Remembering Larry Gelb

Gelb Larry obit photoLarry Gelb
April 27. 2020

Larry Gelb, a brilliant composer-lyricist, jazz pianist, teacher, and author, passed away on Monday, April 27th. His devoted wife, Elizabeth (Betsy) Jaffe Gelb was his greatest supporter, advocate and agent in his musical career. 

Born in Scranton on February 25, 1949, he was the son of Ruth Kornfeld Gelb and the late Harold Gelb. Larry began to study piano at age seven under the tutelage of Ann Liva. As a young child, he and his brother, Bruce, created and performed shows that entertained family and friends in the basement of their home.  He delighted the family with clever songs and performances for special occasions and celebrations throughout his life. By age eleven, Gelb started serious composing, recording his first album when he was thirteen.  He won the Yamaha International Young Composer competition at fourteen. As a teenager, Larry formed his own trio and toured with Buddy DeFranco and the Glenn Miller Orchestra.  He attended the Berklee School of Music in Boston, where he was a student of Margaret Chaloff (mother of Serge Chaloff.)  He taught a course in the History of Jazz at the University of California in the 70s.

Larry was a sensitive and spiritual soul, always witty, but never unkind.  He had an uncanny ability to remember everyone he met and to capture their individual personality traits with a humorous pun or anecdote. He was a natural comedian and a colorful raconteur who could make people laugh until they cried.  Larry and his brother, Bruce, were great pals, and he took his younger brother, Robbie, to all his favorite places in Scranton, especially Nicholas’ Pizza.  Larry was devoted to his wonderful mother, Ruth, who cared for him faithfully through his final illness.  

In addition to his wife, Betsy, Larry is survived by his daughters, Lara O’Connell and her husband, Sean, Pottstown, and Jesse Leinbach and her fiancé, John DiGuardo, Wyomissing; his stepchildren, Emily Jaffe and her husband, Lee Kalowski, David Jaffe, and Julia Jaffe; two grandsons, Henry O’Connell and Max Kalowski;  brother, Robert (Robbie) and his wife, Zunilda (”Zuni”) Gelb, Allentown, and dear sister-in-law, Winifred (Winnie) Gelb, Hermosa Beach, California; and nieces, a  nephew and cousins who adored him.  

His father, Harold Gelb, and his brother, Bruce Gelb, preceded him in death.

Interment will be private with a memorial service to be held at a later date.  There will be a virtual Shiva from 7 to 9 PM on Thursday, April 30th.  Go to; Meeting ID: 729 4703 9899; Password: 622295.

Memorial contributions to the Bruce Gelb Fund, ℅ Jewish Community Center, 601 Jefferson Avenue, Scranton, PA 18510.

Arrangements and care provided by the Carlucci-Golden-DeSantis Funeral Home, Inc., Dunmore.

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