100th Birthday Celebration of
John O. Gerrish
August 14th, 2010
Red Fox Inn, Saranac Lake, NY

On November 29th, 2010, Pop passed away quietly in his sleep. Hold fast to the happy memories of events like this 100th birthday party celebration to remember him by. Obituary here:

L-R: Al-Quadir Marsh (great grandson and videographer), Jim Gerrish (son), John O. aka. "Pop" or "Jack" Gerrish, Lucy Gerrish (wife of grandson Philip Gerrish), and Mary E. Gerrish (daughter).

"Pop" Gerrish makes a grand entrance to his party, walking in on Mary's arm under his own power. He takes a long walk with her almost every day, so this little excursion is nothing.

Pop greets his brother Charles.

L-R: Nicholas Suminski (great grandson), Elizabeth Suminski (granddaughter), Ivan Suminski (great grandson), Harriet Groenleer (great granddaughter), Sophia Suminski (great granddaughter), Andrew Groenleer (great grandson).

Entrance music provided by the Suminski and Groenleer great grand children.

Erika von Trapp, long time friend of the family.

Father Phil Merdinger (Left) greets Sandy Gerrish as her son Philip looks on with his wife Lucy by his side. Father Phil went to St. Benedict's Prep School in Newark, NJ as a classmate of John B. and has been a life-long friend of the family.

Pop listens attentively as his children, Mary, Cathy and Jim, play his 1957 published composition Variations on a Burgundian Carol on the recorders. It was dedicated "To John (B.) and the Midnight Recorder Society" which included Father Phil, among others. Video below.


Catherine (Cathy) Ryan on the soprano recorder, Mary Gerrish on the alto recorder, and Jim Gerrish on the tenor recorder, playing three movements (Prelude, Scherzo, and Finale) of Variations on a Burgundian Carol composed by their father, John O. Gerrish.

L-R: (as best I can)- Kama Prellwitz, Irene Gerrish (in front and concealing Sandra Gerrish and Philip Gerrish), Rosemary Yaichuck, Ivan Suminski, Lizzie and Mike Ryan, Mary and Jim Gerrish, Eva Gerrish, Sophia Suminski, Nick Suminski, Harriet Groenleer, Elizabeth Suminski, Andrew Groenleer

The musicians assemble for the playing and singing of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring from Cantata No. 147 by J.S. Bach. This was always a featured piece of the concerts given by John O. Gerrish and The Gerrish Family Singers. Conducting the piece from his chair is John O. Gerrish, assisted by his first born son, John B. Gerrish (hiding somewhere in the background).


Sandy Gerrish leads with the flute as the orchestra and singers, all children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and personal friends of John O. Gerrish play Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring by J.S. Bach.

Kama Prellwitz, friend of the family and special guest violinist with the newly formed Jesu Joy Ensemble, presents Pop with a special bouquet of flowers sent from his Alma Mater, the Crane School of Music in Potsdam, NY, from which he graduated in 1930. Kama also currently attends Crane School of Music.

L-R: Foreground - Eva Gerrish, Sophia Suminski; back row - Philip Gerrish, Lizzie Ryan, Andrew Suminski, Andrew Groenleer, Mike Ryan, Nicolas Suminski, Jim Gerrish, Mary Gerrish, Deborah Groenleer, Cathy Ryan, Harriet Groenleer.
Off on the left but out of the photo (but definitely heard!): Irene Gerrish, Elizabeth Suminski

John B. Gerrish (striped shirt front and center) was the chief organizer of this event, as well as Master of Ceremonies and conductor. Here he conducts another of Pop's compositions published by The Boston Music Company in 1953 and dedicated to Mary, I Sing A Maiden, sung a capella by the family chorus. See Rehearsal Video HERE. Read TEXTS of song HERE.

John (Jack) Gerrish gazes in amazement at the 100 blazing candles over his birthday cake. How will he ever blow them all out? With a little help from his great grand-children, of course!


The great grandchildren gather willingly around the cake and candles to help great grandpa blow them out and get his wish... which I think has already come true in this room today!

Toastmaster Bill Ryan (Son-in-law and Cathy's husband) gives the first toast, as John B. warns everyone not to drink it all because there will be a second toast, thereby breaking his own rule about extra toasts and speeches.

However, John is forgiven his "transgression" because the second toast is for Mary, who has been Pop's caregiver for the past 18 years, as well as the world's best "Aunt" by unanimous acclamation of all the relatives present, because she never forgets a birthday and always picks the best presents for every occasion. John B. also presents her with a special bouquet of flowers. Video of toasts is below.

L-R: Harriet Groenleer (great granddaughter), Ivan Suminski (great grandson), Irene Gerrish ( great granddaughter), Nicholas Suminski (great grandson), Andrew Groenleer (great grandson).

Another combination of great grandchildren play an "arrangement for cousins" by Harriet Groenleer of Aaron Copeland's Hoe-down movement from Rodeo .

Party Music Video


L-R: Sandra Gerrish, wife of John B. Gerrish, and their children Matthew Gerrish, Deborah Groenleer, and Elizabeth Suminski.

The final ensemble of the party played a variety of W.A. Mozart quartets in the background as relatives and friends began to say their farewells and head back home.

At this point, Pop was beginning to nod off, so Father Phil gave him a special blessing, and Mary took him home to have a nap. Tomorrow they can remember the party, look at pictures and videos of the event, and recall all the excitement of this day that celebrates a century of living life to the fullest.

L-R: Olivia Goode, Eva Gerrish, Sophia Suminski

The youngest of the great grandchildren at the party taught us all a lesson in getting along by using every spare moment to talk, sing and dance together and most of all, to have fun.

Ann TenEyck's Photos

L-R: Frederick Goode, Jim Gerrish

Most of the above party photos were taken by Fred Goode, Jim Gerrish's son. However, no one remembered to take a photo of the photographer, so here he is at last, thanks to our Saranac Lake neighbor and lifelong family friend Ann TenEyck.

L-R: Elijah Goode, (Grandpa) Jim Gerrish, Mary Gerrish, Al-Quadir Marsh

Ann also took this photo of Jim's two grandsons who were at the party and who helped photograph it as well: Elijah (Fred's son) and Al-Quadir (step son of Lee Harper, who did not attend the party). Both grandsons are members of Jim's Wiz Kids.

L-R: Soozie Leubert, Mary Gerrish, Noel Prellwitz

Ann also remembered to take a photo of Kama's parents, although Kama's parents did not forget to invite many of us to their camp at Rainbow Lake for a late night swimming party and campfire.

Ann also took this photo of brothers John and Jim Gerrish. John is losing his hair and Jim is losing his teeth, but both retain their sense of humor.

Other Photographers

We gathered this action photo of neighbor Ann TenEyck from the background of one of Fred's photos.

L-R: Foreground - Al-Quadir Marsh, Olivia Goode

Al-Quadir Marsh did some of the videography on a Flip camera, and, as you can see, took still photos on his digital camera at the same time. Al-Quadir is also an official photographer of his Uncle Fred's East Orange Unified Marching Band. Olivia Goode, his cousin, watched him very closely and for her birthday in September 2010 asked for a digital camera of her own (Which she got! Look out world!).

Marc Groenleer, grandson-in-law, videotaped the event and produced a DVD for members of the family.

Private Lawn Performance

L-R: Philip Gerrish, Deborah Groenleer, John B. Gerrish, Elizabeth Suminski

Shortly after the party, the children of John B. Gerrish (in the coon tail cap) performed a special concert for their Grandfather John O. Gerrish on the lawn of his home in Saranac Lake. The photo is taken from a video that Marc Groenleer (Deborah's husband) made of the lawn concert. Marc produced a DVD from videos he took during and after the party, which is available to family members upon request.

Family members who spot errors or omissions, please contact Jim Gerrish. Anyone who attended the party and who has additional photos, video and information either of a historic nature or about the party, please e-mail them to Jim Gerrish.

History of John Gerrish and Family in the Oranges, Nutley, Newark, and Union.

More Family Photos of the Past

Wikipedia Page for John Gerrish

Back to Interactive Museum Timeline

Museum caretakers: Jim Gerrish (#2 son of John O. Gerrish) and Frederick Goode (grandson of John O. Gerrish)