On International Women’s Day, Celebrating Women (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Me with my son, February 2016

Me with my son, February 2016

Life and life experiences bring many joys and challenges, successes and failures, jubilation and pain for all of us.  Of adults, women often seem to face many more challenges than men.  There are different familial, cultural, and societal expectations of women.  Women are portrayed differently (and often less respectfully) than men throughout the media. Women can be leaders or followers or somewhere in-between.  However, women are always women, regardless of the types of experiences and lives we lead.  There is so much that women embody, and there is so much that women do and say.  More often, I encourage women to be more supportive, understanding, and helpful toward each other. One never knows exactly what another person is experiencing, and just a simple smile or word of encouragement can go a long way.  On International Women’s Day, it is the perfect day to promote awareness of all of this.

In my own life, I have experienced many joys and challenges, successes and failures, jubilation and pain.  I recall some of the happiest times of my life being when I gave birth to my son, my wedding day, and each of the days that I graduated from school, college, and university.  Additional happy times have been in celebrating happy occasions and accomplishment of my son.  Some of the most painful experiences I have had have included my divorce, being unemployed, and having financial challenges.  I am thankful for the people in my life who I am closest to  and my faith for helping and supporting me through the ups and downs of my life.  I am thankful for those, whether female or male, who have helped me to become a better, stronger, more sensitive and compassionate person.  I am thankful for all those in my life who supported my life, growth, and development, as well as my beliefs in myself, my self confidence, and my self esteem.

There is so much expected of women.  We are expected to be wives, mothers, teachers, caretakers, bosses, employees, leaders, and followers.  We are expected to carry our religious faith and convictions over to our children, and even to others’ children.  We are expected to help others, to volunteer, to give of ourselves, sometimes until there is nearly nothing else left to give.  What is there left for ourselves, at times?  This is what we have to find, and this is often the balancing act that we have to play.  How do we get our own needs met while also fulfilling (or helping to fulfill) the needs of others?  For some of us, we have it all worked out; for others, it is a lifelong journey.

Some of the most important aspects of my own life have been the support and interactions of family, friends, and/or colleagues (emotional and/or financial); religious faith; education; and career.  Supportive people in my life are sometimes few and far between, however those who are supportive are those I highly value and cherish.  My religious faith has always been there, and while I do not support everything within my faith, I know where I stand with it.  Education has always been something I have supported.  Knowledge is power, and one can never have too much knowledge.  Regarding career, I am a woman who believes that working in a career position, such as a teacher or counselor, is as much a career as remaining at home and raising one’s children.  And, there are many of us who do both of those and do them well.

Therefore, these aforestated aspects of my own life have contributed to shaping me into the woman I am today.  While I am a woman who would like more work and career opportunities in order to be more financially independent and self-sufficient for my family, I am also a woman who is thankful for the opportunities I have had to be an involved mother, role model, and guide for my son.  I am thankful for being able to be personally involved in my son’s life.  I am not a woman who regrets being unable to spend quality time with my son because I am one who has done that.  And, it is my hope that it has contributed to his welfare and benefit, and that he has and will become a better and stronger person for it, as well.

As women, we are all intertwined with each other, whether male or female, girl or boy, woman or man.  I encourage women to be more supportive, helpful, and understanding of other women.  Our society so often encourages men and women to be hard and insensitive on our way to the top.  However, I question whether what society perceives as “the top” might sometimes actually be the bottom, based on my own values and perceptions.  We must all consider who we are and how our lives and life experiences has contributed to making us into who we are.  I would like to ask that, on this International Women’s Day, we all consider and take action toward being more supportive of women, and reflecting on who we are and what has made us into who we are.  I would also like to encourage that if there is anything in those perceptions and reflections that we dislike and/or can improve – in a values context – that we do so.  If all of us do this, it will have a positive ripple effect throughout our society, one that we can definitely use.

The Gernatt’s of Western New York State in the 1980s and 1990s (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Dan Gernatt, Sr. and Flavia Gernatt, 1990s

Dan Gernatt, Sr. and Flavia Gernatt, 1990s

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.

Gernatt Stallion, Sir Taurus, 1989

Gernatt Stallion, Sir Taurus, 1989

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.

The Ulmer Family, 2000

The Ulmer Family, 2000

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.

The Gernatt and Saraf Families, 1980s

The Gernatt and Saraf Families, 1980s

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.

Sources:

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.

References:

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

My Gale, Henn, Cole, McGee, and Bulson Family Ancestry Photos (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

The families of Gale, Henn, Cole, McGee, and Bulson are a big part of my family ancestry on my dad’s mother’s mom’s side of the family.  The Gale’s came to the United States from England.  William M. Gale, who is my Great Great Grandfather or Great Great Great Grandfather, was born in England.  Emily Esther (Costard) Gale (born on Isle of Jersey in the Channel Island, England on January 29, 1849-died in North Collins, New York on July 11, 1917), is possibly the mother (more likely) or a sister of William H. Gale, though I am unsure if he was William Hamilton Gale or William Henry Gale.  There were also other Gale’s in the family, including Walter Allen Gale, Harry Hamilton Gale, Julia Emily Gale, Alice Costard Gale, Lydia Ada Gale, and Carrie Camilla Gale.  Either William Hamilton Gale or William Henry Gale married Anna (Henn) Gale, and they had a daughter, Emily B. Gale.  Harry Hamilton Gale (September 14, 1878-March 1930), an uncle of my grandmother, served in the military in New York State.

All of the Gale’s lived in Hamburg, New York, but for Harry who is later said to have moved to Canada.  William (Emily B. Gale’s father) was a successful barber, and owned and operated his own barber shop in Hamburg for decades.  They lived on Main Street, and the barber shop was close by their residence.  Julia Emily (Gale) Briggs was married to Clarence Briggs, and they had a daughter, Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, my grandmother – my father’s mother.

My Great Great Grandmother Emily (Costard) Gale’s sisters remained in England, but stayed in touch with her and sent photos and letters to her through the years.  Irish ancestry, through marriage, came from one of my great great grandmother’s sisters, Julia McGee; her son was named William McGee.  He married and had two daughters, Dorothy and Phyllis. Dorothy married Mr. B. Apps on August 2, 1937.

There were also several members of the Henn Family, who had immigrated to the United States from Germany.  From what I have uncovered, I believe that Frank Henn married Anna (Goetz) Henn.  They had children, including Fred and Louis, and possibly Anna, Frank, William, and Charles.  Fred (Frederick) (born October 20, 1843 in Bavaria, Germany) was a soldier in the Union Army and fought in the Civil War in Louisiana and Virginia.  He was a private in Company D, 116th NYVI Regiment of Buffalo.  He was wounded in Louisiana, and spent 2-3 months in the hospital, there, recovering.  He was honorably discharged due to the end of the war.  There is a photo and record of his service on file at the Hamburg (New York) Historical Society.  I also have a photo and an item of memorabilia reflecting his service in the Army.  He was married to Mary A. Henn, who died in 1896.

When Emily B. Gale died in 1986 and her estate was sold, my family missed acquiring Fred Henn’s medal from his service in the Civil War because it was grabbed quickly by an antique dealer who had a special interest in such memorabilia, and who had arrived just ahead of my parents for the sale.  It would have been a wonderful piece to keep in the family.  Additionally, I have a beautiful and colorful marriage certificate of a Friedrich  Henn and Mahole (Thompson) Henn, reflecting their wedding date as July 27, 1897 in Germany.  This is believed to be a different Fred Henn than the man who fought in the American Civil War.  Also remember that Emily B. Gale was the only child of William H. Gale and Anna (Henn) Gale.

The Cole’s are part of my family ancestry through Carrie Camilla Gale’s marriage to Frank Cole.  Carrie was the eldest daughter of William and Emily (Costard) Gale.  Frank and Carrie had a son, Arnold, who married Grace Cochran.  They then had three sons and a daughter, including Arnold Cole, Jr., William E. Cole, Eugene Cole, and Norma G. Cole.  I have several photos of Arnold Cole as a baby and as a private school student in Buffalo, New York.

I have one image William M. Gale, and a few photos of Emily (Costard) Gale.  I do not have any photos of Frank Cole, though I do have a couple of photos that include Carrie with her sisters, Julia and Alice.  Julia was my Great Grandmother – my Grandmother’s mom. Emily B. Gale, my grandmother’s cousin, lived with her parents, and never married.  She inherited the family home following the death of Anna (as William had predeceased her), though was placed in a nursing home in Hamburg, New York, where she died in 1986.  Emily B. Gale owned many amazing antiques and treasures, including antique furniture; dolls; photographs in frames; and Civil War memorabilia of Fred Henn.  My family was able to purchase a few of those items at her estate sale just after her death.

William H., Anna (Henn), and Emily B. Gale, and Frederick and Mary A. Henn, are buried in Prospect Lawn Cemetery in Hamburg, New York.

William M. Gale, Father of William H. Gale, Early Half of 1800s

William M. Gale, Father of William H. Gale, Early Half of 1800s

This is an image of William M. Gale, the father of William H. Gale.  The image is printed on a postcard, and would have to be from the early half of the 1800s.

Emily Gale (Grandmother of Emily B. Gale) with Oldest Granddaughter, Julia Gale (Age 2), Hamburg, NY, 1890

Emily (Costard) Gale with Julia Gale (Age 2), Hamburg, New York, 1890

Here is Emily Gale with Julia Gale, in Hamburg, New York in about 1890.

Possibly a Gale, Buffalo, New York

Possibly a Gale, Buffalo, New York

This photo is thought to possibly be that of a Gale boy.

Alice Gale

Alice Gale

This is a photo of Alice Gale, who was one of William Gale’s sisters or nieces.

Emily (Costard) Gale (1849-1917), Wife of William M. Gale, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1900-1910

Emily (Costard) Gale (1849-1917), Hamburg, New York, Circa 1900-1910

This photo is of Emily Esther (Costard) Gale, in Hamburg, New York in later life, around 1900-1910.

Condenseo Mince Meat (Possible Employees), Near Hamburg, New York, Circa 1890

Condenseo Mince Meat (Possible Employees), Near Hamburg, New York, Circa 1890

In her later years, Emily (Costard) Gale also worked at Condenseo Mince Meat in or around Hamburg, New York.  This is the best photo that I have of the employees of this company, a photo that also includes my Great Grandfather, Clarence Briggs, and one of his brothers, Howard Briggs, who both also worked there at that time.  Emily is seated in the middle, front row of the photo, while the Briggs men are standing at the rear.

Sisters Julia McGee (Age 75) and Martha Bulson (Age 72), Lee-on-the-Solent, England, 1929 (Cousins to Gale's and Briggs')

Sisters Julia McGee (Age 75) and Martha Bulson (Age 72), Lee-on-the-Solent, England, 1929 (Cousins to Gale’s and Briggs’)

This is a picture of Emily (Costard) Gale’s sisters, Julia McGee and Martha Bulson, from 1929 in England.

Martha E. Bulson (Left) and her Sister, Julia McGee, Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England, Circa 1923

Martha E. Bulson (Left) and her Sister, Julia McGee, Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England, Circa 1923

Here is Martha Bulson an her sister, Julia McGee, in England in 1923.  They were sisters of Emily (Costard) Gale.

Julia McGee, England, Christmas 1923

Julia McGee, England, Christmas 1923

Here is Julia McGee at Christmas in England in 1923.  The flowerettes were painted on the photo by William McGee, who painted pictures.  I believe the William was either her husband or son.

Martha E. Bulson with Sons and Grandchildren, Manor House, Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England, November 27. 1932

Martha E. Bulson with Sons and Grandchildren, Manor House, Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England, November 27, 1932

Here is Martha E. Bulson with her sons and grandchildren at her ‘Manor House’ in Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England, on November 27, 1932.

Martha E. Bulson (Left) with Sons and Grandchildren, Manor House, Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England, November 27. 1932

Martha E. Bulson (Left) with Sons and Grandchildren, Manor House, Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England, November 27, 1932

Again, here is a photo of Martha E. Bulson with her sons and grandchildren at her Manor House in Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England, on November 27, 1932.

William McGee, 1933, England

William McGee, 1933, England

This is a photo of William McGee in England in 1933.

The McGee's and Apps', August 2, 1937, England

The McGee’s and Apps’, August 2, 1937, England

Here is William McGee (right) with his family.  William’s wife is at the far left.  The McGee’s daugther, Dorothy married Mr. B. Apps on August 2, 1937.  The woman standing next to William is the groom’s mother.  The McGee’s daughter, Phyllis, is sitting.

Ronald Bulson, Lee-on-the-Solent, England, 1938 (By E.M. Blakey)

Ronald Bulson, Lee-on-the-Solent, England, 1938 (By E.M. Blakey)

This photo is of Ronald Bulson in England.  Ronald was Martha Bulson’s grandson.

Julia Gale (Married Name-Briggs), Hamburg, New York, 1890

Julia Gale (Married Name-Briggs) of Hamburg, New York, 1890

This is a photo of my Great Grandmother, Julia Emily (Gale) Briggs as a girl.

The Young Gale Girls, (L to R) Alice, Carrie (Married Name-Cole), & Julia (Married Name-Briggs), Hamburg, New York, 1890 (Daughters of William H. and Anna [Henn] Gale)

The Young Gale Girls, (L to R) Alice, Carrie (Married Name-Cole), & Julia (Married Name-Briggs), Hamburg, New York, 1890

Here are the Gale girls of Hamburg,  New York around 1890.

Possibly Alice Gale and Daughter, Buffalo, New York

Possibly Alice Gale and Daughter, Buffalo, New York

This photo is possibly of Alice Gale and a daughter, although I am not sure.  It is from 1908.

Anna (Henn) Gale with Niece Julia Emily Gale (Left) and Emily B. Gale, Hamburg, New York, 1900

Anna (Henn) Gale with Niece Julia Emily Gale (Left) and Emily B. Gale, Hamburg, New York, 1900

This is a photo of Anna (Henn) Gale with my Great Grandmother, Julia Gale, and Anna’s only child, Emily B. Gale, in Hamburg, New York around 1900.

Anna (Henn) Gale (Wife of William H. Gale; Mother of Emily B. Gale), Hamburg, New York, Circa 1900

Anna (Henn) Gale (Wife of William H. Gale; Mother of Emily B. Gale), Hamburg, New York, Circa 1910

Anna (Henn) Gale is shown in this photo, in Hamburg, New York around 1910.

William H. Gale, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1890-1900

William H. Gale, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1890-1900

Pictured is William H. Gale, husband of Anna (Henn) Gale, and father of Emily B. Gale, of Hamburg, New York around 1890-1900.  He was a barber in Hamburg for decades.

Emily B. Gale (in Fur Coat), Hamburg, New York, 1890, Only Child of William H. and Anna (Henn) Gale

Emily B. Gale (in Fur Coat), Hamburg, New York, 1900, Only Child of William H. and Anna (Henn) Gale

This is a photo of my grandmother’s cousin, Emily B. Gale, as a young girl, wearing a fur coat in Hamburg, New York around 1900.

Emily B. Gale, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1905

Emily B. Gale, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1905

This is another photo of Emily B. Gale as a young girl in Hamburg, New York around 1905.

Emily B. Gale, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1910

Emily B. Gale, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1910

Again, pictured is Emily B. Gale of Hamburg, New York around 1910.

William H. Gale (Age 91) Outside his Home in Hamburg, NY, 1938 (Born in England)

William H. Gale (Age 91) Outside his Home in Hamburg, NY, 1938 (Born in England)

Here, William Gale is pictured as an elderly man.  He was 91 years old in 1938 when this photo was taken, just outside the Gale Family home in Hamburg, New York.

Harry H. Gale

Harry H. Gale

This is a photo of Harry H. Gale, a brother of William H. Gale.

Harry Hamilton Gale, Military Veteran, Buffalo, New York, 1890s

Harry Hamilton Gale, Military Veteran, Buffalo, New York, 1890s

This is a photo of Harry Hamilton Gale as a Union Army soldier out of Buffalo, New York in the 1880s.

Fredrick Henn and his Wife (Possibly Anna), Hamburg, NY, Circa 1890-1900 (Notice Civil War Medal for Union Service)

Frederick Henn and his Wife, Mary A. Henn, Hamburg, NY, Circa 1890 (Notice Civil War Medal for Union Service)

This is a photo of Frederick Henn and his wife, thought to be named Anna, in Hamburg, New York around 1890-1900.  Notice that Fred is wearing his medal for service in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

Funeral Card of Mrs. Fred Henn, March 19, 1896, Hamburg, New York

Funeral Card of Mrs. Fred Henn, March 19, 1896, Hamburg, New York

This is a funeral card for Mrs. Fred Henn, whom I believe would have been the lady in the photo preceding this image.  She died on March 19, 1896 in Hamburg, New York at age 58.

Thought to be Fred Henn, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1870-1890

Thought to be Fred Henn, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1870-1890

This is a photo that is thought to be of Fred Henn, around 1870-1890, in Hamburg, New York.

Frederick Henn, Hamburg, NY, Circa 1920

Frederick Henn, Hamburg, New York, American Civil War Veteran in Union Army, Circa 1920

This copy of a photo is of Fred Henn, also identifying his regiment in the Army in which he fought in the Civil War.  I obtained copies of these items from the Hamburg Historical Society in Hamburg, New York in 2001.

Civil War Veterans (GAR), Hamburg, New York, Circa 1930 L-R Charles Duke, Fred Henn, Joseph Taylor, Eugene Frink, Conrad Glasser

Civil War Veterans (GAR), Hamburg, New York, Circa 1930 L-R Charles Duke, Fred Henn, Joseph Taylor, Eugene Frink, Conrad Glasser

This is a photo on display at the Hamburg Historical Museum/Society.  I took a photo of the picture when I visited there.  My grandmother’s cousin’s uncle is Fred Henn, who served in the Grand Army of the Republic’s Company D of the 116th Regiment during the Civil War.

Louis Henn, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1890

Louis Henn, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1890

This is a photo of Louis Henn, a brother of Fred Henn, in Hamburg, New York around 1890.

Louis Henn and Possible Brothers (3)

Louis Henn (at left) and possibly his brothers, 1890-1900?

Possibly the Henn brothers (3)

Here again, Louis Henn (front, left), and possibly his brothers, undated.

Unknown Ancestor, Possibly from the Henn Family, Troy, New York, Circa 1925-1935 or Earlier

Unknown Ancestor, Possibly from the Henn Family, Troy, New York, Circa 1925-1935 or Earlier

This is a photo of a man believed to be a member of the Henn Family.

Arnold Cole (Son of Frank and Carrie [Gale] Cole), Buffalo, NY, Circa 1892

Arnold Cole (Son of Frank and Carrie [Gale] Cole), Buffalo, NY, Circa 1892

This is a photo of Arnold Cole, the son of Frank and Carrie (Gale) Cole, in Buffalo, New York in 1892.

Arnold Cole, Hamburg or Buffalo, NY, Circa 1905, Cousin to Julia (Gale) Briggs, Emily Gale, Bernice Briggs Babcock Sprague

Arnold Cole, Hamburg or Buffalo, NY, Circa 1895, Cousin to Julia (Gale) Briggs, Emily Gale, Bernice Briggs Babcock Sprague

Here is another picture of Arnold Cole, with his toy horse, probably in Buffalo, New York around 1895.

Arnold Cole

Arnold Cole

Here is another picture of Arnold Cole as a boy.

Arnold Cole (Age 16) (Son of Carrie [Gale] Cole), Buffalo, NY, 1908

Arnold Cole (Age 16) (Son of Carrie [Gale] Cole), Buffalo, NY, 1908

This photo of Arnold Cole was taken in 1908 in Buffalo, New York when he was 16-years-old.  It was taken outside of a private school that he attended in Buffalo.

Arnold Cole (Age 13), Buffalo, NY, 1923

Arnold Cole (Age 13), Buffalo, NY, 1905

Here is another photo of Arnold Cole at age 13, outside of another private school that he attended in Buffalo, New York, in 1905.

Arnold Cole (Age 17) (Son of Carrie [Gale] Cole), Buffalo, NY, 1909

Arnold Cole (Age 17) (Son of Carrie [Gale] Cole), Buffalo, NY, 1909

This is another photo that shows Arnold Cole in Buffalo, New York as a young man in 1909.

These represent some of the many photos that I have of these of my family ancestors.  My grandmother, Bernice, had loads of vintage and antique photos that she kept for many years until she decided to burn most of them in a burn barrel used for burning trash in the back yard of her home.  One day, when I was a girl, when I was visiting her and there was “trash” burning in the barrel, I asked what she was burning, and she told me.  I remember getting very angry and upset, and stated to her that I wanted the photos, and not to burn any anymore.  I could not believe that she would burn such valuable memories related to her family heritage!

Therefore, I have many photos of my family ancestors, but would have had many more had my grandmother not put them up in smoke.  Additionally, I used to have many more tin types, especially those of the Henn’s, however when my family moved from Collins to Gowanda, New York around 1992, they were unknowingly discarded by my parents.  I was heartbroken that such valuable family treasures had been thrown away.

Photo of 15 Henn, Briggs, Gale Tin Types, 1988

Photo of 15 Henn, Briggs, Gale Tin Types, 1988

This photo reflects the 15 tin types of my Gale, Briggs, and Henn ancestry that were accidentally discarded by my parents during my family’s move from Collins to Gowanda around 1992.

Again, as in previous posts of photos of my ancestors, the dates included represent the best possible accurate dates and/or estimates of dates of the images.

References and Sources:

Family photos and information of Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague from 1860-1987. Collins, New York.  Currently the Property of Michele Babcock-Nice (2014). Snellville, Georgia.

Ryther, James F. (Undated).  Personal War Sketch of Frederick Henn.  Buffalo, New York.  From Hamburg (New York) Historical Society, 2001.

“‘Team Greiner’: UB’s Champions” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Me with Carol and Bill Greiner at UB Graduation, Amherst, New York, May 1993

Me with Carol and Bill Greiner at UB Graduation, Amherst, New York, May 1993

When I think of Carol and Bill Greiner, I have fond memories of my interactions with them while I was an undergraduate student at the University at Buffalo (UB).  Studying psychology, political science, and music performance at UB for three and one-half years provided me with many opportunities for interactions with the Greiners.  It enriched my life to have them there, to be excellent role models, to experience their interest in and compassion for students.  As I walk down my nostalgic memory lane, I can accept and be happy with the interactions that I had with the Greiners at many university events, though I will always feel a sense of “unfinished business” due to the things that I was unable to bring myself to say to them.

For that, I wish I had been more mature, more open, more able to trust that I would receive a response from them that I desired.  Of all of the wonderful events and experiences that I had as a student at UB, there was one situation that occurred about which I was unable to speak with them – being the victim of a crime on campus.  I still wish I could have had more time to speak with them, and be able to open up to Carol about it, in particular, but at the time, it was too recent, too painful, too embarrassing and humiliating.  It took me years to fully address and come to terms with what had occurred, and to receive the support that I needed.  And, it was years later when I was able to disclose to Carol, anonymously, about my experience, which was helpful, but still not the same as speaking about it in person.

Something in me needed Carol to know what I experienced; I had hoped the Greiners might be able to implement programs or policies that would have better-protected students such as myself who had experienced what I did.  Never having shared about what it was provided no potential for change, improvement, or support for other UB students who had the same experience.  Perhaps, one day, I will not feel that sense of regret and loss about being unable to speak with the Greiners about the traumatic and life-changing crime that I experienced in my last semester as an undergraduate student at UB.

I first met Bill Greiner when he was the University Provost and I was a freshman, just taking flight as a student at UB.  He was at an event that welcomed students who were new to UB; my parents were there too, and my mom encouraged me to speak with him, and I did.  At first, I was intimidated about speaking with him, though when I did, he made me feel comfortable and welcome; he made me feel understood, appreciated, and respected.  The highlight of the event, in fact, was personally speaking with Bill.  I still remember the confidence he instilled in me in only a few minutes of conversation that I would do well and be successful at UB; I appreciated that.

Within two years, Bill was appointed President of UB.  That semester, I saw and spoke with him again at Homecoming.  At that time, the Homecoming parade was organized at the Main Street Campus in Buffalo, and the floats were driven to the Amherst Campus.  I was a representative of the UB Irish Club for Homecoming that year, in 1991; and was pleased to see and speak with Bill there.  His presence reflected his interest in and concern for students; that was evident and obvious, and again, was something for which I was appreciative.  As time progressed, I determined that these qualities were infused in his character and personality.  He did not just go to some rare event on occasion; he was actively involved in attending and participating in UB events, many of them, jointly, with Carol.

That year and the next, I saw both Bill and Carol at the Homecoming football games; and I saw and/or spoke with Bill on at least three other occasions on the Amherst Campus during my last semester.  On one occasion, I saw him while he was being interviewed in the Plaza by a TV reporter; on a second, I overcame my nervousness and visited Bill at his office, taking many gladioli from my family garden; and on the third, I spoke with him as we happened to be leaving Capen Hall at the same time one evening.  ‘Team Greiner’ was always there, doing more than their part to make UB even more of a success.

The Greiner Family, Susan with Husband, Daniel with Wife, Bill and Carol, Stephen with Wife, Terry with Partner, September 1992

The Greiner Family on Bill’s Inauguration Day as UB President; Susan with Husband, Daniel with Wife, Bill and Carol, Kevin with Wife, Terry with Partner; Sept. 1992

In my last semester at a senior at UB, Bill was inaugurated as President, and I saw alot more of the Greiners.  In fact, I saw them at so many events that I looked forward to seeing and speaking with them, and I actually expected them to be at the events that I attended.  It seemed that everywhere I went, ‘Team Greiner’ was there, too.  The supportive actions of Bill and Carol toward UB, and the students, faculty, and staff were warmly-welcomed and appreciated by so many.

In September 1992, Bill’s Inauguration Week as President of UB provided opportunities not only to speak with Bill and Carol, but also to experience the happiness and joy of those events with them.  There was a Roman Catholic Mass performed at St. Joseph’s Church, right next to the UB Main Street Campus in Buffalo to essentially “kick off” Inauguration Week.  I made every effort to attend because it had been the night before that I had experienced crime victimization at UB; I was already traumatized from it, but did not realize or deal with it.

Additionally, at St. Joseph’s Church following the mass, I was also able to meet and speak with certain other members of the Greiner Family, including his sons and their wives and/or significant partners.  It was wonderful to have the feeling that the qualities of both care and compassion so evident in Carol and Bill had also been transferred to their admirable offspring.  In speaking with their adult children, one immediately knew that they did a fine job at parenting.

Me with Greiners at UB Christmas Concert, Amherst, New York, December 1992

Me with Greiners at UB Christmas Concert, Amherst, New York, December 1992

As Bill’s Inauguration Week progressed, I attended what I recall as being a symphonic concert on campus to celebrate his achievement; it was beautiful.  And, I also attended Bill’s Inauguration as the 13th President of UB, an event for which I remember arriving very early because I wanted my choice selection of seat, as well as to scope out the best locations to take pictures to add tangibility to my fond memories.  Again, I had opportunities to see and speak with members of the Greiner Family.

Following the actual Inauguration was a reception that was held in the new Student Union building, one of many major projects that Bill influenced and completed at UB.  By this time, I really felt a connection with the Greiner’s and their family.  I had seen and interacted with them at several events, and believed that I could trust being more openly, emotionally vulnerable with them.  I had particularly wanted to share about the crime that I had experienced only a few days prior to the Inauguration.  I tried to do so at the reception, separately, with Carol, and with Terry, one of the Greiners’ sons, but I could not bring myself to do it.  I had psyched myself up for it, but talked myself out of doing it, and have always regretted it; it was just too painful and traumatic.

As someone who was active in numerous UB clubs and groups, including ethnic/language-related groups and student government, I received invitations to attend the Student Association’s Christmas parties for two consecutive years, in 1991 and 1992.  On both of those occasions, I saw Bill and Carol, but spoke with them only at the second such event.  By then, three more months had passed, and I had mentally-buried and not dealt with the crime that I had experienced.  It was also at this event that I asked Bill if he would write a recommendation for me.  He asked me to see that he received my resume, said that he would write a recommendation for me, and he did.  I still have and cherish it.

Prior to finishing the last of my classes as an undergraduate student at UB in December 1992, I again saw and spoke with Carol and Bill at a Christmas Concert, held in the Ellicott Complex, my group of dormitory buildings on the Amherst Campus.  Following the Christmas Concert, Carol was very warm toward me, much as always, and spoke with me about alot in a short time.  She made me feel important, valued, and accepted; she showed to me much warmth, understanding, and compassion, like one would receive from a good mother, and much as I do with my own son.

I felt such a connection with Carol during our conversation, and remember wishing that it could last forever.  I needed the warmth and compassion of someone; and I privately thanked God for her, and for her to have treated me as kindly and lovingly as she did.  Interestingly, Bill was somewhat of a sour puss that evening and I could tell that he did not want to talk, though I did not allow that to dampen my happy holiday spirits.  I remember wondering how anyone could seem so grouchy after such a wonderful and festive holiday concert.  It was a different side of him that I had not yet experienced and had not expected, but accepted on that occasion.

The last time that I interacted with the Greiner’s was when I returned to UB for my graduation in May 1993.  I had completed my coursework for my two baccalaureate degrees in December, moved to and was working in Manhattan, and came back to participate in the graduation ceremonies.  I’m glad that I did, and I have many wonderful memories of celebrating my accomplishment with many of my student colleagues as well as my family.  Seeing the Greiners again at this event showed me how much I had grown in a few months of having finished my studies, though it also left me with a longing and nostalgia for maintaining a connection with them.  It was difficult and painful to let go.

The final time that I saw the Greiners was at SUNY Day in Albany in 1999.  SUNY Day is a day that is arranged for student delegates of State University of New York system to go Albany, New York – the state capitol – to meet and speak with state government representatives, receive tours of their offices, and hear lectures.  At the time, I was taking undergraduate courses at Buffalo State College to complete my social studies teacher certification, and I was a student government representative to the event.

It was at SUNY Day that I met former Assembly Member Sam Hoyt from Buffalo; he invited me to intern in his Buffalo office, and I later did, having an outstanding experience.  It was also on this occasion that I only saw Bill and Carol from a distance in a conference room as I was already seating in the back with my group when they entered with several UB student athletes.  It was good to see them again, if only from a distance, and to know that ‘Team Greiner’ was still hard at work for UB.

I lost touch with the Greiners many years ago.  They were people with whom I had hoped to maintain a connection, and to share about the traumatic crime that I had experienced.  There was one occasion more than four years after I was victimized that I got the courage to go to the Greiners’ home.  At the time, I worked just down the street from them at Key Bank.

This time, I had resolved that I would tell them about it, and had hoped and prayed that they would welcome me, but they were not at home.  They had the power and influence to make change at UB to help other students who were survivors of traumatic crimes that occurred on campus, as well as to help see that such crimes were prevented and students were educated about them.  I never got the chance to share my ideas with them.

Around that time, and due to being unable to speak with the Greiners about my concerns, I decided to take my concerns to their son, Terry, at his office in Buffalo.  I am an individual who likes to get things accomplished, and to do so personally, and therefore, my aim was to personally-share information with him about what I experienced and request that there could be some way that improvements related to it could be made for other students at UB who had the same or similar experiences.  It took so much courage and initiative for me to go to Terry’s office, but he turned me away, did not speak with me, and did not accept me into his office.  I was devastated, and felt re-victimized all over again.

I do, however, fondly remember the many events and interactions that I shared with Carol and Bill; and I prefer to remember those.  At the time of my writing of this article, it will have been nearly four years since Bill’s death.  When I read the news about his passing in the UB alumni magazine, it was unexpected and saddening.  To Carol, I mailed a sympathy card, expressing my condolences.  I am sure that such a great man is missed by those who knew him, especially his family, who took priority in his life, much as family should.

So, I would like to think – at this time of the holidays – that Bill is looking down over us and helping us to spread holiday cheer to each other.  I would like to think and remember that he would have been right in the mix of all that, and would not have missed it for anything.  Thanks, ‘Team Greiner,’ for all you have done for me, and for all of your unfathomable support to UB.  You are UB’s unsurpassed champions! 🙂

References:

“Bill Greiner.”  Wikipedia, 2013.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Greiner

DellaContrada, J. (2009).  William R. Greiner Dies.  Buffalo, NY: UB – University at Buffalo: News Releases.

State University of New York at Buffalo Graduation, May 1993.  Buffalo, NY.

Special Note:

This article was also published by both the UB Alumni Association on LinkedIn (December 2013).  Mountain View, CA: LinkedIn; and by the State University of New York at Buffalo business group on LinkedIn (December 2013).  Mountain View, CA: LinkedIn.

“How Time Flies: Graduating From UB…20 Years Ago” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

UB President Bill Greiner and I at Commencement, May 1993, Amherst, New York

UB President Bill Greiner and I at Commencement, May 1993, Amherst, New York

Twenty years ago this month (February 2013), I graduated from the University at Buffalo (UB) in Buffalo, New York, having earned two baccaulaureate degrees in psychology and political science.  Unofficially, I also earned a specialization in music performance in voice and clarinet.  And, I completed my studies at this very rigorous university in less than 3.5 consecutive years.   I completed my studies in December 1992, my degrees were conferred in February 1993, and I participated in the Commencement Ceremony in May 1993.

It is so difficult to comprehend that 20 years have already passed since my degrees were conferred!  It seems like such a lifetime ago that I had graduated from my high school in Gowanda, New York, and began my adult journey in life at UB.  How fitting on this President’s Day, February 18, 2013 – 20 years since I completed my undergraduate studies at UB – that I should recall some of the good memories of my younger and more inexperienced days as a college student there.

As a college student at UB, there were so many activities in which I was involved.  Always very outgoing, I wanted to be involved in as much as possible, desiring to get the most and best that life had to offer.  At UB, the world opened up to me and I took it all in – the good, and the bad, too (when I couldn’t avoid it) – like a sponge.  UB was my oyster, and I revelled in all that it had to offer.

Indeed, I am proud of all that I accomplished and all in which I participated and/or had leadership opportunities with at UB.  With all of my classes, activities, and just living in general, there was not enough time in the day to pack everything in!  During my first year, I carried a heavy load of classes, while also performing in the wind ensemble (and being a soloist) and chorus, as well as participating in field events on the women’s track team (and earning a personal best in shot put at the NCAA championships), being involved in student government and yearbook, and going for tutoring on some evenings for my failure in chemistry.  I also immersed myself into intermediate Spanish during my first year, and was happy to be exempt from introductory English composition, however I had to take courses to catch up on my math proficiency.

As time went on, I also found the Polish, Irish, and German Clubs at UB, and was involved in each one, being both the Treasurer and Homecoming representative of two of the groups.  I will always appreciate my Polish Club Homecoming co-rep for showing up and being a gentleman during one particular year because the co-rep from the Irish Club chickened out and forced me to go solo, which I did during another year, however embarassing that was (needless to say, he never showed his face at the Club meetings again after that).

Being a member of these ethnic/language-related clubs opened my world yet further to students of Irish descent from New York City, as well as those of Polish and German descent from right around Buffalo.  The Irish Club, in particular, was a favorite of mine because I could always “let my hair down” and be myself with my friends in that group.  No matter our background or experiences, we always respected and accepted each other, and enjoyed each other’s company.  Additionally, it was my membership in the Polish Club that opened up opportunities to visit Poland as an exchange student to Jagiellonian University – and travel to several European countries, which I did during one summer, and had an absolutely fantastic time!  It was all just as it was described to me – and so much more.

In changing my major from physics to psychology in my second year at UB, I found my life becoming much less stressful.  No longer pursuing studies toward my goal of becoming a veterinarian, I found classes in which I truly excelled and enjoyed, those that “fit” my personality.  Psychology and the social sciences were right up my alley, and I took opportunities to complete independent research in political science, as well as to be a research assistant in a sensitive graduate-level psychology research project.  Also, the more classes that I took in political science, the more I enjoyed them, and became a double major, desiring to go to law school and become an attorney.  I, therefore, became a member of the Democrats Club, as well as the Political Science Club, and traveled with several members during one year to visit Yale University, a very impressive campus, indeed.  And, in my last semester at UB, I was named to the Dean’s List – miracles never cease!

Also during my time at UB, I was involved in other activities such as the Aeronautics Club, Striders Club (and I often went running independently at night under the lights), Recyclers Club (I had responsibility for managing the recycling in my dorm), and I was a regular participant in the religious celebrations of my faith that were held on campus, where I also became a lay Eucharistic Minister.  I also remembered the memory of a slain fellow UB student, Linda Yalem, by attending a memorial service for her, and running in the Memorial Run in her name.  I also worked part-time on campus, and was involved in so many groups and activities that I have difficulty bringing them all to mind.  Further, I took opportunities to attend college sports games, such as volleyball and basketball, even after having attended so many football games as a member of Pep Band.  It was in Pep Band that I met some really great, “real” people with whom I became friends, and with whom I kept in touch for a number of years as a student at UB (see photo to follow).

Me with my Friends, Karyn and Lori from Pep Band, on Graduation Day at UB, May 1993, Amherst, New York

Me with my Friends, Karyn and Lori from Pep Band, on Graduation Day at UB, May 1993, Amherst, New York

Within all of that, I attended many college events that included students, student-athletes, student government representatives, public officials (such as the mayor and governor), and college leaders (such as the president and his family, vice president and his wife, dean of students, and others).  Not only did I know many students, professors, religious leaders, and coaches, but I also met and got to know a few of the college leaders who so often worked behind the scenes to improve the university and try to make it better for everyone.  Of course, there were situations in which they did not always make things better, but I believe that the majority of them tried to the best of their ability to achieve that endeavor.

Particularly in my last year at UB, I got to know UB’s President Bill Greiner (sadly, who is now deceased) and his wife, Carol.  It often seemed that no matter where I was or what event I was attending, they were there, too!  It was great to see Bill and Carol so “involved” in student life at UB.  It was wonderful to observe and experience their commitment – not only to each other as great role models – but also their commitment and dedication to the students, faculty, staff, alumni, and patrons at UB.  I always made a special effort to speak with Carol as she is so intelligent, insightful, and positive, always having something kind and encouraging to share.  I definitely aspired to be more like her as she is such a great female role model and inspiration.

Before leaving UB upon completing my studies in December 1992 to head to New York City for about one year, I asked President Greiner to write a recommendation on my behalf.  Being so proud of myself and all that I accomplished at UB, as well as having some bittersweet memories and having experienced a critically life-changing event in my last semester as a student at UB (and surviving through it in the years to come), I desired something more to take away with me from my UB experience – just some pieces of paper with words written on them about me by others familiar with me.

My First Recommendation Letter, from UB President William Greiner, December 1992

My First Recommendation Letter, from UB President William Greiner, December 1992

My recommendation from President Greiner is the very first formal, written recommendation that I ever received (see document above).  He very eloquently and concisely stated many kind things about me, which I fondly remember and review to this day.  His recommendation is also one that I sent, along with my resume, in my job search to about 100 law firms in Buffalo in 1993-1994.  The piece of paper that I received from him was one that certainly helped to open a few doors for me, and I will always appreciate that, even though I did not pursue a law degree.

In fact, I can look back on it now, and remember a conversation that Bill and I shared one day, during which he inquired about the career I intended to pursue.  When I told him that I was interested in being a lawyer, he actually discouraged me from pursuing a law degree, stating that law firms are like factories.  I believe and warmly recall that he already knew that such a profession would not fit my personality.

There is definitely alot that I miss about UB, and I have fond memories and tearful nostalgia about many of my experiences at and through UB.  UB was a place in which I became an adult, whether I like it or wanted to, or not.  I can remember so many wonderful things about my experience at UB, however one or two critically hurtful things have also colored and clouded my perspective, still, to this day.  However much I would like to remember only the good things, the harmful experiences are also a part of who I am, of who I have become, for whom I advocate, and for whom I support – women (and children) who are victims and survivors of violent crime, trauma survivors.

While I believe that there are reasons for everything, I must be real in remembering my experiences at UB, both good and painful.  While there are many more good things that I experienced as a student at UB, what I experienced that was harmful – I believe – has shaped me into becoming a better, and more insightful, compassionate, sensitive, and understanding individual.  My experience at UB has helped me to become an advocate for and supporter of victims.  And, however painful, I have my experience at UB to recognize for that, too.

I also have that experience in being aware that not all offenders of violent crimes are apprehended, charged, or prosecuted, as well.  Further, such experience taught me that survivors of violent crimes may be revictimized by police and prosecutors.  I would not be who I am today without recognizing and being aware of all of my experiences, and I am now thankful (in a very sad way) for having such an experience because it has helped me to relate more personally with other victims and survivors of similar experiences, including those who are close to me.  While we cannot remove from our consciousness those painful experiences, we can try our best to make them better for ourselves and others.  I, therefore, remember that when I left UB, I intended to change the world, however it has been the world that has changed me.

So, on this President’s Day 2013 – and 20 years to the month that my baccaulaureate degrees were conferred to me – I remember and recall many of my experiences as a college student at the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB).  I had many wonderful experiences there, met many wonderful people there, and have many fond memories of my time there.  However much I would prefer not to remember the painful experiences that I had there, I would deny myself and not be who I am today.

And so, I must also be strong in mind, body, and spirit and integrate all of my UB experiences into my life, God willing.  Hopefully in doing so, I will have also assisted and supported others who have had similar good and/or painful experiences in their lives.  Therefore, I must recognize UB, for giving me the wings to soar into my life – in all experiences.

References:

DellaContrada, J. (2009).  William R. Greiner Dies.  Buffalo, NY: UB – University at Buffalo: News Releases.

Scrivani, Maria (1999).  Bill and Carol Greiner: UB’s Perfect Pair.  Retrieved on February 17, 2013 from http://www.livingprimetime.com/AllCovers/jul1999/workjul1999/bill_and_carol_greiner.htm

State University of New York at Buffalo Graduation, May 1993.  Buffalo, NY.

Special Note:

This article was also published by both the University at Buffalo Alumni and RAINN on LinkedIn (February 2013).  Mountain View, CA: LinkedIn.

In Remembrance of Flavia C. Gernatt (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

In Remembrance of Flavia C. Gernatt

(April 2, 1921 – November 27, 1995)

By: Michele Babcock-Nice

Flavia C. Gernatt (Undated Photo)

Psalm 23: A Psalm of David: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.  Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou annointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever (The Holy Bible, 1979).

Flavia C. Gernatt was born Flavia Schmitt in Langford, New York – a small farming community near Buffalo – on April 2, 1921.  Before age 20, she was married, and founded with her husband a dairy farm in 1938.  In the 1950s, she was a partner with her husband in owning and managing the largest milking cow herd in Erie County.

Following World War II, Mrs. Gernatt’s family began to provide bank-run gravel to the community from their property.  Beginning with one truck, this endeavor grew into a large multi-company corporation that currently boasts nine sand, gravel, cement, and asphalt enterprises throughout Western New York State and Eastern Pennsylvania.  These companies are now known as the Gernatt Family of Companies, headquartered in Collins, New York.

In the 1960s, Mrs. Gernatt and her family began investing in race horses, while on a golfing vacation in North Carolina.  This investment grew into a business of breeding and racing harness race horses – mostly identified with the name “Collins” to represent the locale where Mrs. Gernatt and her family lived – in Western New York and New York State.

A couple of the most well-known of Mrs. Gernatt’s family horses were Sir Taurus – my personal favorite as a gentle, powerful stallion – as well as Elitist, a spunky and speedy stallion.  For many years, Mrs. Gernatt and her family also sponsored a horse race named for Elitist, one of the family’s champion stallions that earned $250,000 in winnings in just his first two years of racing with them about 25 years ago.

Very well-known about Mrs. Gernatt, her family, and the Gernatt Family of Companies is the financial support provided by them to the Roman Catholic Church, locally in Gowanda, New York, as well as to the Diocese of Buffalo.  In 1992, Mrs. Gernatt and her family donated a newly-constructed rectory for the family’s main local parish of St. Joseph in Gowanda.  The maintenance and upkeep of the St. Joseph campus, including the church and school, is much a reflection of the generosity of Mrs. Gernatt and her family.

Mrs. Gernatt, her family, and the Gernatt Family of Companies are also well-known for their generous financial contributions to and being benefactors of St. Joseph Church, St. Joseph School, and Roman Catholic education in the Diocese of Buffalo.  Her family members as well as dozens of extended family members have been blessed by attending a variety of Roman Catholic schools in the Buffalo and Western New York area throughout approximately the past 90 years.

Mrs. Gernatt’s husband has also been honored and recognized by receiving the highest award from the Bishop in the Diocese of Buffalo for supporting Roman Catholic education.  The powerful financial and social influence of Mrs. Gernatt and her family in Catholicism and Catholic education have been profound.

As active and supportive members of the Republican Party, Mrs. Gernatt and her family have also had a very powerful impact on law, politics, and government at the local, state, and federal levels.  Supporting government leaders in all areas of government – particuarly members of the Republican Party – are those endeavors important to Mrs. Gernatt and her family.

Many charitable organizations have also enjoyed the financial support of Mrs. Gernatt and her family through contributions directly from her family and those from a foundation created in she and her husband’s names.  Providing monies to assist organizations with feeding those who are less fortunate, as well as those that support healthcare – including the American Red Cross – and local endeavors – such as creating a helipad at the local hospital – have also been causes championed by Mrs. Gernatt and her family.

Throughout most of my life, I knew the Gernatt family and extended family; and I came to know Mrs. Gernatt only in the last eight years of her life.  An avid walker in later years, Mrs. Gernatt walked between 1.5 to 4 miles each day, nearly every day of the week.  Thus, she and I had something in common since I typically jogged the same route that she walked.

Flavia C. Gernatt (Approx. 1990s)

After having seen her walk through my neighborhood several times, I asked another community member who she was.  That individual stated to me that she was simply “Feggie.”  I thought it interesting that the person who identified her to me expected me to know who she was, particularly at my age of 16 at the time.

When I expressed to the community member that I did not know her, she was then identified to me as her son’s mother and her husband’s wife.  I then realized who she was.  Therefore, because she was so often known in the community as her son’s mother and her husband’s wife, I have purposely not identified them here to provide her the honor of focusing on and appreciating her as a person.

Therefore, it was at that time when I was 16 that I came to know Mrs. Gernatt.  Occasionally, I would walk with her throughout our neighborhood, conversing with her about daily living, our families, exercise, the weather, and other general topics.  I especially appreciated her great wisdom, insight, and spirituality in regard to people and life.  I once inquired with Mrs. Gernatt about certain questions I had in relation to my brother, and she put me at ease with her answers, which I appreciated.

An extremely intelligent woman, Mrs. Gernatt and I had an understanding about each other.  Have you ever looked at a person in the eyes and just knew that they understood you?  That is how Mrs. Gernatt and I interacted during our time walking together.

Upon inquiring with Mrs. Gernatt and her husband one Christmas holiday when I was at home from college and my vehicle needed repairs, I asked if she and her husband could give me a ride to and from daily mass at our local church.  Since I was old enough to drive, I had attended daily mass at our church for a more in-depth religious and spiritual experience, and also attended as much as possible during holidays.

Therefore, Mrs. Gernatt and her husband very kindly transported me to and from daily mass several times during that holiday season.  I also got to know them better by eating breakfast with them at church following daily mass on one morning, at which time both Mrs. Gernatt and her husband showed the utmost kindness and courtesy to me by including me in their gathering.  Feeling somewhat uncomfortable and undeserving of being a part of their group, Mrs. Gernatt conveyed confidence and authority in her inclusion of me with her, for which I am also forever grateful.

What struck me most about Mrs. Gernatt was her love for God, and her dedication and faith in our shared Catholic religion.  As a generally quiet woman who kept to herself, Mrs. Gernatt was a daughter, sister, wife, mother, successful businesswoman, devoted fellow Catholic, and honorable friend.   Mrs. Gernatt served as Eucharistic Minister in our church, and she was a member of the Power Elite of business owners and entrepreneurs in New York State.  Being a board member of her family’s highly successful, multi-million dollar corporations, as well as serving as a spiritual guide and moral compass for her family, Mrs. Gernatt always made time to give thanks and praise to God.

As the matriarch of her family, Mrs. Gernatt was also a wonderful role model for everyone, including her family, those whom she knew, members of her parish, and individuals within the community.  As a person gifted with the power to do so much good for others, Mrs. Gernatt was a person who was fully present in many endeavors to strengthen and improve the Roman Catholic Church, Catholic education, and her community.

In the days before her death, I remember the strength, dedication, and perseverance of Mrs. Gernatt in continuing – not only to attend Mass – but to walk, independently, to the altar to receive Eucharist.  I am witness to Mrs. Gernatt’s strength, faith, spirituality, character, dedication, and perseverance at a time in her life that was most difficult.  Her strong will, honorable nature, and moral and ethical direction continue to be an inspiration to me in my life.

In good times and in bad – including while battling the illness that took her life – Mrs. Gernatt continued to have her strong and unyielding faith in God that compelled and guided her to the altar to receive Communion.  As a fellow Catholic, that is profound in itself, and says multitudes about her faith, beliefs, and spirituality.

I am thankful for the opportunity I had to get to know Flavia C. Gernatt, and discover for myself that she was a “real” person – not necessarily one who was on the pedestal on which others placed her.  So often, we may feel so unlike people of enormous wealth, however this was not the case with Mrs. Gernatt.

Though my socioeconomic status was and is far at the other end of the spectrum from Mrs. Gernatt, she always made me feel as ease.  Her confidence and authority caused me to feel comfort.  Her wisdom, insight, and intelligence spoke to my soul.  In Mrs. Gernatt, if even for a short while, I found a kindred spirit.  I am grateful for that, and know she is looking down on me with those same qualities today.

Sources

“Gernatt’s Horses Plug Collins,” (Harlan C. Abbey) 1984, The Buffalo News, Buffalo, New York.

“Gowanda Area Chamber of Commerce Spirit of Gowanda” Newsletter, February 1996, Gowanda, New York.

“Obituary of Flavia Gernatt,” November 29, 1995, The Buffalo News, Buffalo, New York.

St. Joseph’s Catholic Church (Pictorial Directory), 2003, Gowanda, New York.

The Holy Bible (1979).  Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

Villa Maria College, Grants Office, Recent Grants, Buffalo, New York.  Gernatt Family Foundation Grant.  From http://www.villa.edu/grants_office.html.  February 3, 2012.