Acclaimed cellist Ingus Naruns played for the Beatles, the Bee Gees and the Boston Pops, but cherished performing on his boat, alone on quiet waters. The Lindenhurst resident died at 87 on July 23.
Among his career highlights, he soloed in European concert tours, made classical music albums and was the lead cellist of the Boston Pops tour orchestra under famed conductor Arthur Fiedler. He can be heard in the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" and the Bee Gees' "Saturday Night Fever."
"That talent to use that cello like a human voice was unparalleled," said Frank Liguori of Lindenhurst, a best friend and music lover. "When you turn your back, you'd swear a soprano was singing.
"He was probably the best cellist in the world for many years."
Born in Latvia, Naruns grew up in a culture that prized the classics. His mother, a radio soprano, and businessman father let him play piano and cello.
But near the end of World War II, the Soviets moved back into Latvia, killing his father, said Naruns' widow, Kathryn Ellis.
Naruns, who was in the Latvian army, ran and hid more than a year from the Soviets, Ellis said: "He ended up out in the woods eating snow and tree bark."
Eventually, he got into a West German "displaced persons camp," she said.
Often during daytime, he'd play with an orchestra around post-World War II Germany, which had been shattered by bombs and fighting, to give people joy, she said. And he'd have the run of a friend's luxury apartment, plus a Mercedes. At night, he had to return to the camp, because it was the rule, she said.
In 1949, his career took a big step when he won the prestigious Geneva International Music Competition. He was 24.
Two years later, he left for Miami, where he taught music and was the lead cellist for the Greater Miami Philharmonic.
"He enjoyed life to the fullest," said Michele Levin of Manhattan, one of his piano accompanists. "There was nothing bland about him. There was a great deal of joy. It was very infectious."
With music, Naruns was serious, friends said. He practiced from 5 a.m. to about 1 p.m. daily, with the sort of detail that reflected a mind once bent toward chemistry.
But he missed Latvia. He returned to hold concerts in 1991, soon after the nation bucked Soviet control.
"After Latvia was free, it was everyone's dream to go back and give something to everyone who had suffered under the Communists," said friend Minka Klavins of Scarsdale, a student in Naruns' music classes in the displaced persons camp.
After retiring in 1986, the cellist had more time for animals, a bond second only to his cello, said Liguori, the veterinarian for his friend's dogs.
In his last years, he said, Naruns was called the "bagel guy" for collecting stores' unsold bagels to feed ducks, dogs and more. He refused to harm spiders and other creatures in his house, a benevolence that extended to longtime squatters in the family's Latvian farm, Liguori said.
"He wouldn't want anyone to be uncomfortable," he said.
Naruns is also survived by daughters Ingril Gil and Sylvia Parodi, both of Miami; and two granddaughters. He was cremated.