Danni and Shel Gendelman

August 11th, 2009 § 0

When we recall Irusha, we think of a beautiful person with great intellect and charm who saw her purpose in life to foster the genius of her loving husband and friend, John. She saw to his every need so that he could concentrate on teaching his students and continue his path to being a world recognized composer and musician.

Perhaps the single incident we remember most took place when we were driving them home after dining out when we heard John choking and Irusha yelling that John cannot breath. There was no place to park, so Shel jammed on the brakes and drove on to the sidewalk, jumped out of the car, dragged John out of the back seat and started performing the Heimlich Maneuver on him. It worked, and just as John took a deep breath, Shel was pulled away by two police officers, who thought they were fighting. John had choked on a piece of candy he had purchased from the restaurant.

John was invited to perform his work in Israel in 1991 and as part of the tour went to Yad Vashem, the memorial for 6 million Jews slaughted in the Holocaust. Irusha explained to us how deeply they were moved and how they sat outside and could not speak.
Later John composed a musical response which he named “Yad Vashem-An Impression”. Imagine our pride when he dedicated the piece to us.

Of all the proud moments we shared with John and Irusha, the most memorable was being part of a large group of admirers from UWM, Milwaukee and the world of music in London in 1999 for the John Downey Festival. Two major works were performed, one by the London Philharmonia Orchestra at the Barbican Center with Geoffrey Simon conducting and Professor Robert Thompson performing. The other concert was at St. John’s Smith Square with John conducting.

Close friends introduced us to the Downeys; we learned that John and Shel shared a birthdate and we became close friends from that night on.

Thank you for this opportunity to recall our memories and love for John and Irusha.

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