SMILING FACES ó Seated at his desk, Dan Gernatt Sr. is surrounded by family and employees of the company that he started in the 1950s. (Photo by Mary Pankow)
NINE DECADES AND COUNTING ó Dan Gernatt Sr. celebrated his 97th birthday on Feb. 7 by attending a party given in his honor. (Photo by Mary Pankow)
February 7, 1917, 97 years ... seven appears to be THE number for one of the area's most esteemed local residents, Dan Gernatt Sr.
The patriarch and founder of Dan Gernatt Gravel Products, Inc., Dan Sr. was treated to a celebration on his 97th birthday Feb. 7. Family, friends and employees all gathered at the main office of the business on Taylor Hollow Road in Collins to enjoy a luncheon and personally wish the nonagenarian a happy birthday.
Dan Sr.'s day started out with special presentation from the students at St. Joseph School in Gowanda. After early Mass at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church, each student shook Dan Sr.'s hand and said "Happy Birthday." They also presented him with a signed poster, which is now hanging on his refrigerator.
When the mail arrived that special day, Feb. 7, more than 150 cards were stacked up for the "birthday boy" to open. This, too, is testimony to how well thought of Dan Gernatt Sr. is.
In 1955, Dan Sr., a dairy farmer, and his wife, Flavia, established Gernatt Gravel Products, Inc. in Collins. From that modest beginning, the business has grown to include operations in Gowanda, South Dayton, Springville and Delevan, among others. The company's concern for quality customer service has contributed greatly to its success.
The birthday honoree is and was not all about business, though. He is also known for his philanthropic endeavors as well.
The Gernatt name has been associated with local sports teams, St. Joseph School, St. Joseph's R.C. Church, the Buffalo Catholic Diocese, Tri-County Memorial Hospital Capital Campaign and the historic Hollywood Theater. These, and many other organizations and causes have benefited from the generosity of Dan Sr., his family, and his companies.
All of this did not go unnoticed. Aside from numerous personal expressions of appreciation, Dan Sr. was presented with the Gowanda Area Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year Award in 1991, the DeWitt Clinton Masonic Award in 2001 and, in 2009, he was the first recipient of the St. Joseph School Fidelis Servus Award.
Although younger generations now manage the business operations, Dan Sr. still checks in from time to time. The company has come a long way from using shovel scoops that are now considered antiques, but the camaraderie displayed at the birthday celebration on Feb. 7 ensures that the business of stone, sand and gravel production will continue to grow and expand.
Commenting on all the celebrating of his 97th birthday, Dan Sr. says, "I'm grateful to everyone."