Lifecycles | Obituaries

Obituary: Rayna Gellman

Rayna Leah Gellman, 83, died peacefully in her sleep on Sept. 19, 2019, after a brief period of illness.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, on April 21, 1936, Rayna was the middle of Sol and Julia Nathan’s three daughters. Julia moved Rayna and her sisters Esther (Capin) and Roberta (Bracker) to Los Angeles in the early 1940’s. The girls grew up there, in the heavily Jewish-Fairfax neighborhood. As a girl, Rayna loved celebrating Jewish holidays as well as the family’s involvement at both the nearby Reform temple and the JCC. She also loved playing the cello from an early age, especially in a trio with her sisters as they grew up. While Rayna began college at UCLA as a music major, around that time she was introduced to her future husband, John Gellman. They wed in August of 1955, and began married life in West Lafayette, Indiana, where John finished his engineering degree at Purdue University. Next came five years in Rock Island, Illinois, before they moved to Los Angeles with their two young daughters, Linda and Deborah. Their son David was born in LA. The family moved once more, to Tucson, in 1977.

When Rayna married John, she was thrilled that he was from a Conservative Jewish background, and eagerly embraced the deeper level of observance that came with that. Not much gave her more pleasure than making Shabbat and Jewish festivals at home, going to services, and the study of Jewish topics. Highlights of her Jewish life include wide volunteer involvement in synagogue life; serving as president of the women’s organizations at both Temple Ramat Zion in Northridge, California, and Congregation Anshei Israel in Tucson; working at the Arizona Jewish Post selling advertising; earning a bachelor’s degree in Judaic Studies from the U of A in 1994; working in the education department of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, managing adult education such as the Melton program; as well as all of her other volunteer involvement in the the greater Jewish community of Tucson.

For all the richness of Rayna’s Jewish experiences and observances, the deepest joy of her life was truly connection to people, especially her family.

She leaves behind her loving and devoted husband of 64 years, John Gellman; sister Roberta Bracker of Nogales, Arizona; children Linda (Steve) Braun of Tucson; Deborah (John) Richards of Tacoma, Washington; and David (Eric Banks) Gellman of Seattle; grandchildren Clare Braun, Willie Braun, David Richards, Jack Richards, and Nicholas Ferro; and great-granddaughter Lucille Braun Collins; as well as many loving nieces, nephews, and cousins. In addition, Rayna leaves behind many other people whose lives she touched with her warmth, kindness, and compassion, such as the students and faculty of Cesar Chavez Middle School in South Tucson, and her many friends and acquaintances. Services were held at Evergreen Mortuary and Cemetery, with Rabbi Robert Eisen officiating. Contributions in memory of Rayna may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association, Congregation Anshei Israel, or the charity of your choice. Condolences and stories about Rayna can be posted at under the obituaries.