Martin Portnoy, 92, a bandleader whose orchestra performed for decades at Philadelphia affairs ranging from weddings to Liberty Medal ceremonies, died Thursday, Jan. 18, from kidney-related disease at Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice in Voorhees.
The Marty Portnoy Orchestra, a longtime fixture in Center City ballrooms and thousands of events around the region, played at the Liberty Medal ceremonies for Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk in 1993 and Vaclav Havel in 1994. His band performed at a birthday party for Frank Sinatra in Atlantic City, his family said.
“He touched so many people’s lives with his music,” said his daughter Robin Gibson.
An Inquirer columnist in 1995 wrote that the orchestra’s members wore tuxedos and were “always true to the spirit of the song.”
Mr. Portnoy was born in Philadelphia and raised in the city’s Feltonville section by Russian immigrant parents. He graduated from Olney High School and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
He mainly played the saxophone and clarinet, and was a member and president of Music Associates, a group that ran 20 bands.
“To him, it was a lifestyle, a calling,” said his wife of 50 years, Gail.
In his later years, before his health declined, he would perform solo shows at nursing homes to provide music for the residents, she said.
In 2008, he published an autobiography, The Kid and His Music.
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Portnoy is survived by another daughter, Mindy Fratkin; sons Randy and Gary; a brother, Dr. Leonard Portnoy; and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
A celebration of his life is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 19, at The Merion, 1301 Route 130, Cinnaminson.
Contributions in his name can be made to Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice at www.samaritannj.com.