By Nathan Mayberg
LIBERTY September 28, 2004 Libertys Post Office was officially named yesterday after the man who helped design and oversee the buildings creation former Liberty Postmaster Ben Gerow.
Over 200 people, including dozens of his relatives, were in attendance to honor the late postmaster.
Gerow was born in 1880 and lived his whole life in Liberty. He is credited as the first Liberty resident to drive a gas-powered automobile.
Among his long life of community service, Gerow served as a New York State Assemblyman, Sullivan County Sheriff and a long-time firefighter. As a firefighter, he brought the first gasoline-powered fire truck to his company in Liberty. He founded the Liberty chapter of the Elks Lodge in 1929.
The official honoring of Gerow was a result of the work by his grandson Robert and the efforts of United States Congressman Maurice Hinchey. United States Senator Charles Schumer saw that the bill passed through the U.S. Senate. The bill was signed into law by United States President George W. Bush.
Eugene DeCarlo, current postmaster of the Ben Gerow Post Office, spoke of Gerows diligent work in overseeing the creation of the post office as part of one of many public works initiatives begun by United States President Franklin Roosevelt. Gerow, who was also a Democrat, was appointed postmaster by the president.
Gerow served as postmaster from 1934-1946. In 1937, the current building in Liberty was unveiled.
His grandson, Robert, spoke of how dedicated a family man Ben was. After all, Ben fathered 16 children with his wife Angeline. They had 34 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.
Hinchey, Gunther and others lauded the elder Gerow with glowing words, while the color guard from the Sullivan County Sheriffs Department and the American Legion stood at attention behind them.
Five of Gerows sons served in World War II.
Hinchey described Gerow as a legendary figure for his work in the community. That work also included about 30 years as the owner of a local automobile dealership and repair shop. In addition, he owned a rubber tire business.
Senator Schumers representative presented the younger Gerow with a flag flown over the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Robert Gerow expressed his fond memories of his grandfather. He was delighted to see so many of his grandfathers relatives in attendance.
I havent seen this many Gerows in 25 years, he said.
Gerow said family was very important to his grandfather. Every Christmas, he hired a Santa Claus for his family.
When the Ontario and Western train used to pass by Liberty, he would take his family out to Livingston Manor and Roscoe for ice cream.
Pat Killian, president of Ontario Hose Company No. 2 in Liberty, brought his companys oldest fire truck, circa 1934, in honor of Gerow.
Also in attendance were community leaders such as Sullivan County Legislator Jodi Goodman, Town of Liberty Supervisor Frank DeMayo, Village of Liberty Mayor William Smith and former Town of Liberty Supervisor Richard Martinkovic.