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Riverside Memorial Chapel

180 West 76Th Street, New York, NY

OBITUARY

Richard Richie Geller

August 20, 1946November 1, 2011

Richard B. Geller (August 20, 1946 – November 1, 2011)

Richard B. Geller, age 65, died Tuesday afternoon at the NYU Langone Medical Center hospital after a hard-fought battle with melanoma cancer. During his final hospital stay, he was almost constantly surrounded by as many family members as his room could hold. His unconditional and unwavering love, generosity, support, loyalty, and tireless passion for family, friends, and teaching math forever enhanced and changed the lives of those who knew him well. Richard was born on August 20, 1946, in Brooklyn, New York. The oldest of three sons, he taught his brothers games like chess and billiards. He loved his brothers deeply, and maintaining relationships with them was a priority throughout his adult life. His father discontinued school after 8th grade but believed in the importance of education and wanted his sons to pursue college and graduate school. After graduating from Midwood High School in 1963, Richard attended Brooklyn College and graduated in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics. He later enrolled in a masters degree program in Statistics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. During these college years he was involved in civil rights and anti-war protests. To avoid the draft, he left graduate school after one year to pursue a career in teaching and to earn a masters degree in education. Richard soon married and became the father of two children. Through tough times and good times, his love for his children never wavered. He was driven by a desire to promote their present and future happiness, to support their pursuit of their own dreams, and to solidify extended family ties. He also loved his daughter-in-law as his own. Regardless of where his children moved as adults, including San Antonio, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Guam, Korea, Tokyo, Nagoya, and Okinawa, he made visiting a priority. His no-nonsense directness and honesty, while sometimes blunt, was always motivated by the best of intentions. They never had to guess about what he thought and knew they could always count on him with no strings attached.

No one knew Richard’s romantic side better than the love of his life Barbara. At the time they met he was rapidly evolving into a connoisseur of fine foods and a gourmet cook, characteristics Barbara greatly appreciated. He proposed to Barbara in Switzerland at the most famous restaurant in the world, Girardet. Barbara was totally surprised and thrilled. When she accepted, he characteristically ordered the most famous champagne in the world, Dom Perignon. From then on they always celebrated life’s big events by cooking feasts at home, or dining at the best restaurants, including Lutece, Raos, and Bouley. He personally knew some of the best chefs in New York.

After their marriage, he became an uncle and jumped into his new role with both feet. Despite geographic separation up to a thousand miles, he was a cheerleader at most significant competitions, performances, and events, often carrying a bag of math problems to work on during down times. He visited his young nephew in Delaware so often that his nephew thought he lived at the Christiana Hilton. He provided invaluable support, and a home away from home, to his niece from Wisconsin, who attended college and graduate school in New York City. He welcomed all his nieces and nephews in his apartment at every opportunity, showing them around New York, cooking special meals, playing games, and making jokes. He gave them his time, and they knew he loved them.

Math was his passion, and he found his calling as a math teacher, a job he performed with great enthusiasm for forty three years. His students became like a second family, always thinking about their future in everything he did. While some saw him as overly strict or ornery, he worked tirelessly for them without regard to recognition or popularity. Nonetheless, he was recognized with innumerable awards and recognitions for teaching and coaching. In recent months, Richard said the main thing that helped with the cancer pain and fatigue was teaching. He continued to work even from the hospital on his death bed, and in the hours before his death he was talking in his sleep about teaching a lesson. He seemed to sleep well that night!

Family, math, and food were not his only passions. He also loved sports, especially the Giants, Rangers, Knicks, and Mets, international travel especially to France, and cycling (rode 12 miles to and from Stuyvesant High School everyday and took several long biking adventures including a 400 mile journey along the Erie Canal and many European bike trips with his wife Barbara). However, what he wanted most in life was to express his love for teaching math and his love for his wife and family. Although he always said “Math is #1 and Family is #1”, for him, love was really #1. And this is how he will be remembered.

Richard was preceded in death by his parents, Morris and Minnie. He is survived by his wife, Barbara, brothers Harold and Allan, daughter Lisa, son Jason and daughter-in-law Mikiko. He is also survived by brothers- and sisters-in-law Art, Jean, David, Donna, Sue, Jim, Rob, and Tricia and by his nieces and nephews Katie, Dan, Alex, Sarah, and Emma.

His family wishes to thank Dr Anna Pavlick and the entire incredible team at the NYU Clinical Cancer Center for their willingness to find the best possible experimental treatments for Richard and their unwaivering emotional support. They also want to thank Dr Amy Lewis and the research team at Genentech for their steadfast advocacy and support for Richard every step of the way.

Services are planned for Friday November 5, 2011 at Riverside Memorial Chapel, 180 West 76th Street at Amsterdam Avenue. The family will receive visitors beginning at 10:45 AM and show a short film of Richard’s farewell to his Stuyvesant High School students and community. Services will begin promptly at 11:45 AM. Burial will be immediately after at the New Montefiore Cemetery, Pinelawn, Suffolk County, NY.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to a scholarship fund at Stuyvesant High School set up in Richard’s name. Checks can be made out to Richard B Geller Memorial Scholarship for Mathematics and sent to Barbara Geller, 50 West 97th Street #11T, New York, NY 10025.

1. YouTube video of Richard Geller's Stuyvesant Graduation Speech http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbfPGlPpUns

2. NY Times article http://www.nytimes.com/schoolbook/2011/11/02/stuyvesant-students-mourn-a-math-teacher-who-was-no-1/?scp=1&sq=richard%20geller&st=cse

3. Stuyvesant High School Spectator article http://stuyspectator.com/2011/06/08/richard-geller-the-lifelong-mathematician/

Services

  • Richard Geller Funeral Service

Memories

Richard Richie Geller

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Paul Cooper

January 29, 2012

My thoughts and sympathies are with the family. I am wondering whether Richard grew up at 150 Lefferts Avenue in Brooklyn. I also grew up in that buiilding, with friends named Richie and Harry. As with most childhood friendships, it vanished when I moved a couple of blocks away. If all this speculation is fact, I'm happy to hear of Richard's rich and productive life, and sad to hear of his death.

Carl Mehling

November 21, 2011

I consider myself very lucky to have had Geller as a math teacher in Stuy. VERY lucky. I was failing math in junior high and figured it wasn't something I could learn and therefore lost interest. My first class with Geller was (I think) the guinea pig class for Integrated Math in 1983. Geller's style was superb and he not only taught me math, he made me understand and even love it. And he was somehow able to do this with most of his students. I wound up in his class for a solid three years and maintained an A average through the whole run (again, as I recall...). I was also able to make it through the first 2/3 of college calculus and I give Geller full credit for that! I also consider myself extremely lucky because I was able to tell him all this several years ago when we both attended the retirement of another Stuy teacher. Geller Rules and will be missed by those who he taught to love math.

Carl Mehling
Fossil Amphibian, Reptile, and Bird Collections
Division of Paleontology
American Museum of Natural History

Lisa Ladner

November 11, 2011

I love you so very much Dad. You were always there and showed me what the true meaning of intregrity is. You always did the right thing. I miss you more than you will ever know.

Melvyn Garskof

November 9, 2011

I knew Richie as a fellow teacher at Stuyvesant. I was always awed by the great things that he did with the math team. My daughter had him as a teacher for Richie's prep course for the specialized science high schools exam. She loved his class and while she just missed the Stuyvesant cut-off she did make it into Science. I remember him as a fearless critic of Abe Baumel back in the 15th Street building and as a gourmet who knew many of the great chefs on a personal basis.

Jessica Wu

November 7, 2011

I had Mr. Geller for freshman year math team. I was a pretty shy person back then, so I wasn't one to carry out conversations with teachers. But I liked him and I knew that he liked me. Throughout all four years at Stuy I would see Mr. Geller in the hallways and he's smile and I'd smile back. It makes me so sad that he's gone. I'm really glad to have had him for a teacher.

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