Russ Neff’s passion for jazz was infectious.

He made promoting the genre his life’s work, hosting jazz radio programs on WITF and WMSP over the years and writing about the music scene for The Patriot-News. He co-founded the Central Pennsylvania Friends of Jazz (CPFJ) and worked with Gretna Music, using both organizations to spotlight the local jazz scene while also bringing world renown performers to the Harrisburg area.

Neff died from COVID-19 at Lancaster General Hospital on Nov. 28. He was in his 70s.

“Russ was certainly one of the great movers and shakers in terms of jazz in this area,” said Reverend Mark Granderson, who worked with Neff while he was with the CPFJ. “His death truly is a great loss for jazz in this community.”

You can’t talk about Neff without talking about jazz.

“That was his life,” said Harriet Williamson, one of his good friends and a former jazz writer for The Patriot-News.

Steve Rudolph, another good friend of Neff’s and a fellow co-founder of CPFJ, agreed.

“It was a big part of him,” Rudolph said. “He had a lovely wife and daughter and he loved his family, of course, but he was devoted to the music. It was at least number two for him.”

Both Williamson and Rudolph described their friend as a gentle soul, someone who was shy and yet
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