Thursday, April 12, 2018
From the left are Deputy County Manager Dan Depew, District
7 Legislator Joe Perrello, District 9 Legislator Alan Sorensen, District 8
Legislator Ira Steingart, District 6 Legislator and Chairman Luis Alvarez,
Maurice Gerry, District 5 Legislator Terri Ward, District 1 Legislator Scott
Samuelson, District 3 Legislator Mark McCarthy, District 4 Legislator Catherine
Owens, District 2 Legislator and Vice Chair Nadia Rajsz, and County Manager
Monticello, NY – It has been said that too many people do little other than talk. But there are those who take action, who “do,” and who by their quiet, persistent effort influence the community far more than the “talkers.”
According to the Sullivan County Legislature, Maurice Gerry is such a doer, and they proudly bestowed the Distinguished Citizen Award upon him today.
“Although well-known and loved by his friends and family, Maurice isn’t focused on the glory but on the satisfaction of improving his community, of making people’s lives better,” noted Legislature Chairman Luis Alvarez. “His generous spirit and great talent have not dimmed over the decades, and Sullivan County is fortunate to call him a resident.”
Maurice grew up in Ferndale, graduating from Liberty High School in 1949. He subsequently spent 32 years in California running a unisex salon and participating in a particularly historic time in politics.
“I worked with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk,” he recalled of the two popular city leaders who were infamously assassinated in 1978. “I also did quite a bit of work for then-Supervisor Dianne Feinstein, who became mayor and then a Senator. I felt I did a lot of good.”
But home – and aging parents – called him back, and he returned to Ferndale in 1985 to purchase an abandoned Victorian farmhouse on the very hill he used to climb to school.
“I was very interested in restoring it, as I had restored a house in San Francisco,” he said. “This hill was my childhood.”
And that hill along Ferndale-Loomis Road has now truly become his own, as over the past 33 years he’s purchased and renovated every home between County Route 71 in the valley and Upper Ferndale Road at the crest – 10 properties in all.
“I started at the bottom of the hill and worked my way up,” he related with a warm smile. “I’m restoring my old schoolhouse now.”
“It’s a labor of love,” he added, “because you don’t make a nickel!”
But that’s just his selfless approach to his hometown, where, thanks to the voters, he served on the Liberty Town Board for 20 years.
“During my tenure on the board, I was always the oldest, and I considered myself a watchdog,” he proudly stated.
Maurice also served on the Chamber of Commerce and was a founding member of the Liberty Museum and Arts Center.
“A lot of the buildings preserved in Liberty are there because of me,” he explained.
There’s one that has particularly deep sentimental value for him – the former Liberty High School, which is now the elementary building along North Main Street.
“I’ve always been a big supporter of the Liberty school system. Whatever I’ve done in my life that’s good, I owe it to my education at Liberty High School,” he remarked. “I’ve never missed a graduation there in 35 years.”
Indeed, Ferndale, Liberty and Sullivan County have so enamored Maurice that in 2009 he built a new home for himself next to Liberty Falls (Ferndale’s former name and an actual waterfall).
“I had a very, very happy youth and a good home life here,” he said without hesitation. “I would never leave here.”
And he is a key part of preserving that feeling of close-knit community – not just by renovating homes but renting them out.
“My hope,” he said, “is that people will continue to keep Sullivan County beautiful, clean and historic.”