Remembering American Military Veterans on this Memorial Day (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

American Flag at Snellville, Georgia, May 26, 2014

American Flag at Snellville, Georgia, May 26, 2014

My son put out the American flag today, in special remembrance of America’s military veterans and in celebration of Memorial Day 2014.  Putting out the flag has become somewhat of a tradition for him throughout the past few years, particularly since it was a requirement for one of his achievements as a Cub Scout.  Today, he put out the flag as a new Boy Scout.  Last evening, my family also watched the Memorial Day tribute celebration on television, as broadcasted by PBS.  That has also been a tradition in my family for many years.  This year is the 25th anniversary of the annual Memorial Day broadcast.

In remembrance of military veterans in my family, I have authored this article, having arranged photos and/or memorabilia of all of those known family members and/or ancestors who have served in the American military.  I am thankful for those who have risked their lives and/or who have given their lives for the freedoms that I enjoy.

One important issue to keep in mind, however, is that our freedoms may be our right, but should also be practiced with appropriate reason and rationalization.  I stated this, particularly due to interpretations of the Second Amendment of our country’s Constitution, in regard to the right to bear arms.  We should all keep in mind that while we have a right to bear arms, that does not mean that we have the right to take another’s life, unless circumstances absolutely warrant it in matters of self-protection.  Let us not allow the right to bear arms, as well as monetary-backed interests to that aim, to remain more important than protecting people’s lives.

May we all strive to live together in peace and harmony.  Let us all remember the sacrifices of those who serve and who have served in our military forces so that not only our freedoms are maintained, but so that the spirit of democracy may infuse those in other countries, as well.  May our military forces stationed in Afghanistan soon return home, and back to our wonderful democracy!

Memorial Postcard in Remembrance of the American Civil War, 1861-1865

Memorial Postcard in Remembrance of the American Civil War, 1861-1865

Grand Army of the Republic Veteran's Medal from the American Civil War, 1861-1865

Grand Army of the Republic Veteran’s Medal from the American Civil War, 1861-1865

Fred Henn, Civil War Veteran, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1870-1890

Fred Henn, Civil War Veteran, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1870-1890

Harry H. Gale, Member of American Military in New York State, , Hamburg, New York, 1880s

Harry H. Gale, Member of American Military in New York State, Hamburg, New York, 1880s

John Briggs, North Collins, NY, Soldier in World War I, Circa 1917

John Briggs, North Collins, NY, Soldier in World War I, Circa 1917

John Hintermister (the Elder), American Military Veteran

John Hintermister (the Elder), American Military Veteran

Funeral Card of David I. Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968 (Killed in Vietnam War) (Wentland Funeral Home, North Collins, New York)

Funeral Card of David I. Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968 (Killed in Vietnam War) (Wentland Funeral Home, North Collins, New York)

Funeral Card of David Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968

Funeral Card of David Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968

Henry Curtis, World War II Veteran

Henry Curtis, World War II Veteran

Eugene Spires, World War II Veteran

Eugene Spires, World War II Veteran

James Kibbe, Korean War Veteran

James Kibbe, Korean War Veteran

Peter Krakowiak, American Navy Veteran

Peter Krakowiak, American Navy Veteran

Arnold Bennett, Vietnam War Veteran

Arnold Bennett, Vietnam War Veteran

John Nice, Jr.,  American Military Member

John Nice, Jr., American Military Member

I am also aware that one of the Tomaszewski men (formerly of Gowanda, New York, and now of Chicago, Illinois), a cousin to my mom, was a pilot in the Air Force, possibly in the Vietnam War.

These photos, information, and memorabilia represent all those known individuals within my family, and from my family ancestry, who have served in the American military.  I salute you for your risks, sacrifices, and in the case of David Briggs, his ultimate sacrifice, for the freedoms and protections of others.  While I have taught history, and honor and appreciate our military veterans, I am not one who has the will to risk my life in possible sacrifice in the military.  You all are a credit to our country for your service, and to the preservation of democracy.

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Happy Mother’s Day! (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Four Generations of my Family (My Son, Me, Lottie, Anna), 2006

Four Generations of my Family (My Son, Me, Grandma Babcia Lottie, Mom Anna), 2006

Happy Mother’s Day to all mom’s and moms-to-be, today!  Motherhood – and parenthood – are such wonderful blessings that are bestowed upon us.  We have so many wonderful opportunities as women and mothers to be the role models, protectors, guides, teachers, nurses, counselors, religious, safety officers, and coaches (and so much more) that our children and family members need in our lives.  As mothers, we wear so many hats in our lives.  Motherhood is definitely a blessing for me, and a vocation in which I always strive my best, as with everything that I do.

Bernice (Briggs) Babcock-Sprague with Grandchildren Michele and Charles Babcock on Charles' Second Birthday, Collins, New York, November 1974

Bernice (Briggs) Babcock-Sprague with Grandchildren Michele and Charles Babcock on Charles’ Second Birthday, Collins, New York, November 1974

May all women who are mothers remember, cherish, and practice with sensitivity, responsibility, compassion, and seriousness the gift that we have been given.  Happy Mother’s Day! 🙂

“Happy Father’s Day!” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Father's Day Cards for my Dad, June 16, 2013

Father’s Day Cards for my Dad, June 16, 2013

Wow, it’s Father’s Day already!  The time goes by so fast – year after year, the time flies by.  My dad will be 70 years old this year, and will celebrate his Golden Wedding Anniversary with my mom.  His only grandson turned 10 years old last month; and there’s so much more to come!  This is a big year for my dad.

About my dad, I can say that he has “been there” for me as much as possible and as much as he is able to and capable of.  No doubt, this is much more than many fathers out there, and I am extremely thankful for it.  Throughout my life, I have thought about certain qualities of my dad that I would like for him to practice or exhibit more, though I have come to learn as I have gotten older that one cannot change someone, that it is better to do my best to accept what there is and not change what I cannot.

I am thankful for my dad.  I have a loving, caring, supportive, protective, and wonderful dad.  While he encompasses all of those qualities and more, he is not perfect – as no one is – and I have come to be more accepting of that.  I remember as a child that I would sometimes view other children’s fathers and pick out the qualities in them that I would like to add to my dad.  But then, there were also qualities in the other kids’ dads that I didn’t want in my dad, too.  So, while I already and always love my dad, I came to accept him as he is more as I got older.  Perhaps my view as a child was immature and unrealistic, though I had my ideas of what a dad “should be.”

My dad has definitely earned an A+ in the fathership department.  Every day, he proves himself as a loving, caring husband to my mom, father to me, and grandfather to my son.  He is there for us and does as much as he can for us, with love and compassion in our best interests.  No doubt, there are many others out there who would put up a fight to gain a dad as wonderful as mine.

There are some qualities about my dad that are fitting for him, and that have helped and supported him in his life.  He is not a gossiper, and generally tries not to change others.  While he can be judgmental, he is not political, nor does he have a big ego.  He is not always out to prove himself to others or to the world.  He is simply himself.  Take it or leave it.

And, one has to take time to get to know him in order to fully understand the man whom he is.  As a mother to my dad’s grandson – his only grandchild – I often see a soft spot in his heart for him.  That is wonderful to see and experience, and is something I rarely saw when I was growing up.  It is great to observe that my dad now has the time in his life to invest quality emotion in my son.  He can do that now as a retired senior, and he deserves it after working so hard for most of his life.

My dad is the father to me that his father was not to him.  My dad has been kind, caring, and supportive of me and my son 99% of the time.  For that 1% that he has not been, I understand that the 99% he has given me is his 100%, and that is okay with me.  My father has striven to be the opposite of his own father, in the area of care, love, and compassion toward family.  My dad’s father treated him so terribly that I wonder if he even considers that he was his father.  I feel sorrow and sympathy for my dad that he experienced from his father what no one should experience from anyone.  May God forgive his father for not being a “father” in the true essence of the word.

So, on this Father’s Day, it is time to show our thankfulness, respect, and appreciation to our fathers, particularly those who are loving, caring, compassionate, and supportive.  Perhaps the dads who do not embody those qualities will have good role models in those who do.  We must remember, and be blessed and thankful for our loving and good fathers.  Thank you, Dad; and Happy Father’s Day!

Dr. Phillip Santa Maria: A Tribute By: Michele Babcock-Nice

Personal Tribute to Dr. Phillip Santa Maria,*

Former Associate Vice President for Student Affairs

and Dean of Students

at the State University of New York College at Buffalo

(March 10, 1943 – June 29, 2005)

By: Michele Babcock-Nice

 

Dr. Santa Maria
Dr. Santa Maria and I in 2000 at Buffalo State College
 

Having recently learned of the death of a wonderful college administrator, colleague, professor, leader, musician, Christian, mentor, and friend, Dr. Phillip Santa Maria, I have been moved to write this tribute to him.  Sadly, not having previously known of his passing shows how out-of-touch I have been about people and activities at the State University of New York College at Buffalo, my alma mater.  I recently sought to reconnect with Dr. Santa Maria through LinkedIn, and was informed by another administrator at the college of his passing. 

Dr. Santa Maria was Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students at the State University of New York College at Buffalo – or Buffalo State College – in Buffalo, New York.  I had the privilege of meeting and knowing Dr. Santa Maria through my studies in the Master’s Degree Program in College Student Personnel Administration, offered at the college.  Attending the college and earning my degree in 1997, I again returned there in 1999-2000 to earn my secondary social studies teaching certificate. 

Throughout both periods of my attendance at Buffalo State College, I met and got to know Dr. Santa Maria on a professional level.  During the time that I was studying for my graduate degree, I was interested in completing an internship with Dr. Santa Maria, though he already had one or two interns working with him at the time.  

Returning to the college, later, to earn my teaching certification, I was determined to make myself known to Dr. Santa Maria.  His wonderful secretary, colleague, and friend, Nancy Terreri, initially arranged a time in which he and I could meet.  He and I, then, mutually decided upon a way in which we could work together – through collaborating on the “Issues of Interest” Series, a collection of articles that I wrote through interviews with him for the college newspaper, The Record.  

As I sit here and type this, I cannot help but cry in remembering Dr. Santa Maria.  In everything that he did, “Dr. Phil,” as some of us jokingly called him, exemplified the utmost and highest possible professionalism.  Dr. Santa Maria was that rare and unique person whom one meets and knows in his or her life who makes a positive difference in everything that he does.  He was a man of the greatest humility, ethics, and morals; highest intelligence, competence, and standards; and most outstanding dignity, integrity, and respect.  

Dr. Santa Maria led by example.  He was a man, leader, and role model who was open to people of all backgrounds, religions, races, ethnicities, and religions.  Dr. Santa Maria was the professional of all professionals.  Anyone whom Dr. Santa Maria met and with whom he interacted, he touched their lives in profound and wonderful ways.  The talents and skills of Dr. Santa Maria went beyond his office and boundaries of the college. 

Dr. Santa Maria was a well-known Russian historian, had visited Russia, and led educational tours of Russia.  He was a professor in the College Student Personnel Program, and taught classes in the program when called upon.  He was a guitarist in his band that played classical guitar music throughout Western New York and in Canada.  I was privileged to hear him play guitar with his band on two occasions, and brought my family to hear him play, as well.  

Dr. Santa Maria was always interested in the progress of the college and activities of the students.  I was a senator in the United Students Government at the college, and Dr. Santa Maria and I would sit and discuss some of the contemplations, plans, and activities of the group. 

Beginning as a writer and columnist for the college newspaper, The Record, Dr. Santa Maria provided me with many hours of his time over the course of one year, in interviews about issues that were of interest to students and others at the college.  I, then, fashioned those interviews into articles for the newspaper, calling them the “Issues of Interest” Series, a title mutually decided upon by both of us. As Dr. Santa Maria and I collaborated for the “Issues of Interest” Series, we got to know and trust each other more. 

When something came up and I had a couple of questions about sensitive issues at the newspaper office, I called him for his advice and guidance.  Dr. Santa Maria also placed much trust and confidence in me, as well, in inviting me to sit on the Student Judicial Appeal Board and hear cases of fellow students.  

This wonderful college leader further elevated me by inviting me to participate in the Faculty and Staff Committee on Alcohol and Other Substance Abuse as a student representative.  In regard to this Committee, Dr. Santa Maria was the Chairperson, and desired to spread awareness about the seriousness of alcohol and drug misuse and abuse on college campuses throughout the country. 

I can still hear Dr. Santa Maria now with his 1999 statement to me, “Students have certain freedoms, but with those freedoms come responsibilities.”  Dr. Santa Maria always desired for students to be good and intelligent citizens who were responsible for their actions. 

Yet again, Dr. Santa Maria continued his trust and confidence in me by inviting me to the annual dinner of the Buffalo Council on World Affairs, as one of a few student representatives of the college.  There, my horizons were expanded more still by hearing the speaker address the audience about important world social issues, as well as those affecting our local area. 

As a member of the student government, I was also one of a few college student representatives to attend SUNY Day in Albany – an opportunity for college student leaders to visit the state’s capital and speak with state government representatives.  It was there that I met several state government leaders, including the Hon. Sam Hoyt, New York State Assembly Member for Buffalo, and was invited by him to intern in his office.  I believe that it may have been due to the professional reputation that Dr. Santa Maria had provided me in developing that led to yet another wonderful experience in interning with Assembly Member Hoyt. 

On one occasion while meeting with Dr. Santa Maria in his office for an interview, he was conducting a conference call with University Police Lieutenant Sam Lunetta, giving me the privilege of introducing me to him and listening to their conversation about campus safety.  Dr. Santa Maria and Lieutenant Lunetta regularly communicated with each other about happenings on campus related to public safety. 

Lieutenant Lunetta performed his work remarkably, which I shared with Dr. Santa Maria.  Dr. Santa Maria asked me if there was anything that I thought could be improved regarding campus safety.  As I was unable to think of anything, I responded to him that I believed they had all the bases covered.  In encouraging everyone on campus to be safe, using the Blue Light system, having parking lot bussing to the main part of campus, and a visible presence of public safety officers on campus, Dr. Santa Maria and Lieutenant Lunetta did their best to make sure that everyone on campus was safe at all times.  

Through Dr. Santa Maria’s introduction to me of Lieutenant Lunetta, I also interviewed him for a newspaper article on student drinking and thoughts about potential parental notification regarding it.  Dr. Santa Maria also encouraged me to meet and interview many other administrators, leaders, professors, and students at the college for the “Issues of Interest” Series, as well as to report on the “Great Decisions” Lecture Series on campus, which I did. 

Working with Dr. Santa Maria on this basis expanded my horizons and provided me with a broader knowledge of issues affecting college campuses. As a person of high expectations, ethics, morals, standards, and values, Dr. Santa Maria brought out the best in everyone.  This was no different with me – he brought out the best in me.  The more I interacted with him, the more I had the desire to excel and succeed, and to please him, professionally. 

The professionalism, integrity, and energy with which Dr. Santa Maria continually worked and led his life were a huge inspiration for me. Dr. Santa Maria had that gentle, caring, sensitive, and soft-spoken way about him that reached my heart and my soul.  It was as if he reached in and provided comfort and peace to my heart.  Talking with him, seeking his advice, and receiving his professional and personal guidance brought me a profound sense of calmness and trust in him.  We always conducted ourselves professionally and respectfully toward each other, and this provided the foundation for our trust and confidence in each other. 

On occasion, Dr. Santa Maria and I discussed personal issues that presented concerns to us.  I remember asking him what his thoughts were about whether or not I should move out-of-state to accept employment in teaching.  I shared with him that I was afraid to do so; he told me not to be afraid.  And, in telling me that, he had a way of comforting me that convinced me that everything would be okay.  

At one time, Dr. Santa Maria shared with me that he had considered taking work in a warmer part of the country, namely Florida, because he had just been there for a professional conference.  I stated to him that everyone at the college needed him, and I asked him what everyone would do without him.  He accepted that, though I am not sure that is the answer he was looking for.  

Dr. Santa Maria silently managed his career stresses every day, working extremely long hours, arriving very early and sometimes, going without lunch and dinner in order to complete his work.  He handled his professional stress with so much humility and acceptance.  He was a man who loved what he did, professionally, and was the best at it. 

He was also a man, who, in my observations, was deserving of more credit and respect for his work from his superiors, though he would never breathe a word about it.  I once accompanied Dr. Santa Maria to a board meeting of higher level administrators, and observed him sit quietly while others spoke.  It was then that I noticed that his work and accomplishments should have been more appropriately recognized by his superiors. 

Dr. Santa Maria was an excellent listener, as well as an outstanding communicator.  I personally wished that he was able to serve in a position of even higher leadership at the college as his professionalism and sensitivity would have reached even further than it already has. It was at this particular board meeting that Dr. Santa Maria introduced me to several college leaders, some of whom I had already met and others whom I had not.  There, he introduced me to Vice President for Student Affairs Hal Payne and International Student Affairs Director Jean-Francois Gounard, and some others.  I was also re-introduced to President Muriel Moore, whom I had previously known as a student at the University of Buffalo.  

Yet, again, Dr. Santa Maria provided me with another opportunity to network, and build and develop my professional experiences and reputation.  Dr. Santa Maria’s introduction of me to Dr. Gounard provided another professional friendship that developed while I was a student at Buffalo State College.  Dr. Gounard invited me to his offices, gave me a tour of them, and explained what services were provided there.  

I shared with Dr. Gounard that I had studied abroad in Krakow, Poland through the University at Buffalo, and had independently traveled throughout Eastern and Western Europe, the British Isles, and Canada.  Dr. Gounard invited me to write an article for the International Student Affairs newsletter about my travels, which I did, while also providing an accompanying photograph.  Dr. Gounard further invited me to attend a professional luncheon that welcomed to Buffalo a fellow Frenchman, Phillip Jenkinson, who spoke there and who was very successful in business.  Thus, Dr. Santa Maria provided me with an experience of developing a positive relationship with another of his trusted colleagues. 

Dr. Santa Maria, being a person who was open to meeting, and networking and communicating with everyone, also allowed me to introduce him to a successful business leader and entrepreneur whom I knew from my hometown.  This business leader – now semi-retired – was the head of a successful sand, gravel, and asphalt company that has nine large business enterprises throughout Western New York and Eastern Pennsylvania.  Providing leading professionals with an opportunity to connect was important to me, as well as to Dr. Santa Maria, since one of my main interests in college administration is in career development. 

On another note, Dr. Santa Maria was an avid walker, and would walk late in the evenings after returning home from work, as he shared with me.  I was always happy that he was able to relieve some of his work stresses through exercise and other activities that he enjoyed, such as playing his guitar.  He and I had something in common in relation to these activities since I also enjoy walking and jogging, as well as having played piano and clarinet.  It is important for people to have recreational and creative outlets. 

I could reflect upon some of Dr. Santa Maria’s life, though I only became aware of so much more of what he did in his life following his death.  Dr. Santa Maria was a person who was so focused on his work and the current events occurring in his life that the past was not something that we often discussed.  Dr. Santa Maria once shared with me that he worked the night shift at the Bethlehem Steel Plant in Lackawanna, New York while he was attending college.  He was proud that he worked his way through college with employment in the steel industry.  He and I also spoke of our families, and he shared with me about his daughter and son, as well as their studies and hopes for the future. 

The best way to remember Dr. Santa Maria in tribute is to recall and reflect upon the person whom he was.  Dr. Santa Maria is the epitome of a man – a professional, a leader, a fellow Catholic and Christian, and a true gentleman.  He is the type of man that all men should aspire to be.  He was a true reflection of a man among men. As the tear stains have now dried upon my face, though my eyes are welling up again, I remember Dr. Santa Maria and the man whom he was. 

Dr. Santa Maria was and is a man whose spirit touched the lives of so many people in such wonderful ways.  My tribute and description here pale in comparison to the person whom he was.  I am so honored, privileged, and blessed to have known Dr. Phillip Santa Maria, to have him as a colleague, friend, and mentor.  One would be truly blessed to have met Dr. Santa Maria or even one like him throughout their entire lives.  He continues to serve as a role model and inspiration to me, professionally and spiritually.  

Dr. Santa Maria, as a professional, I hold you in the very highest regard.  As a friend, I will always love, honor, and respect you, in the most moral, ethical, and appropriate ways.  Thank you for the time that you spent with me, guiding me and shaping me through your wisdom, intelligence, and leadership.  Thank you for sharing your life and experiences with me.  Thank you for your friendship, trust, and confidence.  I am so sad that I was not aware of, nor informed of your illness or passing until now, though I will always remember you and honor your spirit.  Let us remember better times.  Until we meet again…                                         

_____________________  

Please consider making a financial contribution to the Dr. Phillip Santa Maria Memorial Fund through the Buffalo State College Foundation.  Monies contributed in this fund are awarded as scholarships to outstanding students at Buffalo State College.

*Note: This article has been posted twice since online searches for it were providing error results.

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.

Personal Tribute to Dr. Phillip Santa Maria (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Personal Tribute to Dr. Phillip Santa Maria,

Former Associate Vice President for Student Affairs

and Dean of Students

at the State University of New York College at Buffalo

(March 10, 1943 – June 29, 2005)

By: Michele Babcock-Nice

 

Dr. Santa Maria

Dr. Santa Maria and I in 2000 at Buffalo State College

Having recently learned of the death of a wonderful college administrator, colleague, professor, leader, musician, Christian, mentor, and friend, Dr. Phillip Santa Maria, I have been moved to write this tribute to him.  Sadly, not having previously known of his passing shows how out-of-touch I have been about people and activities at the State University of New York College at Buffalo, my alma mater.  I recently sought to reconnect with Dr. Santa Maria through LinkedIn, and was informed by another administrator at the college of his passing. 

Dr. Santa Maria was Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students at the State University of New York College at Buffalo – or Buffalo State College – in Buffalo, New York.  I had the privilege of meeting and knowing Dr. Santa Maria through my studies in the Master’s Degree Program in College Student Personnel Administration, offered at the college.  Attending the college and earning my degree in 1997, I again returned there in 1999-2000 to earn my secondary social studies teaching certificate. 

Throughout both periods of my attendance at Buffalo State College, I met and got to know Dr. Santa Maria on a professional level.  During the time that I was studying for my graduate degree, I was interested in completing an internship with Dr. Santa Maria, though he already had one or two interns working with him at the time.  

Returning to the college, later, to earn my teaching certification, I was determined to make myself known to Dr. Santa Maria.  His wonderful secretary, colleague, and friend, Nancy Terreri, initially arranged a time in which he and I could meet.  He and I, then, mutually decided upon a way in which we could work together – through collaborating on the “Issues of Interest” Series, a collection of articles that I wrote through interviews with him for the college newspaper, The Record.  

As I sit here and type this, I cannot help but cry in remembering Dr. Santa Maria.  In everything that he did, “Dr. Phil,” as some of us jokingly called him, exemplified the utmost and highest possible professionalism.  Dr. Santa Maria was that rare and unique person whom one meets and knows in his or her life who makes a positive difference in everything that he does.  He was a man of the greatest humility, ethics, and morals; highest intelligence, competence, and standards; and most outstanding dignity, integrity, and respect.  

Dr. Santa Maria led by example.  He was a man, leader, and role model who was open to people of all backgrounds, religions, races, ethnicities, and religions.  Dr. Santa Maria was the professional of all professionals.  Anyone whom Dr. Santa Maria met and with whom he interacted, he touched their lives in profound and wonderful ways.  The talents and skills of Dr. Santa Maria went beyond his office and boundaries of the college. 

Dr. Santa Maria was a well-known Russian historian, had visited Russia, and led educational tours of Russia.  He was a professor in the College Student Personnel Program, and taught classes in the program when called upon.  He was a guitarist in his band that played classical guitar music throughout Western New York and in Canada.  I was privileged to hear him play guitar with his band on two occasions, and brought my family to hear him play, as well.  

Dr. Santa Maria was always interested in the progress of the college and activities of the students.  I was a senator in the United Students Government at the college, and Dr. Santa Maria and I would sit and discuss some of the contemplations, plans, and activities of the group. 

Beginning as a writer and columnist for the college newspaper, The Record, Dr. Santa Maria provided me with many hours of his time over the course of one year, in interviews about issues that were of interest to students and others at the college.  I, then, fashioned those interviews into articles for the newspaper, calling them the “Issues of Interest” Series, a title mutually decided upon by both of us. As Dr. Santa Maria and I collaborated for the “Issues of Interest” Series, we got to know and trust each other more. 

When something came up and I had a couple of questions about sensitive issues at the newspaper office, I called him for his advice and guidance.  Dr. Santa Maria also placed much trust and confidence in me, as well, in inviting me to sit on the Student Judicial Appeal Board and hear cases of fellow students.  

This wonderful college leader further elevated me by inviting me to participate in the Faculty and Staff Committee on Alcohol and Other Substance Abuse as a student representative.  In regard to this Committee, Dr. Santa Maria was the Chairperson, and desired to spread awareness about the seriousness of alcohol and drug misuse and abuse on college campuses throughout the country. 

I can still hear Dr. Santa Maria now with his 1999 statement to me, “Students have certain freedoms, but with those freedoms come responsibilities.”  Dr. Santa Maria always desired for students to be good and intelligent citizens who were responsible for their actions. 

Yet again, Dr. Santa Maria continued his trust and confidence in me by inviting me to the annual dinner of the Buffalo Council on World Affairs, as one of a few student representatives of the college.  There, my horizons were expanded more still by hearing the speaker address the audience about important world social issues, as well as those affecting our local area. 

As a member of the student government, I was also one of a few college student representatives to attend SUNY Day in Albany – an opportunity for college student leaders to visit the state’s capital and speak with state government representatives.  It was there that I met several state government leaders, including the Hon. Sam Hoyt, New York State Assembly Member for Buffalo, and was invited by him to intern in his office.  I believe that it may have been due to the professional reputation that Dr. Santa Maria had provided me in developing that led to yet another wonderful experience in interning with Assembly Member Hoyt. 

On one occasion while meeting with Dr. Santa Maria in his office for an interview, he was conducting a conference call with University Police Lieutenant Sam Lunetta, giving me the privilege of introducing me to him and listening to their conversation about campus safety.  Dr. Santa Maria and Lieutenant Lunetta regularly communicated with each other about happenings on campus related to public safety. 

Lieutenant Lunetta performed his work remarkably, which I shared with Dr. Santa Maria.  Dr. Santa Maria asked me if there was anything that I thought could be improved regarding campus safety.  As I was unable to think of anything, I responded to him that I believed they had all the bases covered.  In encouraging everyone on campus to be safe, using the Blue Light system, having parking lot bussing to the main part of campus, and a visible presence of public safety officers on campus, Dr. Santa Maria and Lieutenant Lunetta did their best to make sure that everyone on campus was safe at all times.  

Through Dr. Santa Maria’s introduction to me of Lieutenant Lunetta, I also interviewed him for a newspaper article on student drinking and thoughts about potential parental notification regarding it.  Dr. Santa Maria also encouraged me to meet and interview many other administrators, leaders, professors, and students at the college for the “Issues of Interest” Series, as well as to report on the “Great Decisions” Lecture Series on campus, which I did. 

Working with Dr. Santa Maria on this basis expanded my horizons and provided me with a broader knowledge of issues affecting college campuses. As a person of high expectations, ethics, morals, standards, and values, Dr. Santa Maria brought out the best in everyone.  This was no different with me – he brought out the best in me.  The more I interacted with him, the more I had the desire to excel and succeed, and to please him, professionally. 

The professionalism, integrity, and energy with which Dr. Santa Maria continually worked and led his life were a huge inspiration for me. Dr. Santa Maria had that gentle, caring, sensitive, and soft-spoken way about him that reached my heart and my soul.  It was as if he reached in and provided comfort and peace to my heart.  Talking with him, seeking his advice, and receiving his professional and personal guidance brought me a profound sense of calmness and trust in him.  We always conducted ourselves professionally and respectfully toward each other, and this provided the foundation for our trust and confidence in each other. 

On occasion, Dr. Santa Maria and I discussed personal issues that presented concerns to us.  I remember asking him what his thoughts were about whether or not I should move out-of-state to accept employment in teaching.  I shared with him that I was afraid to do so; he told me not to be afraid.  And, in telling me that, he had a way of comforting me that convinced me that everything would be okay.  

At one time, Dr. Santa Maria shared with me that he had considered taking work in a warmer part of the country, namely Florida, because he had just been there for a professional conference.  I stated to him that everyone at the college needed him, and I asked him what everyone would do without him.  He accepted that, though I am not sure that is the answer he was looking for.  

Dr. Santa Maria silently managed his career stresses every day, working extremely long hours, arriving very early and sometimes, going without lunch and dinner in order to complete his work.  He handled his professional stress with so much humility and acceptance.  He was a man who loved what he did, professionally, and was the best at it. 

He was also a man, who, in my observations, was deserving of more credit and respect for his work from his superiors, though he would never breathe a word about it.  I once accompanied Dr. Santa Maria to a board meeting of higher level administrators, and observed him sit quietly while others spoke.  It was then that I noticed that his work and accomplishments should have been more appropriately recognized by his superiors. 

Dr. Santa Maria was an excellent listener, as well as an outstanding communicator.  I personally wished that he was able to serve in a position of even higher leadership at the college as his professionalism and sensitivity would have reached even further than it already has. It was at this particular board meeting that Dr. Santa Maria introduced me to several college leaders, some of whom I had already met and others whom I had not.  There, he introduced me to Vice President for Student Affairs Hal Payne and International Student Affairs Director Jean-Francois Gounard, and some others.  I was also re-introduced to President Muriel Moore, whom I had previously known as a student at the University of Buffalo.  

Yet, again, Dr. Santa Maria provided me with another opportunity to network, and build and develop my professional experiences and reputation.  Dr. Santa Maria’s introduction of me to Dr. Gounard provided another professional friendship that developed while I was a student at Buffalo State College.  Dr. Gounard invited me to his offices, gave me a tour of them, and explained what services were provided there.  

I shared with Dr. Gounard that I had studied abroad in Krakow, Poland through the University at Buffalo, and had independently traveled throughout Eastern and Western Europe, the British Isles, and Canada.  Dr. Gounard invited me to write an article for the International Student Affairs newsletter about my travels, which I did, while also providing an accompanying photograph.  Dr. Gounard further invited me to attend a professional luncheon that welcomed to Buffalo a fellow Frenchman, Phillip Jenkinson, who spoke there and who was very successful in business.  Thus, Dr. Santa Maria provided me with an experience of developing a positive relationship with another of his trusted colleagues. 

Dr. Santa Maria, being a person who was open to meeting, and networking and communicating with everyone, also allowed me to introduce him to a successful business leader and entrepreneur whom I knew from my hometown.  This business leader – now semi-retired – was the head of a successful sand, gravel, and asphalt company that has nine large business enterprises throughout Western New York and Eastern Pennsylvania.  Providing leading professionals with an opportunity to connect was important to me, as well as to Dr. Santa Maria, since one of my main interests in college administration is in career development. 

On another note, Dr. Santa Maria was an avid walker, and would walk late in the evenings after returning home from work, as he shared with me.  I was always happy that he was able to relieve some of his work stresses through exercise and other activities that he enjoyed, such as playing his guitar.  He and I had something in common in relation to these activities since I also enjoy walking and jogging, as well as having played piano and clarinet.  It is important for people to have recreational and creative outlets. 

I could reflect upon some of Dr. Santa Maria’s life, though I only became aware of so much more of what he did in his life following his death.  Dr. Santa Maria was a person who was so focused on his work and the current events occurring in his life that the past was not something that we often discussed.  Dr. Santa Maria once shared with me that he worked the night shift at the Bethlehem Steel Plant in Lackawanna, New York while he was attending college.  He was proud that he worked his way through college with employment in the steel industry.  He and I also spoke of our families, and he shared with me about his daughter and son, as well as their studies and hopes for the future. 

The best way to remember Dr. Santa Maria in tribute is to recall and reflect upon the person whom he was.  Dr. Santa Maria is the epitome of a man – a professional, a leader, a fellow Catholic and Christian, and a true gentleman.  He is the type of man that all men should aspire to be.  He was a true reflection of a man among men. As the tear stains have now dried upon my face, though my eyes are welling up again, I remember Dr. Santa Maria and the man whom he was. 

Dr. Santa Maria was and is a man whose spirit touched the lives of so many people in such wonderful ways.  My tribute and description here pale in comparison to the person whom he was.  I am so honored, privileged, and blessed to have known Dr. Phillip Santa Maria, to have him as a colleague, friend, and mentor.  One would be truly blessed to have met Dr. Santa Maria or even one like him throughout their entire lives.  He continues to serve as a role model and inspiration to me, professionally and spiritually.  

Dr. Santa Maria, as a professional, I hold you in the very highest regard.  As a friend, I will always love, honor, and respect you, in the most moral, ethical, and appropriate ways.  Thank you for the time that you spent with me, guiding me and shaping me through your wisdom, intelligence, and leadership.  Thank you for sharing your life and experiences with me.  Thank you for your friendship, trust, and confidence.  I am so sad that I was not aware of, nor informed of your illness or passing until now, though I will always remember you and honor your spirit.  Let us remember better times.  Until we meet again…                                         

_____________________  

 

Please consider making a financial contribution to the Dr. Phillip Santa Maria Memorial Fund through the Buffalo State College Foundation.  Monies contributed in this fund are awarded as scholarships to outstanding students at Buffalo State College.