March 27, 1927 ~ November 29, 2011
Marvin Gelman, founder of Lighting Services Inc, whose company’s products illuminate museums and display windows all over the world, died November 29, 2011, in Westport, CT, of complications from cancer. He was 84.
A longtime Westport, CT resident, Mr. Gelman had a passion for boating and being on the water. He was a member of the Saugatuck River Sail and Power Squadron and former Commander of Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 72 based in Norwalk, CT.
Mr. Gelman was a member of the NY Section of the Illuminating Engineering Society (IESNY) since 1950. He began his career as the Lighting Director of NBC’s Tonight Show with Steve Allen. While working at NBC, he met his future wife, Barbara Savini, a production assistant with the program. The two married in 1957.
In 1958, he left the network to launch his own consulting firm Lighting Services Inc (LSI) which had a motto of “everything in lighting from design to installation”. Within a few years, realizing that quality lighting equipment was not available in the field, Mr. Gelman changed focus and Lighting Services Inc became a full-fledged specialty manufacturer of accent and display lighting. Mr. Gelman told friends, “From day one we decided we wanted to be the best in the business.”
When Mr. Gelman walked into a room, the first thing he did was look up at the lights. His passion for lighting ran deep. He thrived in his role as an entrepreneur and innovator in his field, introducing the world to track, accent, and display lighting. Mr. Gelman enjoyed describing the start of LSI, “I started the company with $400”. In the early years of Lighting Services Inc, Mr. Gelman’s Accountant called him up and said, “Marv, you’re not really making any money here, maybe you ought to “bag-it.” Astonished at what the Accountant said, “Bag-It … what? I refused to “bag-it”, this is what I wanted to do — Lighting. So I changed Accountants, I “bagged” them.” He often said, “You have to do what you like, otherwise you waste your whole life.”
Installations at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Hong Kong Museum of History and Walt Disney Theme Parks are among those lighted with LSI’s fixtures, as are display windows at Tiffany’s, Gucci, Bergdorf Goodman and other luxury retailers.
Born March 27, 1927, in New York, Marvin was the son of the late Jack and Lena Gelman. During World War II, he received training in electrical engineering while serving in the US Navy. After graduating from New York University, he began graduate studies in stage design and lighting at Columbia University. As a husband, father, and grandfather he was generous and loving. The family enjoyed many years of happiness, laughter and traveling together.
Mr. Gelman was predeceased by his wife, Barbara Savini Gelman, who died in 1997. He retired from Lighting Services Inc. in 2000 after 42 years as founder and President.
He is survived by his daughter, Gretchen Saccone of Monroe, CT; son and daughter-in-law, Daniel and Ellyn Gelman of Westport; his five grandchildren, Chris and Corey Saccone of Monroe and Keith, Dayna, and Craig Gelman of Westport. He is also survived by his sister Rene Gelman MD, of Brookline, MA.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Education Trust at the International Association of Lighting Designers: