    Condolences, thoughts and prayers from cousins Richard and Gary Pollack. Although much younger, I recall childhood memories with uncle Charlie and aunt Beatie and their family including Joel.

    • Jonathan Dain
      Aug 25, 2021

      Thank you so much Richard and Gary, we would love to hear about some of those memories some time!

      Jon, Peter and Len

  6. Ray Carroll
    Aug 25, 2021

    to my good friend and locker mate may you rest in peace

    • Jonathan Dain
      Aug 26, 2021

      Thank you Ray.

      Jon, Peter, Len and Ellie

  7. David and Donna Freeman
    Aug 27, 2021

    We were saddened to learn of Joel’s passing, and we were both sorry that we found out about your loss too late to attend the service. Joel was a wonderful colleague for many years. His scientific insights were inspiring, and his keen sense of humor was a delight. He will truly be missed.

  8. Jason Dwyer
    Aug 27, 2021

    I first met Joel when interviewing for a position in chemistry at URI. In that first and subsequent conversations the “bio” qualifier of his chemistry expertise was evident–and I’d come away having learned a little bit more each time about a subdiscipline distant from my own. Only to realize in the past few months–and to my surprise–that I’m actually now working on glycation chemistry in the department where I first remember hearing about it! I hope that I will also do the field justice. I offer my sympathies.

  9. Frank Heppner
    Aug 30, 2021

    I met Joel shortly after I came to URI in 1969. Although we were in different departments (and colleges), URI was a small place back in the day, and we inevitably ran into each other. At one point, we were on the Faculty Senate together. Politically, we were about as far apart as Karl Marx and Barry Goldwater, but Joel had a quality that caused these differences to disappear in the mist. He was funny as hell, and unlike many of our colleagues, he could laugh at jokes, and tell them. Over the years, we served on many university committees together. Although we rarely agreed on anything (except non-business discussions of food and wine), it was impossible to get mad at him, and we frequently had lunch together. In later years, as both of us phased out of university politics, I didn’t see him as much as in the old days, but it was always a pleasure when I did. My condolences to his family. His was a life well lived.

  10. Oleg Kazakov
    Sep 1, 2021

    I was working with Dr. Dain back in the day when the Chemistry Department was at Pastore Hall. Dr. Dain taught a great class at the time. His vivacious attitude was contagious and definitely provided a great influence on my perception of life. I am sorry for your loss. Please accept my sincere condolences.

  11. Lenore Martin
    Sep 1, 2021

    Professor Joel Dain was one of the most fun biochemists I have had the privilege to work with. Over the years we had shared many good times mentoring graduate students, at thesis defenses, and asking questions at seminars. He was the most knowledgeable and established “true biochemist” I met in my entire 30-year tenure at URI; Joel having a deep grounding both in Organic Chemistry and Carbohydrate Chemistry as well as membrane biochemistry, analytical biochemistry, and glyocongugate chemistry. I never walked away from a conversation with Joel without learning something new, and without laughing alot and feeling reassured that he was such a strong person. My condolences to his family!

  12. Mike and Rose Mage
    Jan 9, 2022

    Dear Jonathan,
    We are friends of Joel and Ellie going back to the 1950s. We were saddened to learn of Joel’s passing and would be grateful if you could forward our condolences to Ellie. If you can send me here email address we will correspond directly.
    Many thanks,
    Mike and Rose Mage

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