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Remembering Dr. Richard Judelsohn, pediatrician & "doctor of jazz"

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Dr. Richard Judelsohn

Funeral services were held Wednesday morning for Dr. Richard Judelsohn of Buffalo.  Family, friends and colleagues gathered at Temple Beth Zion on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo.  Judelsohn died Sunday at Roswell Park Cancer Institute following lengthy illness.  He was 69. 

Dr.Judelsohn was one of Western New York's leading pediatricians.  Dr. Judelshon was not only a managing partner at Buffalo Pediatric Associates, he also served as medical director for the Erie County Health Department. 

To WBFO listeners, however, Dr. Judelsohn was known as the host of Bebop and Beyond, a jazz radio program that he hosted for 35-years.  WBFO News contributor and WGRZ TV senior correspondent for Rich Kellman has this remembrance of Dick Judelsohn.

It  was New Years Day, 8 p.m., and the voice was familiar. “Good evening and welcome to Bebop and Beyond. I’m Dick Judelsohn. Happy New Year and welcome to our show.”

Dick Judelsohn started Bebop and Beyond on WBFO radio in 1976. It’s probably one of the longest-running jazz shows in America.  Station program director Dave Benders tells us. “He was one of the most articulate presenters of music. He did it with an economy of words.” Dick Judelsohn’s last broadcast was on that Sunday night, January 1st. He had been fighting a debilitating disease for more than two years. He died last Sunday night as an earlier taped broadcast took to the airwaves.

“He was a very interesting man,” says Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Anthony Billittier. “He was a renaissance man, a pediatrician by training and took care of children for all their needs,” he says. In addition to being “Dr. Jazz” on the radio, he was medical director of the health department. “His specialty in public health was immunizations,” says Billittier. “He was a big proponent of making sure our kids were vaccinated and that’s become even more important these days, so his work has been very important.”

Dick Judelsohn’s work as a pediatrician builds on the legacy of his father, Louis, who was also a pediatrician. Father and son have become almost a part of the family for thousands parents and their children throughout Western New York. Suzanne Wolf of Ross Avenue in Buffalo tells us, “My daughter Sarah Rose is going to be 20 this year and my son is 12, he’ll be 13 in March and he’s a 7th grader at Catholic Academy.” Both were patients of Dr. Judelsohn’s “and I started out as Dr. Judelsohn’s father’s patient and as he came into the practice, I was then his patient.” But she never knew he was the Dick Judelsohn who did the jazz program on the radio. “Not until you told me, “ she says.

Fellow jazz host Macy Favor knew of the father before he ever met the son. “My kids went to that Dr. Judelsohn. And I think that we had a bond because you didn’t find that kind of thing back there in the 50’s, the late 50’s and 60’s.” Favor is African American.

 “You’re talking about race?” we ask.

 “Right,” says Favor. “But Dr. Judelsohn didn’t care what color you were. So I had a high respect for the Judelsohns when I came out here (to Buffalo.)”

“Many people pass and not too many people say anything,” says Billittier, “but when they say something about you like this and many people say it, it means something, so I think Dick would be pleased.”

At Temple Beth Zion on Wednesday, they said goodbye to the friend and family member whom many called Dr. Jazz.  Friend and musician Russ D’Alba played Joy Spring by Clifford Brown on his sax, something he thought Dick Judelsohn would have loved. His children, David, Amy and Alexandra said through their tears that they loved and admired their father.

His last words on that Sunday night three weeks ago: “We’ve got great music coming along for you every Sunday night on WBFO. I’m Dick Judelsohn.  Have yourself a very nice week.”

You can also watch Rich Kellman's story on-line at http://www.wgrz.com/news/article/151467/37/Saying-Farewell-to-Dr-Jazz.