As you have likely read in a prior post to this blog, a person who was inspiring and to whom I looked up to as a role model when I was a teen and young adult was Flavia “Feggie” (Schmitt) Gernatt (now deceased). Growing up, I lived in the same neighborhood of Seneca Heights and Taylor Hollow in Collins, New York in Western New York State as Feggie and many members of her family and extended family. Feggie and her husband, Dan Sr., lived in Collins, right next to the main headquarters of one of their gravel and asphalt plants.
Next door to Dan Sr. and Feggie lived their son, Dan Jr., and his family. Just a couple of doors down the road from them and across the street lives her eldest daughter, Patricia Rebmann. The Rebmann Family has lived there for decades, having raised about 10 children. And, in a neighboring town has lived Feggie’s and Dan’s youngest daughter, Phyllis. Phyllis and her family have lived in Perrysburg for many years. Many years ago, Phyllis and her family gave a cute teddy bear as a gift to my son when he was a newborn.
I got to know the Gernatt’s by living in the same neighborhood and by attending the same church, St. Joseph Church in Gowanda, New York and the Diocese of Buffalo, of the Roman Catholic faith. I was also familiar with some of the Gernatt’s racing stallions since they were housed in my neighborhood. While the Gernatt’s and Rebmann’s had always attended the church’s parochial school at that time, I also got to know them and was familiar with them through bus rides to and from school. Donald Gernatt, the youngest son of Dan Jr. and Dolores “Dolly” (Stelmach) Gernatt, and my brother, were friends, striking up a friendship on those occasional bus rides that Don took to and from school (most of the time, he was driven to or from school). Indeed, my brother’s first employer was Dan Gernatt, Jr. at one of his gravel and asphalt companies.
The older children of Dan Jr. and Dolly are Dianna (Gernatt) Saraf and Dan III. Dan Jr. and Dolly are divorced, and Dan is married to his second wife, Roseann (Morgano) Gernatt. As a kid, I also knew some of the younger Rebmann kids, including Dave, Barb, and Jeanne, through church as well as Girl Scouts. Some of the older Rebmann’s continued to live in Seneca Heights after getting married and having their own families.
In my mid-teens, I would often attend daily mass at St. Joseph Church, and discovered that many in the Gernatt extended family did, as well. Through church and mass, I got to know and become familiar with Dan Sr.’s and Feggie’s daughter, Phyllis Ulmer, and her family. Phyllis and her husband, Rich (now deceased) have two adult sons, and Rich has two adult children from a prior marriage. Phyllis and Rich have been involved in the church and school in many capacities. I also got to know and become more familiar with Dan Sr., Feggie, and Dan Jr., as they regularly attended daily mass, as well.
I remember back to the time when I was a student at the University at Buffalo and on Spring Break that my car had broken down, and after asking Dan Sr. and Feggie to transport me to and from daily mass for a few days, they did so. They included me as their guest in the light breakfast that followed a 6:30 AM mass during Lent at that time, and were very kind to me. I further got to know Feggie a bit more while catching up with her and walking with her, occasionally, on walks through our neighborhood. Feggie was a wise, intelligent, insightful, and strong woman.
As a high school junior, a friend of mine began dating one of the Rebmann’s. This young man was a cousin and friend to Don Gernatt, and so, I asked my friend if she would pass along to him that I was interested in seeing him, if he was available. It was at that time in 1987 that I dated Don for a few months, until my family’s out-of-state vacation interfered with Don’s prom. I remember him as an exceptional gentleman who treated me with kindness, appreciation, honor, respect, and dignity, in the manner that I believe that all men should treat women. Since that time, I have found no one with whom I have been romantically involved to have met or exceeded the standard that he set for me in men.
Looking back, I wish someone had told me that most people would not be as kind or respectful of me as Don was. Then, I would not have held my expectations so high. While Don and his family members are multimillionaires who are very powerful and influential in New York State business and politics, and in the Roman Catholic Church, my interest in him had never been about money, but in him as a person. Indeed, the only financial support I ever received from the Gernatt Family was through a $50 sponsorship when I participated in the Miss Teen of New York Pageant in 1987. Further, I had always observed Don to be kind and good-hearted, even toward those who were jealous of him during our rides on the school bus. Don is the only member of the Gernatt family and extended family with whom I have ever been romantically involved.
I suppose that when people get to a certain age, they may recall the past and certain past experiences that are always prominent in their memories. Don and his family live in Springville, New York, while Dianna and her family live in Hamburg, New York. And, while we have all gone on our separate paths in life now and I no longer have connections to these families, I can still recall many fond memories that I have of dating my first boyfriend, Don.
All other men whom I have dated since my first boyfriend are those who can take lessons from Don in how to treat a woman with respect, honor, dignity, and appreciation. I am thankful that I was able to experience from him the manner in which men should treat their romantic partners. I hope that I will have taught my own son to be as respectful of a gentleman toward women as my first boyfriend was to me.
Michele Babcock-Nice (March 17, 2014). Having a Love for Horses: Remembering Sir Taurus and Elitist. Blogbymichele.WordPress.com. Retrieved on May 5, 2014 from http://wp.me/p25c1A-qi
Michele Babcock-Nice (February 3, 2012). In Remembrance of Flavia C. Gernatt. Blogbymichele.WordPress.com. Retrieved on April 28, 2014 from http://wp.me/p25c1A-3O
Michele Babcock-Nice (2014). Photograph collection of Michele Babcock-Nice, 1971-2014. (Photos of the Gernatt’s, Ulmer’s, and Sir Taurus from their families/owners, 1980s-1990s.) Snellville, Georgia.
Gernatt Asphalt Products, Inc. (2001). Retrieved on April 28, 2014 from http://www.gernatt.com/
Wikipedia (2014). Daniel and Flavia Gernatt Family Foundation. Retrieved on April 28, 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_and_Flavia_Gernatt_Family_Foundation
Wikipedia (2014). Gernatt Family of Companies. Retrieved on April 28, 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gernatt_Family_of_Companies
Wikipedia (2014). Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. Retrieved on May 6, 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Catholic_Diocese_of_Buffalo
Wikipedia (2014). St. Joseph Parish, Gowanda, New York. Retrieved on April 28, 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Joseph_Parish,_Gowanda,_New_York