ONEONTA – Gerald “Jerry” T. Russell Sr., 74, a well-known organist locally and accompanist for The Chymes, recording with them in New York City when they became better known as The Tones, passed away on June 25, 2016, in Oneonta.
Born on Dec. 4, 1941, to Vaughan and Bertha Russell, Jerry was a lifelong resident of Oneonta, spending his entire life on Harrison Avenue.
At age 8, Jerry started playing the piano and organ and took lessons at the New York City Radio Music Hall. He was an accomplished organist at the age of 15, playing for numerous events such as the Lions Club Sportsmen’s Show, Otsego County Republican dinners, substituting as organist at the First United Methodist Church and the Morris Manor Chapel, as well as organist for commencements at the Oneonta High School and Miss Oneonta Pageants.
Most importantly, Jerry was the accompanist for The Tones, which became a well-known singing group, making records in New York City, and being the lead entertainment at many events in the area.
For many years, Jerry was a member of the Rex Pryor Orchestra, playing the piano for numerous engagements in the area and as far away as Saratoga. This was a highlight of his music career because of the camaraderie and the big band music which he loved.
Jerry had a fantastic ability to play a song without any music and was able to play a melody after hearing it once. His music scores were only a list of the song names.
Jerry was also an antique car enthusiast at one time owning seven antique cars. He had an incredible knowledge of the working of the 31 Model A. Many people will remember him driving his 1931 Model A Coupe which he drove all times of year around town. He was a charter member of the Rolling Antiquer’s Old Car Club and spent many days in preparation for the annual show.
He was also sole proprietor of the Russell Painting Co.,which he operated for 48 years from 1964 to 2012. He would go above and beyond what was asked of him in his work thus helping people with many odd jobs.
He was predeceased by his brother, John V. Russell, and his parents.
Jerry is survived by his wife of 51 years, Cecilia Judd Russell; sons, G. Thomas Russell Jr. (Melissa) and Rick S. Russell (Constanza). He also loved his grandchildren, Emma and Jacob; Briana, Sara and Lucas.
A Service of Remembrance will be at 2 p.m., Friday, July 8, at the First United Methodist Church, with the Rev. Teressa Sivers officiating. He will be laid to rest in the church columbarium.
Donations may be made to the First United Methodist Church for the Building Fund.
Online expressions of sympathy may be made at, www.lhpfuneralhome.com
Arrangements are being made by the Lewis, Hurley & Pietrobono Funeral Home, Oneonta.