History of John O. Gerrish
In Photos

c.1930 John O'Neill Gerrish's Six Piece Band

This Photo was taken after John's graduation from Crane School of Music in Potsdam, NY, and just before moving to Nutley, NJ to teach music at Nutley High School and take charge of the marching band there. Bill Oliver, (center) also moved to Livingston, New Jersey and became the band director at Orange High School. Son Jim Gerrish studied music at Orange High School and in 1958-59 played sousaphone in the Orange High School marching band.

Right to Left

Pianist - Pop - John O. Gerrish
Trumpet - Donald Pease
Drums - Carl Dixon
Saxophone - Bill Oliver
Sousaphone - Raymond Ames
Clarinet - Walter Nicke

c.1935 Nutley High School Band in front of Nutley High School

John is in the suit, standing on the left side of the photo. We don't know who any of the band members are and hope Nutley High School historians can identify some of them.

Shortly after this photo was taken, John began teaching at Newark Normal School, which eventually became Newark State College in Newark, NJ. At this time, John brought his family to Orange, NJ.

December 14, 1954 - Singing at St. LaSalle Club
L-R: Cathy, Jim, Marion, John O. , Mary, John B.


April 30, 1957 Photo taken before a concert of The Gerrish Family Singers in Wilmington, DE

L-R: Standing - Jim, Mary and John B Gerrish; Seated - Marion, Cathy, and John O. Gerrish.

Article from The East Orange Record of September 11, 1958

August, 1960 at Camp Undercliff, Lake Placid, NY
L-R: Jim, Mary, Cathy, Marion, John O.

March 22, 1960 - Performance at the Music Educators National Conference (MENC) in Atlantic City, NJ


L-R: John O. Gerrish, Jim, Cathy,Marion, Mary, and John B. Gerrish.

c.1961 - News photo taken for the Newark Evening News to publicize a concert featuring The Gerrish Family Singers at the Newark Museum. This was taken in the family home in Orange, NJ. By this time, Newark State College had moved to Union, NJ.

The full program and a review can be seen HERE:

A similar photo taken at the same time (shown above) was used to illustrate an article in a Pre-Convention Issue of the Music Educator's Journal for February-March of 1962. A copy of that article with more photos and memorabilia can be found HERE.

L-R: John B, Jim, John O., Mary, Marion, and Cathy Gerrish

August, 1959. The Gerrish Family Singers rehearsing their Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring finale on the dock at Camp Undercliff in Lake Placid, NY. One of the owners of the camp was Bill Oliver, band director at Orange High School, mentioned above.

L-R: Foreground - John O, Cathy, and John B. Gerrish. Standing - Jim, Mary, and Marion B. Gerrish.

August, 1959. With Whiteface Mountain as a backdrop, The Gerrish Family Singers pose for a publicity photo on the dock at Camp Undercliff, in Lake Placid, NY. The photo was used in the Orange Transcript for a Christmas program given on December 17, 1959.

L-R: John O., James O., John B., Mary E., Marion B., and Cathy E. Gerrish

August, 1959. One more photo of you know who from you know where. Mary insists we were actually singing "100 Bottles of Beer," a favorite Camp Undercliff song for the photo, but that may be a family myth.

John O. Gerrish (1910 - 2010)

John O’Neill (Jack) Gerrish passed away on Monday, November 29, 2010 at age 100. Jack was the son of Charles P. and Mary O. Gerrish of Potsdam NY. He graduated from Crane School of Music in 1930, and ran a popular dance band during the Great Depression. Jack’s favorite teaching job was his ten years at Franklin Academy in Malone NY. He moved to Nutley, NJ in the late 1930's, taught at the Nutley High School for a short time before beginning a career as a Music Educator at Newark Normal College. He brought his family to live in Orange, NJ in the early 1940's. Newark Normal College became Newark State Teacher's College, and it eventually moved to Union where it became known as Kean State University. Following the death of his first wife, Marion, he married the late Claire Stackpole of Winooski VT. For 20 years after his retirement as a Music Professor, he served as organist at the Winooski Vermont United Methodist Church.

Jack is survived by two brothers, Charles and Robert Gerrish, both of Potsdam NY, and four children, John (husband of Sandra), Mary, James, and Catherine (wife of William Ryan). These, his eight grandchildren, his ten great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews remember him fondly for encouraging them to enjoy and perform music. His funeral was held on December 3rd at St. Stephen’s Church, Winooski, VT, then he was taken home to Potsdam ,NY for burial.

In lieu of flowers or donations, please consider providing music lessons for a youngster.


My name is Mel (short for MaryEllen) White. In my earliest years I was MaryEllen McDavit, and my Dad, Herb McDavit, was a friend of Jack Gerrish and a fan of his music. I started lessons very early and played "Mountain Climbing" and "South Wind" pretty early in my lesson years. I always liked them and never parted with the original sheet music that Dad had given me. I have been a piano teacher for some time now, and I have started using those pieces with one of my students this year. She is getting good at "South Wind" now that she finally decided to pay some attention to the fingering on the descending thirds on the 2nd page! Her name is Savannah and she is in 2nd (I think) grade. I have 2 recitals a year, one at the holidays and one in June. I'm hoping she will be playing "South Wind".

I was so glad I googled today and read about the wonderful 100-year party you folks had -- how awesome that he made that milestone and was there to enjoy the music and love. My grandmother (my Mom's mom) lived to 103-1/2 and I am hoping I inherited those genes, as I am a composer with 9 cds out so far and lots more to come -- I need the time to get it all out there! I would be happy to send anyone who is interested one of my cds if anyone would like one. Just seems like the right thing to do to close the circuit.

Blessings to all, and thanks for the great idea to sponsor a student instead of sending flowers -- I am going to put that in my instructions for decades from now when I finally pass on (I will be 64 this April) --

Mel White ( www.smilingheartmusic.com )

Northview High School Vocal Department presented a Festival of Music, Monday, March 4th, 2013 at the Max Colley Jr. Performing Arts Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Performing in that concert were four of John's great grandchildren: Ivan Suminski, Nicholas Suminski, Hariett Groenleer and Andrew Groenleer. Also in the concert was John's grandchild, Elizabeth Suminski. The concert included John's choral piece "The Falcon" heard on this video contributed by Marc Groenleer, introduced by Andrew Groenleer. In the audience were two of John's children, John B. Gerrish and Mary E. Gerrish, along with other relatives and family members.

The Falcon by John O. Gerrish from James Gerrish on Vimeo.

Program notes:

The Falcon (aka Corpus Christi Carol) might well have been a troubadour's song back in Shakespeare's day. Seven couplets mingle Christian symbols with the King Arthur Holy Grail myths, leaving the modern listener wondering what the poem means. It is mournful stuff-something like the well-known Coventry Carol. In 1953, John O. Gerrish set the old poem to music, believing that the words of the poem were inherently musical, regardless of their meaning. He composed a funereal melody that repeatedly quotes the Medieval plainchant, "Dies irae." The time is mostly 3/4 but listen for the 4/4 measure in which the composer obliges the conductor to "make the sign of the Cross" at the words, "Corpus Christi." Very Medieval, symbolism everywhere. The piece was published in 1956. Gerrish's "Falcon" was given an award by the National Music Educators Association in 1962.

Found by Mary in December of 2014 in the attic at Winooski, VT, this little known carol composed in 1952 deserves to be heard again. Click on the above page to be taken to the full score.

Family members who spot errors or ommissions, please contact Jim Gerrish. Anyone who attended the party and who has additional photos, video and information either of a historic nature about Jack or about the party, please e-mail them to Jim Gerrish.

Back to 100th Birthday Celebration of John O. Gerrish

More Family Photos of the Past

Wikipedia Page for John Gerrish

Copy of Wiki Page

Back to Interactive Museum Timeline

Museum caretakers: Jim Gerrish (#2 son of John O. Gerrish) and Frederick Goode (grandson of John O. Gerrish)