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Donald Rea


1928 - 2017 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Donald Rea Obituary
Donald Rea

December 9, 1928

June 30, 2017

Donald Rea 1928-2017

Donald Rea died peacefully after a short battle with cancer, and a long, happy life, full of love and music. He was 88 years old - the same amount of keys that are on a piano.

He is survived by his sons Matthew (Laurie), Mark (Lori), and daughter Carla. His amazing grandchildren Adam, Angela, Alissa, Thomas, Nicholas, and Daniel, and great grandson Preston. He is predeceased by his father Thomas Rea, mother Mary Rea, brothers Thomas, David, and Louis Rea, and sister Dolores,

Born in Detroit Michigan December 9, 1928. He married the love of his life, Susan Benning (Queenie) on February 24, 1951. Don and Susan had a storybook romance, which on some days was also like a Lockhorns cartoon. They were in love from the day they met, until the day Susan died, June 19, 2012. Truth be told, he will love Susan forever, and Susan will love Don forever.

At around 13 years old Don started playing piano, and went on to become an accomplished pianist/keyboardist. He joined the Gaylord's in 1949. A musical trio on the Mercury label, that performed throughout the country, and landed gold records and top 10's on the Billboard charts in the late 50s: The Little Shoemaker, Tell Me Your Mine, From The Vine Came The Grape. Along with Don Rea the original members were Burt *Holiday* Bonaldi, Ronnie *Gaylord* Fredianelli, and Billy Christ. These four men went on to be lifelong friends, and "brothers."

In 1950 Don entered the army, and was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood in Waynesville Missouri. He played in the Army band, and went on to achieve the rank of sergeant before leaving his service.

In the 60s The Gaylord's became the musical comedy team of Gaylord & Holiday. Don was their keyboard player, musical director, conductor, and arranger. They made numerous appearances on The Colgate Comedy Hour, The Mike Douglas Show, The Merv Griffin Show, The Tonight Show, The Flip Wilson Show, and Rowan and Martin's Laugh In. They worked with other major headliners throughout the country, including Duke Ellington who called the Gaylords "purveyors of tonal zest."

In the early 80's Don became entertainment director at Circus Circus in Reno, where he booked and contracted the musicians who played for the live circus acts.

In 1961 Don moved his family to Reno Nevada, where he remained until his passing. He continued to play piano with small bands, large bands, community events, and even doing some studio session work.

Don was an amazing father, and the kindest, funniest, most generous, loving and talented man you could ever meet. He never met a stranger, and he loved to talk. If he was still here he would still be talking.

The Bonaldi and Roenspie families were the Rea's second and third families. Thank you to them for all the love and kindness over the years. And a special thank you to the VA Community Living Center, Reno for their kindness and compassion.

In Lieu of flowers pleasemake donations to the VA Community Living Center, Reno. Checks can be mailed, or dropped off: VASNHCS, 975 Kirman Ave, Reno, NV 89502. Donations are tax-deductible.
Published in Reno Gazette-Journal on July 6, 2017
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