43 Comments to “Words”

  1. By yair gelb, December 12, 2009 @ 7:15 am

    I sat by my mom during her last hours. She was having trouble breathing but getting morphine to ease the discomfort and calm her down. She was having the best sleep she had in a while and only occasionally waking up to rearrange herself. She would look at me and smile and go right back to sleep. Her belly was swollen like a pregnant woman even though she was carrying death inside her and not life. The cancer has metastasized through most of her body. With every minute the cells were multiplying creating more cancer and leaving less Gay. But she still had her horse voice telling me she was OK and needed nothing. She still had her warm eyes looking at me. She still had her comforting smile. By 6am, the time she would normally finish milking the goats, she was gone. There was only a pale body mimicking my mom. Mimicking her hair, mimicking her finger nails, her hands even trying to mimic her face but she was gone.
    I think, how do you define a person? How do you measure ones life?
    I believe one way is to see how much good this person did? In what way they affected their surroundings?
    I look at eagle point with her cocktail parties and the friendship she has offered all the neighbors even the less popular ones. I look at her aunts and uncles that she was determined to visit every year. I look at her kids that she has supported and encouraged in their every endeavor. I look at the many abandoned dogs she has adopted throughout her life. I look at the herd of goats she has taken care of as if they were children. I look at her constant struggle for peace in Israel, a country where it is very difficult not to become jaded, where the temptation to go down the easy road of hatred has claimed the majority of its habitants, even here she was always protesting for peace and compromise. I look at the way she took care of her parents with such devotion in their last years. I look at her constant siding with the weak and less fortunate, human and animal. I look at all the love she spread around her.
    I will remember many things about her, the trips, the kayaking, the vast knowledge, her smile, the way she called my name, but I will measure her and describe her by the love she spread around.
    I love you mom.

  2. By kitty symington, December 17, 2009 @ 9:07 am

    I was lucky to have Gay as my big sister. We were total opposites. She was fast, I was slow. I liked to sleep, she liked to move. She climbed mountains, I read mountains of books. When we were little, she pinched me, and once bit me – drawing blood. think she was just trying to get me going at a faster speed. At times, I was scared of her. But, I always wanted more of her. I. She was not a patient person in the early days. I think she wanted to just grab life and make it bigger, open it up, so she could see the whole world and experience it. I remember once she spent a day digging a hole to reach China in our back yard. She was pissed off when she hadn’t gotten there by the end of the day. In our neighborhood Gay was a whirlwind and strong leader; president of many secret organizations, such as the Mystery Solvers, and The Ike Eisenhower Fan Club. She had a huge heart and grew wise. I always knew that she would be in front of me, shoving things out of the way and teaching me how to deal with the things that wouldn’t. I know she will always be with me. Gay is simply too strong to go away.
    Some lines for her:
    Strong free bird
    traveling light
    Releases its fire
    into the night.
    Keep flying, my sister. Light the way. Love, Kit

  3. By Gill Mann, December 17, 2009 @ 1:33 pm

    Yehuda Shalom:

    We received the sad news today about Gay. At our Shabbat table tonight, Shelley and Rena were here with their families and we spoke of Gay.

    I have many memories of Gay…all of them good. As I told you when we spoke a few weeks ago, my strongest memory of Gay was sitting on the lawn in front of your parents’ home, when she told me about the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. I was in my teens and the story made a strong impression upon me. That story taught me a lot about her that I admired:

    she cared,
    she stood up for what she believed,
    she didn’t just talk, she did,
    she was brave,
    she felt people could make a difference,
    she made a difference.

    I can say she made a difference my life. From the first time I met her…at your wedding, I was impressed by her idealism. She obviously came from a background of a famous US non-Jewish family (a descendant of Pocahontas no less!) Yet she chose the challenge of living in Israel…and in those days, Israel had a standard of living that has no comparison to today.

    I always enjoyed my visits and discussions with her over the years. My favorite memory is her smile and laugh. (This is also my favorite memory of your mother–zechorna leevracha). Gay had such a unique, throatie and robust laughter. She was a serious person to be sure, but she was quick to laugh and I can hear it now.

    She was a part of Israel to me and I will miss her. But she will stay with me.

    For me, her memory is a blessing. I hope that can give you a bit of comfort. Debbie and I wish you and your kids comfort. I hope I can see you soon, so I can hug you.


  4. By Avinoam Gelb, December 17, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

    Dear Gay,

    I had this letter sitting in my head for the past few weeks and it kept adding more details and fond memories. Lately when my second son was born, I spoke to Anat and told her I want him to have a middle name that in the future will remind us all about our Aunt Gay. When Nadav Guy grows up there will be lots of stories to hear about a special person who was part of many great memories. I am sure many of the things I am writing about – you probably don’t remember. However, exist in my memory and I am happy to share them.

    When I was young, I remember that at the age where kids boast that they have the strongest uncle, I used to boast that my Aunt was the best mountain climber and the best Snapling instructor in Israel. There was not one Tiyul I went on that I didn’t run up to the Madrich of the Hevrah Lehaganat Hateva and ask if he knows my Uncle Yehuda and Aunt Gay. I have to say remarkably that for many years they all knew. I also remember that whenever I went on a tiyul I would always think that Yehuda and Gay were here for sure. I stopped thinking about that after I told you I went on a 3 day Yam-Le-Yam and you replied that you like to do it in one day…

    Slowly slowly when I grew up I realized that from childish thoughts moving into more adult perceptions, I reached a conclusion that one of the bravest men I know is actually a…woman. We once had a discussion about death and I thought how horrible it is to die by drowning. You replied that drowning is nothing, a few seconds of not breathing and that’s it. You could think of much more horrible ways. I was amazed how the thought didn’t even make you shake. I till today am afraid of suffocation…

    There are more things that I can understand and appreciate as an adult and have a better perspective of the world, things that growing up I couldn’t see. I have to admit now that it is amazing how you saw things many years before the rest of us ever saw. I still remember how you would take on the whole family in a political argument at the Seder table on issues that today we see how right you were. I think you and Yeshayahu Leibovitch are the only ones who saw so far back how devastating the occupation could be. You called the territories Palestine decades ago, when we were too blind to see it. (This paragraph does not imply though that you are right about current political arguments. It is strictly about past arguments in which you were right in. In present arguments with us you are of course most likely wrong…)

    Talking about Seder, you were part of some of the best Seder’s of my life. Yehuda always said that as the youngest, I could get away with murder in my house. Well with murder maybe yes, but if I dare touched the dish my Mom made especially for you (when you became vegetarian) I would be in deep trouble! I could get away with making inrows in the gefilte fish and kneidalach but not in the veggie dish…

    Going back to things you were ahead of the pack -You became an environmentalist before it was so fashionable. Preservation of the planet was a way of life for you, again, decades before even the most ecological conscious people. I think you were the only one who understood Savta Ayala who used to chase after us closing the lights from rooms we walked out of.

    This item you will probably be surprised to find in this letter. You always like to laugh at your own cooking. Well, one of the best omlets I ate in my life was made after we hiked just out of Rosh Pina. You picked fresh mushrooms that found their way to the pan when as soon as we came back. I still remember that omlet till this day.

    It was very difficult to hear about your disease. When it was the older generation going away it was somewhat easier and more natural. Now it’s another reminder my generation are not children, and the Aunts and Uncles we had growing up are becoming the older and more vulnerable and they won’t be with us forever. However, the memories will be.


  5. By Charlie Mayer, December 17, 2009 @ 6:05 pm

    A letter to Gay and Yehuda:

    Saturday, October 17, 2009

    Washington, DC

    Hi Gay and Yehuda,

    I’ve always wanted to be as cool as your kids. That’s impossible. So now that I’m a parent, I’m trying to be as cool as you. It is a high standard that you set, but it is worth pursuing because I have so much respect and affection for you, your kids and everything I know about how you guys live.

    The notion of our “Israeli cousins” has always been an idea that I treasure. How did we end up with Israeli cousins? Are they really Israeli? And when you’re six years old it is also worth asking, “What is Israel, anyway? Is it the same as Low Bridge or Sand Gate?” I remember the days when I was confused about these questions of geography. But I was never confused about my love for the Gelbs.

    Considering all the family events that I have attended in my 33 years, it is significant that my fondest memories are of the family events that involved you.

    It all started when we first met our Israeli cousins at Pam and David’s house. I don’t think that your kids spoke a lot of English at that time, but we did share the universal language of silliness and dangerous activities. I will never forget watching your kids drive a bike down the hill and into the river—again and again and again until nobody had enough energy to drag the poor bike up the hill.

    Years later, the best words of any vacation were spoken by Sarah and recorded on video by me at Conesus. We collaborated on a production that featured Sarah screaming into the camera, “Fuck you, America! Fuck you!”

    Another time we were all transfixed by America’s Most Wanted and a particular fugitive with a teardrop tattoo. You suggested that we might want to go down to Geneseo to find this guy.

    I’m looking forward to the day when my own kids will be old enough to enjoy summer vacations like I did. And maybe—if everything works out as it should—my kids will have some wild and crazy Israeli cousins who will supercharge their vacations and expand their understanding of what it means to have relatives.

    I’m thinking about you guys and loving you a lot.


  6. By Charlie Platt, December 18, 2009 @ 9:09 am

    What a life she had! In her 62 extraordinarily ambitious and exuberant years, she gave and experienced far more than any former member of the Ike Eisenhower Fan Claub could ever expect. She even faced her cancer with her inimitable courage and confidence, knowing that her extraordinary spirit would live on. It is impossible to ever think of her as having been really sick, much less gone. She is an inspiration for all her Symington cousins, who loved her very much.

  7. By Sherry Schwartz, December 19, 2009 @ 7:41 am

    Living on Conesus Lake, I knew that the ice pieces would eventually melt, and the tulips and gladiolas would replace them. I also knew that a burst of human energy would arrive as well;Gay was coming home. For ten years I watched her weave her magic on Eagle Point. Up before dawn, swimming by six or seven, riding her bike by eight, walking in the woods by ten, and kayaking the nine mile lake in the afternoon, Gay showed us all her joy of life. I could never swim as far, walk as fast, nor handle a kayak as well, yet she gladly invited me to tag along.

    And tag along I did. I am a New York City transplant who devoured Gay’s exuberance for life. I reveled in her passions for the lake, for the environment, for politics, and for the fate of Israel. We hiked the multiple trails of the woods, collected indiginous turtle stones, and even prospected for Revolutionary War artifacts. Who else would spontaneously go frog hunting with my five-year-old grandson?

    Gay, I just can’t imagine this place without you. You touched my life, and I will always cherish our friendship.

    Sherry Schwartz

  8. By Nancy Symington, December 19, 2009 @ 9:11 am

    Dear Yehuda and kids: I know I am not Gay’s real aunt but I like to think I am and she recently told Marion that she did not consider me her aunt but a good friend. That touched me deeply. I am so glad she was able to make it to D.C. just before she left for Israel to face her illness and her death.At Marion’s and Tony’s where we were having lunch, she regaled us with the more humorous aspects of the recent Symington reunion. One morning, while staying with me, she had already run a mile by 7:30 when I was just getting up. She never let on how sick she really was. I will miss her annual visits to D.C. and her trips to Maine. One summer, I will never forget, she walked down the main road in the rain in her bathing suit and a towel to have a swim at the “beach”. That was Gay. Her sense of humor, her strong political views, her independence, her love of life, are all a vivid memory of who she was. Unfortunately, she has left us all too soon but her spirit remains. Bless you Gay.

  9. By Donna Damico, December 19, 2009 @ 11:49 am

    Dear Yehuda, Yair, Yigal, and Sarah,
    When I think of Gay it is always with the sound of her laugh in my ears. It is often said that you live on as long as there are people in the world who remember you. I promise to tell my grand daughters (her first cousins twice removed) “Gay Stories”. I’ll tell them how she arrived in D.C. for Grumpy’s funeral without shoes, and managed to squeeze into a battered pair of my Dr. Scholl’s. And I’ll tell them how their Dad and Uncle (Charlie and Si) begged to live with Gay if anything ever happened to us. The idea of being transplanted to Israel did not faze them in the least. Gay was by far the most exciting mother they ever knew. After all, how many moms take you hiking and wind up in a “Haunted House” and emptying out Life Magazines from the 1930s and 40s, or give the under 12 crowd champagne at a family wedding?
    Every few years when I’d have the opportunity to see her, I’d always be surprised by how small she was, because in my thoughts and memories she seemed to be a giant. And in fact she was a giant of love, grit, enthusiasm, opinions, and a great believer in family ties. Besides all of the fun she gave my boys, in later years she had a profound effect on their sense of family as well.
    I always felt lucky to have her as friend and a family member. Whether we were yukking it up at a wedding, or hanging out in VT or Conesus Lake, I always wanted more of her: more of her opinions, more hiking, more kayaking, more swimming to the float. Once she challenged me to race to the float. I actually beat her, and for me it was the equivalent of winning the Olympics. (she was pissed)
    I am so grateful that I had a long weekend with Gay and Kit at the lake in August. And for the record: I could not keep up with her on a long bike. When I close my eyes I can see her tethered to the dock on an inner tube wearing a funny straw hat reading “The New Yorker.” This is one of the many happy images I will keep alive forever.
    We mourn her deeply, but with such a sense of gratitude that we had her in our lives.

    “There is a Land of the Living
    And a Land of the Dead
    And the Bridge is Love.” Thornton Wilder

    Sending all of you love across the ocean,

  10. By Toby Symington, December 19, 2009 @ 6:12 pm

    Gay was a true original — a unique individual in so many respects — I will remember her ebullient vitality, wacky sense of humor, and infectious laugh — and passionate enthusiasm for all sorts of causes — when I first got to know her, she was a fervent acolyte of William Buckley, the high priest of American conservatism back in the fifties and sixties — at first, this was a little disconcerting to me (and I think to Lloyd and Nance as well) because we were all staunch Stevensonian liberals at the time — but Gay made her case with such wit, panache, and her own irrepressible charm that I found myself fascinated and disarmed — yet not many years later, during the Johnson presidency, Gay had become a committed peace activist, marching in the streets of Washington with me and hundreds of thousands protesting the war in Vietnam —
    I will miss, among so many other things, Gay’s high spirits, those flashing, mischievous eyes, and her intrepid sense of adventure —

  11. By Anat Gelb-Price, December 20, 2009 @ 6:43 am

    Dear Yehuda, Yair, Yigal and Sarah,
    What a beautiful website, I am all choked up as I read through the comments and look through the pictures. Even though Gay promised to “check out” by age 65 I always secretly hoped she wouldn’t keep this promise.
    In the past year we had the chance to spend a few hours with her in Athens on her way home to Israel from Albania and we had a lovely evening. We went to our favorite Greek Taverna ate well and caught up. It was the last time I saw her and I’m happy that what turned out to be our goodbye was such a fun filled evening.
    When I learned of her sickness, I sent her a goodbye letter, here it is:

    Dear Gay,
    Today I celebrated your life. I stopped my life for an hour, sat in our beautiful back yard with the multi-colored leaves and had an imaginary conversation with you. I told you that I admire the way you lived your life, humbly and modestly, yet able to appreciate and enjoy life and live it to its fullest. I admire your courage and ability to do what you think is right, no matter what others around you thought and I love your endless energy and diligence. I am happy that your life has touched mine. I think about you every year on our mutual birthday and will probably continue to do so throughout my lifetime.
    I hope the journey ahead of you is painless, although it pains me to have to say good bye so soon.

    Much love,

  12. By Chris Gelb, December 20, 2009 @ 10:59 am

    Oh, Yehuda-

    If I were there in Israel right now, we could just sit together if you wanted, and we wouldn’t need to talk because, as we both know, there are really no words for what has happened.

    Gay was one of the most remarkable people I have ever known, and I loved her for it. How she could cut through to what is important. She was the first person I ever knew who really “lived.” What a rare thing…what a rare gift.

    At this moment I am looking at a wonderful photo of Gay. She is standing in a plaza somewhere in Bolivia. A bird is perched on each of her hands, and she is surrounded by at least 50 more.

    So wonderful. So Gay.



  13. By Rina (Mann)Daaitzchman-Yehuda's cousin, December 20, 2009 @ 2:18 pm

    Dear Gay and Yehuda,
    How does one say good bye or have the last communication? I’m not certain. Instead, I will focus on the wonderful time we shared together last Pesach. It truly was one of the highlights of our trip, for a variety of reasons. Gay, it was the most time we had ever spent with you and both of us said, “Gay is so warm and genuine…it’s too bad we never spent more time with her”. Gabe and Isaac LOVED the goats and they just adored you (proof of that is that you are of the few people they actually remember from the trip). We all felt so welcome in your home and the kids had a blast picking the shesik from your trees. Our little tiyul was fantastic; the weather was perfect, the company extraordinary and the scenery magnificent. If you don’t believe me, I think the attached photos really capture the warm and beautiful feelings we all walked away with from spending time together. The picture of Uri sitting in your lawn chair is actually my favorite picture of him from the trip.

    Gay, you have lived an extraordinary life so far and we feel very fortunate to have spent time together. Please know that we are thinking of you and the family often during this difficult time.

    Much love to you both and to all of the kids.
    Rena, Uri, Gabe and Isaac

  14. By Yehuda Gelb, December 21, 2009 @ 12:21 am

    Gay shined on the stage of life and left it as a queen
    We have been together for 40 years out of those 39 as a married couple.
    It is a life story that started for us in 1969 when Gay arrived on the kibbutz as a volunteer.
    My first acquaintance was with a skinny girl who could polish off four fried eggs, three bowls of porridge, a huge salad, a cup of sour cream and half a loaf of bread for breakfast…
    The bonding, the friendship and my enthusiasm with her led to love and a winding life story. Her zeal, ability to plan and fitness dictated an extraordinary life.
    Work with the gladioluses and later with the milking cows, marriage, the birth of our three kids Yair, Yigal and Sarah, keen involvement with the society for the protection of nature and guiding trips, repelling and adventure excursions. Close relationship with her relatives across the ocean and glob trotting trips – Mongolia, Nepal, the Himalayas, Egypt, Sinai, Jordan, Ethiopia, Iceland, the British Isles and North and South America.
    Gay who arrived in Israel as an American became more kibbutznik than all the rest and a fair and consciences Israeli more than any of us. Her leftist opinions were nothing else but humane caring and pursuit of justice.
    Content with adventure and happy and proud of our kids Gay has devoted herself in the last years, almost obsessively, to the care of goats.
    In her last month Gay has dealt with her cancer the only way she saw fit – at home with her kids, dogs and yard that she loved so much. With composure and a clear adamant decision to be self sufficient till the end. And so it was.
    We had, Gay and us, including her immediate family from the US, the privilege to close circles and bid her farewell.
    Her threshold for pain was very high and it seemed the agony of cancer didn’t bother her. She has looked death in the eye without squinting and with no fear.
    She ended her life in total peacefulness, fully conscious. The cancer killed her but did not bend her or break her spirit.
    I promise to bring, in the coming days, stories and memories from the beautiful and special life she had here on earth.
    With great love and longing,

  15. By Julie Tarshish, December 21, 2009 @ 10:40 am

    Dear Yehuda, Thank you for the beautiful comments you shared with us about Gay. I regret the fact that I did not have the opportunity of knowing Gay. Your comments help me know the “Guta Nashama” the good soul you and therefore we were blessed with. I am so happy that there is now a good line of communication to keep our family close. I feel more connected instead of the isolation of so many miles. I am glad to know more.

  16. By Yigal Gelb, December 21, 2009 @ 11:19 am

    It is strange for me to write here, because I know that my mom would not really like all the fuss that we’re making about her life and death, and because she really did hate the modern world, especially computers. The internet, though, she grew to like, and with time she even allowed herself her own email address, which is why I guess it is ok to write about her here.

    There is so much I could write about this very special person; so much, that I need to focus on one thing for now. In thinking back on our time together, our last few years stand out very much, and certain events stand out in particular. One such event is a meditation retreat we went on just last spring – my mom, my dad, and I.

    But before that, another memory. I’m going down the stairs at the lake house at Conesus Lake, and there is my mom all energized from her morning run or morning swim or god knows what, and she turns to me out of the blue and says: “Yig, promise me you will go to India.” This is who she was – blunt, honest, considerate, and with no sense of personal danger or worry. Then she added: “Go there and teach me what you learn.”

    After I came back from India, we thought several times about how it would be a good idea for my parents to go on some meditation retreat. My mom would always say something like: “Hud, it would be really good for you to do this.” If you asked her, obviously she didn’t really need to go, but would join in just to keep him company and make sure he actually goes. We talked about this a few times, but never with any real follow up. And the more I thought about this, the more I wanted to share with my parents what I’ve experienced in India and Sri Lanka.

    It was no easy decision to propose a meditation retreat that I will lead to my parents; not because they would not make great participants, but because I felt then, and still do now, that I am not at any place to lead such a retreat. On the other hand, I suspected that once we started this retreat, things would somehow fall into place. It is strange how notions and expectations you have initially don’t always seem to hold. For instance, I was sure that my mom would be cursing during most of this retreat, or at least finding it very useless.

    And so off we went in April to a beautiful forest in the Golan Heights for our five day retreat. We each had our own tent, with my mom’s tent – a great big dome-shaped tent – serving as the meditation hall. And there we were, me and my two very special and open-minded parents, at our very own retreat. We sat for a few hours each day and spent the rest of the time walking among the trees and meadows of this distant and quiet place. We ate food cooked over the fire and tried as much as possible to refrain from talking with each other. Each evening we also had a discussion about Buddhist teachings. And yes, we also had our three little dogs join us, something which didn’t help our overall concentration…

    One of the things that surprised me most during the retreat was the seriousness with which my mom treated everything we did. She sat many times the entire hour without moving, and continually said things like: “Wow, there is so much going on. It’s amazing!! I don’t think I will need to travel with so many books anymore…” This is how she was, excited and genuine as a five-year-old, and very present. To me this was one of the most real and special experiences I’ve ever shared with her. As I watched her during those days, I felt happy I was able to give her something I thought was profound, especially after all she’s done for me.

    Several months later, my mom was rushed to the hospital with severe breathing difficulties. It was in the emergency room that I first noticed how thin and frail she’d become as a result of the cancer. Once she could breathe again, she said to me that she tried to remain mindful of her breathing during all the commotion. To think that just a few months before we were talking about the suffering associated with sickness, old age, and death; and to think how distant it all seemed to us back then – merely words. And then how real it all became.

    She died without fear and, I suspect, without regrets.

  17. By Johny Tarshish, December 21, 2009 @ 4:19 pm

    Dear Yehuda,

    We heard the sad news about Gay over the weekend and wanted to let you know that our thoughts and our heartfelt sympathy are with you and your children. Sixty-Five years is too short of time for her to have been taken from us. Although I didn’t know Gay as well as I would have liked, I have some very fond memories of her. I recall your wedding at Kfar Blum, Gil, Orrin, Ira Herson and I were there along with your other guests and I recall the party on your parents lawn. We all had a wonderful time. As an 7 or 8 year old boy, I had my first crush on a girl that I met at your wedding. My fondest memory of Gay was when visiting in 1977, she took me swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. I recall a spot near Rosh Hanikra near the Lebanese Border. The beach was mostly deserted and she asked if I was a strong swimmer. Macho kid that I was, I said yes and proceeded to swim near an outcropping of rocks that shielded us from Lebanon. Needless to say, Gay went swimming out to sea, strong swimmer that she was, and I struggled with the current and did my best not to be swept out to sea. As I swam, I wondered how I would get out of the situation alive as I was no match for the current and not really a strong swimmer. Somehow I made it out of the water. As we returned to the beach, shots rang out from Lebanon toward us. I think if we been a few yards north we could have been shot and possibly injured or killed. It was an adventurous day and a wonderful memory of Gay I will always treasure.

    Love from us all.

    Jon, Cindy, Gabe, Evan and Adam

  18. By Susan Gelb Blum, December 21, 2009 @ 8:01 pm

    I received the news today about Gay with disbelief.
    This free spirit no longer with us?
    Miles of water and air waves separated us from becoming better acquainted, but I feel we are kindred spirits in many respects.
    I, too, have an affinity for animals, goats in particular. I share a deep love of nature, a questioning of authority, and an urge to right the injustices of the world.
    Also slow to embrace communication via cell phone and internet, I just received the news now.

    Many years ago my father asked me why Gay goes to climb such difficult mountains.
    I responded: “For the challenge. To stretch her limits, and maximize her potential. For the beauty, for the hardship, the intense work-out, both physically and emotionally.
    To dig deep within herself to find a strength that she would utilize on the mountain – and later in everyday life.
    For the sheer experience and joy of doing so. Because it’s there, and Gay is not so complacent as to let the mountain or herself just sit idly by.”

    My guess is that no one ever “conquers” a mountain. You learn from it, you gain from the experience, you make peace with it, and hopefully, in time, you summit. May we all do the same with regard to Gay departing at such a young age. My love is with you all at this time of loss – and always.

    With love,

  19. By Elaine Gelb, December 23, 2009 @ 6:43 am

    Dear Yehuda,

    It is with sadness that I received the news of Gay’s illness and death. I only met her a few brief times, but I have heard stories about her through out the years. It seemed that people have always spoken of her in wonderment. Initially, it seemed to me that she was perceived as quirky and strong willed. With time it became evident to all that she was truly an individualist who lived her life with zest, compassion and conviction. I know the loss is tremendous to those who were closest to her, but her example of a life well lived serves as an inspiration to all who had the privilege of only being in the periphery of her world.

    My love to you and your family.


  20. By Peggy Kauffman, December 23, 2009 @ 6:10 pm

    Thankyou for bringing Gay back for a short visit this day before Christmas Eve.

  21. By Gene Carpenter, December 24, 2009 @ 5:21 pm

    Rarely do I anticipate with such intrigue, enthusiasm and even trepidation the meeting of a person I have never met, but such was the case with Gay, the sister of my friend Kathryn (Kitty to Gay and her family). After hearing fascinating stories about Gay, from her childhood until this past summer at the family’s lake house – all eloquently and entertainingly verbalized by Kathryn – I had been eagerly looking forward to flying to Israel one day with Kathryn at the helm to “hang out” with Gay and the goats, Pete and Pizza, and to finally acquaint myself firsthand with the “real thing”. Alas, that day will never come now, but although I will never meet Gay, I still feel as though I have known her in a special way – through another person yet somehow still real – and because of that I too mourn her death. But I also feel enriched by her spirit that was and will continue to be, and feel I owe this to Kathryn’s unique ability to vividly portray her sister’s personality and life-style choices to me, and for that I am so very grateful. Now in Gay’s absence I will look forward to one day meeting you Yehuda, Yair, Yigal and Sarah, and to all of you, and to you, Kathryn, and the rest of Gay’s family, I am so very sorry for your loss.

  22. By tobie (Moshav Shavei Zion), December 25, 2009 @ 10:13 am

    It’s completely not typical of me to write or comment or express myself; I usually have lots of thoughts but keep them to myself. The fact that I am writing just shows you how strong an impression Gay left on me. I met Gay about 30 years ago when Yehuda & Gay lived in Nahariya and their kids were small. I don’t even remember how we got together but I was pregnant at the time and had strict instructions to be horizontal. We were relatively new immigrants in Israel and had no family here to help us out – no mother, no siblings… Gay showed up every morning and made me breakfast and raised my spirits. And then she and her family moved to the Upper Galilee and we sort of lost touch. I only saw Gay twice after that – once when I searched for her in Rosh Pina and found her house – and her. And the last time on the beach in Achziv with Yehuda just two years ago. Each time I was SO excited to see her – I can’t even explain why, after all, we had such a short friendship. But Gay left such a deep impression that I felt close to her, that she was an unforgettable person, even though I hadn’t seen her in so long. You know, there are people that you forget as soon as you part from them. Well, Gay was the other extreme – totally unforgettable. So caring, so alive! They say the good die young, and it’s true.

  23. By Martha Gelb, December 25, 2009 @ 1:23 pm

    Dear Yehuda,

    I just heard yesterday that you have lost your dear Gay. I am deeply saddened by this great loss and only wish I could be closer to you to express my sentiments not only in words but also in deeds.

    Because of the great distance that has separated our families through the years, I had only a few opportunities to visit with Gay and get to know her. I remember fondly her visits in our home in Indianapolis. I found her to be a charming and most interesting person. I regret that I only had limited contact with her. I know that Ted relished his visits with you and Gay and looked forward to them eagerly.

    I hope her memory will be a source of consolation to you and your children. I express again my deepest sympathy and love.

    Aunt Martha

  24. By Byrd Platt, December 25, 2009 @ 8:58 pm

    For Yehuda, Yair, Igal and Sarah…We (the Platts) have all been sitting here today, on our Christmas Day, talking about Gay and her extraordinary life. She was such an exhuberant force, more totally alive than anyone I ever knew. living and loving life to the last drop. I am suddenly awash in memories of examples of some of her uniqueness. One of Tommy and my earliest memories of Gay was when Tom was in Rochester, involved in Rockefeller’s campaign to run for Governor (this was back in the days when Gay was an ardent Republican!!!) Gay must have been about 16(?) at the time. She insisted on going down with Tommy (and Robin) to Rockefeller’s Campaign Headquarters, and proceeded to organize all of Rochester’s young people , creating banners, Headgear and funny costumes , and then organizing all the kids on marches in the Convention Hall. (including creating a banner that read “Platt for president!”…which must have enraged Rockefeller! ) All the “Pols” just loved her After she had moved to Israel, and was coming back each year to Lake Conesus, she overlapped the time that Tommy and I were spending with my brother Bon and Mary jo in Rochester. I used to drive out to the Lake for the day, and Gay would take me on long hikes up the hill behind the Lake in places I hadn’t known existed. I think this was when she and I became such good friends We had plenty of time to talk and discuss Life, and I never felt that she was “just my niece”…she had a wisdom and understanding and zest for Life that astounded me. And then I was so touched when, following Bon’s death, she insisted on making an annual pilgrimage “to see the sisters”, where each year I became more attached to Gay and more impressed by her complete honesty and being able to remain true to herself and her ideals…and the fact that no matter how much she must have questioned our way of life and our way of doing things, she was never judgemental or critical…even though she was delighted to sit and argue Tommy under the table on a political question…….which reminds me of another time when we were in Rochester and she came in from the Lake to have dinner with us and the Orricks. I remember the converstion that evening becoming very political and Tommy and the Orricks were giving Gay a pretty hard time. It finally got so viiolent that Mary Jo and I retired to the kitchen, leaving Gay to battle it out with the men. I lamented the fact that the Platts had ruined the Symingtons pleasant little dinner party (knowing Tommy had instigated the argument with Gay…whom he adored.)…..until Gay came bursting into the kitchen after the Orricks had left, saying “Oh, that was the best evening I have had in such a long while! This is what I really miss!!” Ever the Firebrand…and yet with such a Heart and fund of compassion…She hitchhiked from the Cold Spring Harbor Railroad station to Low-Bridge one day a few years after I had returned from some life-threatning surgery and was recovering at home in bed. She took a look around our big old house to see what she might be able to do for me that would be helpful…and decided that since there was no kindling wood near the fireplace in the Living Room (it was early Fall)that she would go out and gather some. She came back with a huge bag full of small kindling she had gathered in the woods and filled all the fireside boxes. Only Gay would have thought of something like that. I h could go on and on… I have already rambled on too much ….but I want you all to know what a Bright Light she was in all our lives, and how much we loved her and will miss her. Im glad you were all there for her at the end, and that she died just the way she wanted to , and the way she lived her life..with honesty and great courage . Tommy joins me in sending our great Love and deepest sympathy to all of you.. Byrdie

  25. By Joy Leibman, December 27, 2009 @ 10:46 am

    To my cousin, Yehudah… and your children:
    Condolences to all of you on the loss of your wife & mother. I also send sincere condolences on the part of my father, Howard and my mother, Eunice. I know Dad plans to call you, Yehudah, at a future point in time…. since e-mail contacts are not in his realm of communication. Thoughts are with you from the Gelb clan scattered all over the U.S.
    I had only one personal visit w/ Gay, during my solo trip to Israel in December of 2001. Although Yehudah was out of the country, Gay wanted me to visit her…. and Ehud took me to see her. We had a pleasant time chatting, and she was genuinely appreciative of my visit. She was an individual of strong spirit and conviction, and I was delighted to have been able to spend time with her. How unfortunate that her life ended too soon for those of you who deeply loved and knew her; how very fortunate that you have so many wonderful memories to hold dear in your minds and hearts – and in the words recorded on this website. Hold tightly to your best memories.

  26. By Burl Polon, December 28, 2009 @ 8:32 am

    Yehuda ,

    I was at your wedding. I remember–the beautiful and simple ceremony that so characterized kibbutz life. Forty years is a long time to be in love.

    She was an inspiration to you and your three children and to all that came into contact with her. She will continue to live on through her spirit and strength.

    Santa Cruz, CA

  27. By Juliet Goldstein, December 28, 2009 @ 4:48 pm

    Dear Yehudah and all your family, It has taken much longer than I would have wished to write you.
    I have fond memories of you all at Kfar Blum many years ago by the pool when your children were young, and of Gay how she had truly embraced Kibbutz life

    Also I remember your’s and Gay’s very sweet kindness to me when I stayed with you in 2001 in your lovely home. Of course I remember the goats and have photos of Gay feeding them. I was offering an arts workshop at the Kinneret for the ‘BiG Hug’ and Gay so very kindly drove me there. I remember we shared about our mutual caring for peace and justice in the Land and I still feel that bond with her which extends beyond this world.

    I send my blessings to Gay in higher Worlds and to all of you here who were so deeply connected with her life. What a rich life she had! May she be remembered for a wonderful blessing always and I send my thoughts and prayers to you all and my gratitude to all the Gelb family who took me in and made me feel like part of your family
    peace and blessings
    Juliet Goldstein

  28. By Gilad Bordoley, December 30, 2009 @ 1:07 pm


    This is Barbut calling!

    As usual I got your details from Moti after a week, which considering the sender character, is a miracle…

    I’m sitting in Miami Airport on my way to London to my favorite uncle funeral (92) who was also a WWII hero and a real Mench. I have a minute or two to kill, and I’m in the right state of mind…so here we go:

    According to Einstein and the time theory, there is no such thing as NOW. It is all past and future. As you know, the future is always cloudy unless you are a good dreamer. Even then, they (the dreams) are hard to hold on to and not very trust worthy…. The past on the other hand is a real treasure, and a loyal, reliable companion. Every time I get to kfar blum I go to the cemetery and recharge my memory bank. It is a real high.

    Some people live long but leave a trail of thin boring memories. Others, live a short life but leave us a treasure to dibble in when we are lonely or have the blues or simply happened to hear Nat King Cole on the radio which takes us on a trip to the good old days. Now, you know all of this, but I thought it is worth reminding you how lucky you are in that sense.

    I’m sure your were surprised as to how many people showed up during the Shiva, they too are part of this memory lane, and I’m sure you felt rich. I will have a chance to catch up with you when I go back to Israel next month, and will reserve some juicy jokes till then. In the meantime let this short note from a fish you named Barbut be some help.

    Give my best to all the family members whom I don’t know, and in particular to those who don’t know who I am . . .


  29. By Robert Kauffman, January 4, 2010 @ 6:39 am

    Yehuda and family,
    Gay has been a spritely presence throughout my life. From fashioning fishhooks out of sewing pins on the dock at Conesus Lake (Yes, we caught some!) to enjoying a quiet evening at Rosh Pinna, we were always warmly beckoned into her world. She lives on in the web of precise connections which she wove. I remember her with joy in my heart.

  30. By Stephen, January 10, 2010 @ 5:34 pm

    Dear Yehuda, Sarah, Yigal, and Yair:

    It was great to see you in Israel last month and share some of the memories of Gay and in a way celebrate her life.

    One thing you should know is that very often those who are left behind reflect the true value and beauty of the person who has passed on. This is especially so in your case. Each of you mirrors the goodness and joy of Gay, her sense of adventure, not to mention her love of animals! It certainly was a rich experience knowing her and as I wrote at the time of her passing:

    “I just found this photo (Gay on the dock at the lake with the two dogs) which is how I like to think of Gay. You had to get up pretty early in the morning to catch her and this was one of those mornings when the fish wern’t biting and she was laughing at our futile efforts. This was before her morning swim, her morning run, her morning hike, and her morning berry picking! Not to mention her morning run with the dogs and her bike rides.

    She was a great woman and brave beyond all belief–an example to us all.”

    After Gay knew about her illness, she wrote to us in her usualy direct way:

    “I hope i have had my last conference with doctors. I have decided to do no treatment, and doctors who don’t know me, but know my case, agree that there are only probably a few months at best to be gained from treatment. I am perfectly fine with this, and have been expecting to check out at around this age for quite a while, so i am not even surprised. still feeling ok.”

    Gay was a gracious hostess and after berry picking the berries found their way into delicious muffins. The only time she would actually sit down was when she read books. We miss her now, and we will always miss her.

    Love Stephen and Ilana

  31. By Lilach Nagle, January 14, 2010 @ 10:22 pm

    Dear Yehuda , Yair , Yigal and Sarah

    What an amazing web site for an amazing woman!!!
    My eyes are full of tears and my heart if full of emotions and thoughts about life and about Gay and the special family!
    I spoke to Gay on the phone just before she passed away , it was a nice , relaxed converstation but at the end of it Gay said : well, if I dont see you again good luck and love to your family. Then I felt very sad and found it hard to believe that Gay is really sick. Yehud and Gelb were close to me for years , even though I live in Australia, every visit to Israel included seeing Gay and Yehuda , spending nice time together. Gay was an amazing woman! she was always friendly , happy to see you , share stories , had an interest in your life and your ideas , was always a warm , loving person with so much knowledge and stories. Her love for her family , for animals ,for travelling was extroadinary! Travelling with Gay and yehuda in the past are my deep memories from growing up in Israel.
    Gay was the most special , beautiful woman!
    My father was sick as well and passes away 6 years ago . I didnt make it to see him before he passed away . I was very happy to read that Gay had all of you near her !!!
    I send our love to you , dear family!
    Each one of you is special as Gay!
    You wrote such beautiful words to describe Gay and your feelings!!!
    Take care
    Lots of love Paul ,Lilach ,Kacy and Sivan , Australia

  32. By Orrin Mann, January 17, 2010 @ 3:35 pm

    Dear Yehuda:
    I have been thinking a lot about you since hearing the sad news about Gay’s death. As fate would have it I just learned about this website from Ilana today, as I learned of your father’s passing. My deepest sympathy is with you and your family during this difficult time. Please know that we are with you, across the many miles. While I didn’t know Gay as well as I would have liked, I do have certain impression and thoughts I’d like to share, in the hopes that it gives you some comfort.

    When I first met Gay it was during your wedding. As a boy of 11, my first thought was “Yehuda sure is marrying a pretty lady!” I also remember her smile and warm eyes, as she took time away from the commotion of the wedding and the many guests to spend a few moments with me to make sure I felt welcome. I liked her immediately. I recall Katyushas exploding in Kiryat Shmona during my visits to Kfar Blum at that time, and I marveled at Gay leaving her life in the US for a kibbutz in Israel. What courage she must possess, I thought. I still do. She must have really fallen in love with you.

    While I still believe that, as I’ve grown older, I realize now that it was more than that. She was too intelligent and strong willed to simply make that kind of decision rashly. In you, Yehuda, she found a kindred soul. Both of you share a zest for life, a search for adventure, a love of nature, and a kindness and gentleness of spirit. In short, she found the man of her dreams, her life partner, and her destiny. And though we all wish she could still be with us, the lives you shared and built together are a blessing with many deep and happy memories. And you built a beautiful family together. In all of your memories, her vivacious and loving spirit lives on.

    When I first heard that Gay had died, I was sitting on a deck in Colorado on a beautiful sunny day at the base of a ski mountain. It occurred to me that Gay would somehow have been pleased by that. I felt her presence, and lifted a glass to the sun in toast to her, and in honor of a lovely lady who was not afraid to live her convictions and her dreams…

    With much love,

  33. By Beverly Grasley, February 1, 2010 @ 2:37 pm

    I knew Gay for only her last 8 summers on Eagle Point and she was, by far, the most unique person I have ever known. As many of the other testimonies have stated, she was intelligent, informed and always fair. If I had to use one word to characterize her, it would be “generous.” Gay had a generous spirit, always ready to see any question from both sides, including disputes among neighbors on Eagle Point.

    She was a generous neighbor on Eagle Point, inviting us in for drinks, stopping to talk on her way for a hike in the woods or offering her help in any way, such as taking a boat out of the water. I always looked forward to her arrival when we would talk about politics, books or the state of the world.

    Unfortunately I didn’t see a lot of her last summer and I regretted that I hadn’t said goodbye to her in September when she left. Like everyone else, I couldn’t believe that she had terminal cancer; she was too strong a person to have any disease. Despite her oft-stated insistence that no one should live beyond 65, I was sure she would make it to at least 80.

    It will not be the same next summer without her and as another neighbor said, “She was the spirit of Eagle Point.”

    My last conversation with her was when she knocked on my door to bring me some fresh beets from a nearby farmer’s field after I complained about the high price of beets in the store. It was evidence of her generous nature and it was so typical of her.

    She will be missed.

  34. By Avner Porat a son of kibutz Kfar Blum and a good friend, March 24, 2010 @ 12:49 pm

    Yehuda Shalom! 03-23-2010
    We still can’t believe that Gay is gone, it just seems so impossible and unbelievable. My brother Yoram told me about it when it happened and we were in total shock. I just can’t imagine how difficult this is to you and your whole family.
    I don’t remember when was the last time that I have seen Gay, but I do remember that she was always full of life and very cheerful, spunky and ready to go, to do something different and exciting.
    Her legacy to me is of a very happy person that believed in being positive, and did the best with whatever the situation was. With all the pain and agony i just hope that her memory in time will bring some solace and warmth to you and your family.

  35. By rachael hawkins, May 26, 2010 @ 5:13 pm

    Gay. A fitting name for a feisty, fun-loving little lady. Some of my favorite moments have been spent with this loving and generous lady and her family. I recognize some of our travels from the photo gallery.

    Nostalgia for those times is what led me to search for Yair’s current contact information online and instead I found this beautiful, loving tribute. Gay in a one-of-a-kind unforgettable lady that lives on in the memory of everyone who had the great fortune of knowing her.

    To the entire Gelb family, thank you so much for treating me like family and for taking me along for a ride on a few of your adventurous wanderings. I’m so sorry for your loss. I miss and llove you guys. Let’s get in touch.

  36. By Anonymous, December 11, 2010 @ 10:08 pm

    Dear Gay,
    It’s been a year since your passing, and not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about you, Yehuda, the kids. I’ve written many letters in my head, told friends about our friendship, thought about your life and what you left behind. The day you died, I took out my old photo albums and looked through the photos of you and the kids from the 70’s. I promised to scan them, and never learned how. The albums are still on the marble-top table, a daily reminder of your absence.

  37. By Cait, January 18, 2011 @ 2:35 pm


    You were a wonderful fun loving neighbour in Guatemala in 2005. I will never forget sunset cocktails, the dogs in your backpack, treks from Xela to Aiticlan, hitching back from Todos Los Santos after going back to reclaim the passports, kayaking on the lake.

    You passed on your love of outdoor swimming, which I still adore, and I hope part of your sense of adventure and openness. You were a timeless friend and certainly live on in my memory and appreciation of the outdoors. With love to Yahuda and your children.


  38. By Carol Breibart, August 19, 2011 @ 9:06 pm

    I was at Colby with Gay from 1965-67. She was an individual, separate from the rest of us, but always still a part of the group. I envied her daring to buck the system. I am still amazed that she had the nerve to skip chapel (which was an honor code offense) and hid in a closet the whole time, while I sat in chapel worrying about her. I remember the Breakfast at Tiffany’s episode. I also remember that after Colby she went to the New School for Social Research (as it was called then) and she walked dogs for $75 a week. I was in school in N.C. and once she took the bus to visit me. She was very impressed with our “all-you-can-eat” salad bar, with which we had tired already tired. But Gay did love food.

    In 1972 I was on a kibbutz in Israel and went visit Gay who was by then a wife, mother and a person who spoke English with an Israeli accent. She was working in the roses then and seemed so happy , as though she had finally found her place. After all our political arguments and conversations about the South and her urging (forcing) me to write about my experience at a Ku Klux Klan Rally with 3 carloads of Jewish friends for the Colby paper, it seemed to me that Gay had found her place in this world, where she could be always be herself and be accepted for that. I have always been so happy for her knowing this.

    I loved Gay – she is part of my youth and has always been in my heart. I am very sad to hear this news, but happy to see that she had many people who loved her and a world where she could be Gay.

  39. By Zvika Steinberg, October 6, 2011 @ 7:36 am

    Yehuda, Yair, Yigal and Sarah
    We becamefriends on facebook, Yehuda and I just recently. I last received a post from Yehuda last hight asking for my phone number. After responding, I was thinking and reminiscing. I noticed that Gay was not on facebook and I was wondering. So I decided to “google” Gay gelb and found this blog and, to my great sorrow, learned of her passing almost 2 years ago. Sorry, Yehuda, I did not know. Belatedly I am offering my sincere condolences with great sorrow and tears in my eyes.
    I hope to talk to you soon, Yehuda and express myself further. I am not very good at writing.
    All the best to you, her memory will always be with me.

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