Lou Garbus
Lou Garbus

Obituary of Lou Garbus

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Lou Garbus was born in New York City on October 15, 1917, during World War I and the year the Russian revolution started. He spent his youth eating stuffed cabbage and matzoh ball soup and arguing about Trotsky versus Lenin at the corner candy store. At 12 he sent away for a camera which arrived in the mail with film and developer. It cost 57 cents and it worked! This began a passion for photography that lasted his whole life. Photography was a way to earn extra money that was desperately needed for his family, but more it was a way for him to gain entry into people’s lives and hearts, which was Lou's real passion. When he joined the post office at the height of the depression, he chose letter carrier instead of clerk so he could be out meeting people, spreading his philosophy. When WWII broke out, in 1942 he enlisted in the Army and served for three years, primarily as a mail clerk. He was awarded a good conduct medal and passed a sharpshooter exam. In 1945 he volunteered for another two years, completed Officer Candidate School and became a first lieutenant. He served on the Liberty Ships bringing soldiers back from Europe, where his job was to entertain them and break the news that they would be sent to Japan for more fighting. He never told a soul. When the war was over he met Betty Branner, a young beauty who had served as a Wave in the Navy at an art class for returning vets. They married a year later. After a year living in a 'cold water flat' on Second Avenue, where they bathed in the kitchen sink and shared a toilet with neighbors, they moved up to the “The Amalgamated” in the Bronx, a neighborhood of mostly non religious 'cultural' Jews. There they raised four children. Lou worked days in the post office and actively pursued his photography on nights and weekends. He continuously showed his work in the local bakery window, had an inquiring photographer column in the local newspaper, did the annual school class pictures, weddings, bar mitzvahs, portraits, etc. His photos were always of people-- intimate, beautifully composed and crafted, portraits of children, teens, old people, his family and anyone who was lucky enough to meet him on the street with his ever present camera around his neck. In the early years he lovingly and very skillfully developed all his own negatives and prints. Later on most of his work was in color, developed by others. He retired from the post office in 1972 and devoted himself to teaching photography in schools in around New York City, to children, teens and adults. He was a natural and eager teacher, always anxious to get people involved in photography and to get them to feel good about themselves. Some of these students went on to become successful photographers and many have remained friends. He started spending more time in Maine where he and Betty had bought a house on Moody Mountain Road in 1970. Although he had spent his whole life in New York, he was drawn to Maine and its good, hardworking and honest people. After September 11, 2001, they moved there permanently. Lou was never happier than when he was in his home and on his land. planting tomatoes, swimming in his pond, shooting pictures or drinking beer with one or several of his many many friends. He died on October 11 at Harbor House Rehab Center in Belfast, where he was recovering from pneumonia, a month after Betty died and four days shy of his 93rd birthday. After a laughter filled visit with old friends, where he shared his philosophy and his peanut butter sandwich with their children, he lay back on his bed and was suddenly gone, apparently without any pain. While the world is a less colorful, less funny and less vibrant, place without Lou (or Louie as many called him), it is also a world that has been touched by him and his quirky form of wisdom. Every one of the thousands who knew him, even if just for a moment, are a bit more colorful themselves: more thoughtful and perhaps a bit more alive. He is survived by his children, Bill, Ben and Lucy, his grandchildren Merrill, Ruth, Rachel, Jacob and Emma. He will be missed. [Written by Lucy Garbus, edited by Bill Garbus 16 Oct 2010]
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Lou Garbus

In Loving Memory

Lou Garbus

1917 - 2010

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