Choir Atlanta 2012

Mr. Ross B. Kellan

A memorial gathering for Mr. Kellan will be held Friday, June 9th from 2:00 pm to 8:00 pm at Brust Funeral Home, 135 S. Main St., Lombard. Please click the link for more information.

It is with great sorrow that we must acknowledge the passing of our friend and colleague, Ross Kellan. There are no words which can fully express the sorrow we feel, nor which can describe the depth of this loss.  The world of music education is now without one of its most stellar examples, and countless students and colleagues who were privileged to feel the power of his influence and example now mourn with us at this time.  We can only offer our most fervent prayers and deepest condolences to his family, especially to his wife, Jeri, and his daughter, Erin.  And finally, in the midst of this sorrow, let us be thankful for Ross, a life well lived, a teaching career without equal, and a friendship which we will eternally cherish in our hearts.  May he rest in peace.

Below is a statement from Mr. Kellan’s daughter, Erin. 

Mr. & Mrs. Kellan with their daughter, Erin


It’s with a heavy heart that I’m sharing that my dad has passed away after a 7-year battle with cancer. I’ve read announcements of this nature in the past that often say that someone has ‘lost’ their battle with cancer but I’ve never liked that phrase. In my mind, anyone who bravely faces cancer no matter the outcome has won in my book, and I can say with absolute certainty that although this terrible disease took many things from my dad, one thing he never allowed it to do was break his spirit. 

RBK has always been the most optimistic and positive person I’ve known, and he remained that way as he continued to work through multiple rounds of chemo, radiation and immunotherapy. If you saw him during any of those timeframes and asked how he was, he probably smiled, said he was doing great and asked after you and your family.

When chemo caused his spine to deteriorate, he endured two spinal fusions that saved his ability to walk but resulted in the loss of some basic mobility like bending to tie his shoelaces. Instead of complaining, he was thankful that he was still able to conduct a band, and cracked jokes about how he now needed an assistant (my mom) to help him get ready.

Over the past month when he was hospitalized frequently, he remained as friendly as ever despite how poorly he was feeling; introducing himself to and talking with every nurse, doctor, and healthcare worker he encountered. I quickly lost track of the number of nurses and doctors who said he was their favorite patient or remarked to my mom and me what a kind, good person he was.  I feel very fortunate that we live near three world-class hospitals and cannot speak highly enough of everyone we worked with at Rush, the University of Chicago and Northwestern over the years. Their skill, compassion, and empathy helped extend the time we had with him far beyond what any statistic or projection indicated we were to expect.

Yesterday, June 3rd marked my parent’s 45th wedding anniversary, and through the end they remained one of those rare couples that were still as in love, if not more so, than the day they were married. My mom was by my dad’s side for every doctor appointment and treatment. She’s cared for him after every surgery, been his cheerleader when things were going well, and his shoulder to lean on when they weren’t. My parents were true partners, and their relationship was a beautiful thing I feel privileged to have watched for so many years.

There are many quotes about teaching and what it means to be a teacher but I’ve always loved this one in particular: ‘A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.’ With that in mind, to all of my dad’s former students: teaching you was one of the greatest joys in his life and I know that his spirit will live on each time one of you picks up an instrument or drives one of your kids to band practice.

Finally, on behalf of our entire family, thank you to everyone who has reached out with a kind word, dropped off a meal, or offered support in any other way – it means more than you know.