by Shiela Steinman Wallace
There are people in this world who quietly devote themselves to making the world a better place. They always seem to be around and working hard.
Harry Geller is just such a person, and the Louisville Jewish community is lucky to have him.
This year Geller will be in the spotlight because the Jewish Community of Louisville (JCL) has selected him to receive the 2012 Ronald and Marie Abrams Volunteer of the Year Award.
Born in Fargo, ND, in 1927, Geller had four brothers and four sisters; two brothers and one sister are still alive today. He spent two years in the Army Air Force then attended North Dakota State University where he earned a B.S. in industrial engineering and was an honor graduate in 1951. He came to Louisville in 1953.
Geller enjoyed a 41-year career with General Electric and retired as a general manager in 1992. For the next five years, he ran a consulting company.
He and his wife, Annette, who will have been married for 55 years in August, have four children, Larry (Julie), Sally (Daniel) Weinberg, Mark (Tracy) and David (Betsey); and 11 grandchildren.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Geller replied when asked his reaction to receiving the Abrams Award. “It was completely unexpected, and I wasn’t thinking about it. I usually don’t think about awards. The biggest reward in volunteer work is the personal satisfaction of getting things done and seeing improvements for my family and the community.”
“When these recognitionss come along,” he added, “I respect and understand their importance and significance. The extra message there for me is that somebody is aware of what volunteers are doing, and that makes it very, very sweet. This award is particularly meaningful to me because I’ve known Marie and Ronnie Abrams for many years and hold them in high regard. They practically invented and wrote the book on volunteer work.”
Throughout his life, Geller devoted time to volunteering in the community, particularly in the Jewish community, so much so that it nearly defines his life.
“I was in reasonably good health when I retired,” he noted, “so I had more time to work on a lot of things I really didn’t have the time to do when I was working, and that’s been even more rewarding.
With respect to the JCL, he observed, “We are making good progress.” He encourages others to step forward and do their part, too. “We must have more volunteers and contributions,” he said, “otherwise we’re going to be faced with deterioration of our progress.”
Geller first became a member of the Jewish Community Center’s Board of Directors in 1960, and served in that capacity “on and off” for 25 years. Along the way, he also served as a Senior High School Club Adviser and on the Senior High, Personnel, Membership, Strategic Planning and Fund-Raising Committees.
He’s also been a volunteer for the annual Federation Campaign for 40 years, volunteering to talk with specific individuals and regularly making calls on Super Sunday. In addition, he served on the Federation’s Planning and Allocations Committee and its Day School Study Committee.
When the Federation and the Center merged, Geller became a JCL Board member. He continues to work on the annual Federation Campaign and serves on the Planning and Allocations Committee. He also served on the Nominating Committee.
Geller’s other home is Congregation Adath Jeshurun where he has served on the Board of Directors for 42 years and on the Executive Committee for 25, positions he still holds today. In addition, he is currently a member of AJ’s Facility Renovation, Nominating and Fund-Raising Committees.
In the past, he has used his talents on AJ’s Membership, Finance and Personnel Committees; and he served eight years on the Eliahu Academy Board.
In the general community, Geller participates in the General Electric Elfun Society.
The Ron and Marie Abrams Award was presented at the JCL Annual Meeting on June 24.