Cover photo for Joseph William Gelzine's Obituary

Joseph William Gelzine

January 21, 1941 — June 15, 2024

Little Rock

Joseph William Gelzine

JOSEPH WILLIAM GELZINE passed away at the age of 83 in Little Rock, AR on June 15, 2024. He was born in Easton, PA to Joseph William Gelzine and Rebecca Pauline Gelzine (Banko). He moved with his parents to Fort Smith, AR in 1946 and went back to Easton for many years in the summer to visit family, recalling those long train rides to get there. Having skipped a grade in grade school, Joe graduated from Fort Smith High School in 1958 and was a member of the basketball team which won the state basketball championship in 1958. He played basketball in the Boy’s Club leagues as a young child. His father relocated the family to Fort Smith to open the Dixie Cup factory and Joe spent his summers working there. He was the first one in his family to attend college, starting at Fort Smith Junior College and graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in 1962. While attending Fort Smith Junior College, he received the first annual outstanding players award for Lion basketball players. He also set a record at the school by scoring 42 points in one game. He practiced with the Razorback basketball team and was offered a scholarship to play on the team, but refused noting he had played basketball a long time and his priority now was to focus on schoolwork. He started law school in 1963 at the University of Arkansas and finished in two years by continuing his studies during the summer months to graduate with a Juris Doctor in 1965. Following law school, he was employed as a law clerk to Carleton Harris, the chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. After clerking, he was an attorney agent with the Internal Revenue Service serving as an auditor in the estate and gift tax department. After working with one of the founding members of the law firm Spitzberg, Mitchell, & Hays (currently known as Mitchell Williams Law Firm) in this capacity, he was invited to join the firm and did so in 1967, becoming a partner six months later where he specialized in tax, construction, and real estate law and remained until his retirement. He assisted many notable Little Rock businesses with legal counsel and one of his proudest accomplishments was helping to bring about the construction of Baptist Hospital. Joe was able to secure the funding for the hospital, which was no easy task as there was an issue securing the funds from local banks due to the large amount of the loan, so he flew to Dallas to secure funding which allowed the project to continue. He also served on the Board of Directors at First Jacksonville Bank for ten years. 

 Joe enjoyed wilderness canoeing in the United States and Canada. Two trips were the highlight of this activity taking him down the Nahanni and Yukon Rivers in Canada. He and his travel mates were dropped off by plane in the wilderness to be “picked up” 7-10 days later downstream. They did have a guide for the Nahanni River trip, and he would regale his friends and family with tales of these adventures. He also remained a loyal University of Arkansas Razorbacks fan and enjoyed trips to watch the St. Louis Cardinals. 

He is survived by his loving wife, Cecillia (Orsburn). Joe met and fell in love with Cecillia while attending the University of Arkansas and they were married in 1966. They had just celebrated 58 years of marriage as of June 11, 2024. Joe and Cecillia had two beautiful daughters Angela Gelzine and Jennifer Morrison. Joe took pride in his family and was a loving family man, always bragging about his wife and girls. Joe and Cecillia lived in Little Rock, AR where they raised their family and attended Grace Lutheran Church. 

Joe was preceded in death by his father, Joseph, and his mother, Rebecca, and is survived by his wife Cecillia, his daughters Angela Gelzine (Robert Staerk) of Phoenixville, PA, and Jennifer Morrison (Mike) of Little Rock. He has three grandchildren: Zachary Staerk, Emily Staerk, and Samantha Morrison. Joseph was a kind and caring man who loved his family, his career as a lawyer, basketball, the outdoors, and spending time with his friends. He will be greatly missed but the love he shared will continue to live on in our memories forever.

There will be a private celebration of life service for the immediate family. 

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Joe’s memory to St. Jude Children’s Hospital or the Sierra Club.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Joseph William Gelzine, please visit our flower store.
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