Beloved educator, church elder and musician Yolanda Gross has died. She is best remembered by family and friends for her humor, wit and her habit of giving back to her community. She passed away on Jan. 19 after an illness in Southampton Hospital at age 74.
Gross, affectionately known as “Yo,” was born in New York City on Feb. 15, 1939, and raised in Harlem. Her childhood friends included famed tap dancing brothers Maurice and Gregory Hines. Gross was also close to her cousins, the late Clyde and Douglas Barker.
She went to George Washington High School in Washington Heights, where she played flute and piano. Gross later attended the Manhattan School of Music, where she became a classically trained pianist. Her talent granted her several performances, including one at Carnegie Hall. Growing up in Harlem, she was a member of St. James Presbyterian Church.
Gross attended the historically Black Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn. Upon her return to New York, she taught kindergarten and second grade at P.S. 49 in the South Bronx and then became a teacher trainer. She kept in contact with many of her elementary school students and invited them to visit her with their children in the Hamptons in the summer.
She married Richard Gross in 1977. They lived in Manhattan until 1996, when they retired to their summer home in East Hampton. In retirement, Gross worked at the Springs School as a substitute teacher and was the school librarian for a year. Because of her love of reading, she was invited to join the local teacher’s book club. Gross was quickly embraced by the entire community.
She enjoyed going on her yearly cruise with her husband and their close friends. She was also a member of the League of Women voters and volunteered at the Hampton Film Festival for a number of years. She attended services at the Springs Presbyterian Church.
Gross was an avid jazz lover; she was close friends with saxophonist Cannonball Adderley. She especially loved entertaining and preparing elegant meals for friends and family. She was loved and respected by all, including her family, friends, colleagues and students.
Gross was predeceased by her parents, Paul and Lora Wright of Danville, Va. She is survived by her devoted husband, Richard; loving daughter Lora; adoring sister Elizabeth; brother-in-law Ira; sister-in-law Betty; niece and nephew Heather and Michael Burns; brand-new grandnephew; and her extended family in Danville. Her bright light and vibrant spirit will live forever in the hearts and minds of all who had the pleasure of knowing her.