Music of Kellie Greene brightened lives around her

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Kathleen Foody
Monday, July 20, 2009
— If there's a moment that tells the story of D'Laine Dary's relationship with her Aunt Kellie, it happened in a blue Cadillac convertible somewhere between Stoughton and Los Angeles.

Known as Lorraine "Lorrie" Bobert during her childhood in Janesville, Kellie Greene became one of the most beloved jazz pianists on the West Coast. But the summer her niece turned 15, Greene returned to Wisconsin, and they set off on a cross-country road trip.

At some point, Kellie turned to D'Laine and asked her favorite actor.

"Don Stroud," she answered. "But you probably wouldn't know who he is."

Her aunt laughed and told her niece that Stroud had been a friend and once baby-sat her dogs during a trip. When they arrived in Los Angeles, Greene set up an evening at Stroud's home in the Hollywood Hills.

Every memory D'Laine has of her aunt is in this theme: Aunt Kellie making the people around her happy through music and her bright smile.

The jazz musician and manager died Monday at her home in Palm Springs, Calif. Greene never fully recovered after a 2007 car crash in Mexico left her a quadriplegic, Dary said.

But before her accident, Greene traveled the country from the time she graduated high school. Along the way, she developed an impressive resume and played with musical greats, including Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Ray Anthony.

Lynn Delmerico met Greene through Fred Schaffer's All Girl Band in the late 1950s. The two always remained in touch though they worked on opposite coasts for most of their careers, Delmerico said.

"She sat down that first day and read the music immediately," she said. "She was very talented … even Sinatra thought she was great, and that's absolutely true."

Though Greene moved away from Wisconsin, Dary said family always was important to her, and she remained especially close with her older brother Clarence "Ceeb" Bobert.

"Even that (road) trip, he had no worries," Dary said. "That was his sister, and she just absolutely adored my dad, and he did, too."

Greene never married or had her own children. She told the Gazette in a 2001 interview that the "love of her life," Danny Waldor, died in a plane crash at 26. Dary said she was told that her aunt's fiancé was in the military and died while serving.

Though she loved performing, Greene turned to management and arranging later in life, Dary said. But based on her 2001 interview, her love for music was clear when she gave this advice to aspiring musicians:

"Come from a wealthy family. You can't even put money as an important part because no jazz musician ever made it big. If you're following your dream, money shouldn't matter."

Last updated: 10:54 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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