Passing Notes(10)

Keith (Ketman) Shirasawa, a fixture behind the counter at San Mateo, California’s Gelb Music, passed away August 4, while on vacation in New York due to complications following emergency surgery for a neck injury sustained while riding the Cyclone roller coaster at Coney Island. The surgery had been deemed successful, and the prognosis was for a complete recovery. Shirasawa was still hospitalized, but making plans to return to the San Francisco Bay Area when he died unexpectedly.
Publish date:
Updated on

Born in Santa Monica, California in 1954, Shirasawa graduated from the University of Southern California with dual masters’ degrees in Gerontology and Urban Planning. At the age of 29, he became the youngest department head in California when he took over San Mateo County’s Area Agency on Aging. Soon after, he decided his passion for music and guitar were more important than money. After several failed attempts, he finally convinced the owner of Gelb Music, Kevin Jarvis, that a man of his stature was willing to take a pay cut to work in his music store and would enjoy every minute of it—which he did for 20 years until his untimely death.

“There are no words to express the shock and grief we are feeling after losing our beloved Keith in such a senseless tragedy,” said Jarvis. “He not only was one of the kindest men I have ever known, he loved his job, and he loved Gelb. His humor, incredible knowledge, dedication, and selflessness were unparalleled in the music business. The hole in our hearts is massive. Somehow, we will have to continue, knowing he will never again resume his accustomed position behind our counter.”

George Gruhn, a longtime friend of Shirasawa’s, had this to say: “Keith was one of my dearest friends. I can’t recall when we first met—memory grows foggy with age—but we used to meet at NAMM shows, and, frequently, had lengthy phone conversations in which we attempted to unravel the mysteries of the music business and solve all the world’s problems. I have not had a waking hour since his death that he has not been on my mind.”

Shirasawa is survived by his sister Aya Masada, and the love of his life, Linda Walker. —Special thanks to Gelb’s Kevin Jarvis