Gene Gertler, 1936-2022

Gene Gertler was a man who, when he saw things that needed to be done, he got them done.


Young Gene and deerBorn to Meyer and Lillian Gertler at the Wyckoff Heights Hospital in Brooklyn on May 11, 1936, Eugene Ira Gertler (he would shed the middle name and simplify the first for all but legal documents in years to come) had a brain for engineering and for systems. Growing up in Queens but attending Manhattan’s famed Stuyvesant High School, he used his time getting there on public transit to practice his morse code, tapping out all the words he saw on the advertisements. It was in this way that he reached the highest speed tested by the accreditation board – 35 words per minute – faster than anyone ever had before.

Heading on to Swarthmore College, he majored in engineering. He also spent his time there wrestling and (and we should note with proper punctuation that this is a separate event from wrestling) meeting Susan Creasey, his first wife.

Gene’s engineering work brought him patents for such things as the original digital display where information appeared to slide across, such as you might see on a scrolling stock ticker or news display on the side of a building. He was never one for taking the obvious path, and he would be glad to tell you that at one point he owned the only “Cadillac station wagon” in New Jersey, that being the only description that the NJ DMV would allow him to use, because they felt it improper for a private individual to be listed as owning a used hearse.

Gene holding kidsIt was while living in the small town of Riverton, New Jersey and working as president of Kalbro, a nearby computer repair firm, that Gene decided to run for school board president. While his initial election to the board was rocky (while the sole other person on the ballot had already died, there was a push to vote in the dead person so that the existing board could choose a prefered person to fill the post), he found success and ended up spending years as the president of the board.

He eventually left the Kalbro post and started his own company, a franchise operation of a national voice mail system. With the support of his wife Pocahontas Gertler (a Philadelphia school teacher whom he had wooed and won over completely) the company was built to a point where they could sell it for a substantial profit, which they did. They used the money to retire to Prescott, Arizona.

While in Prescott, Gene and Poco found that they had furniture and clothing they no longer needed, and planned to take them to a Native American reservation that was within driving distance. They put the word out to see if others had items that might go as well, as he still had space in his SUV. The word spread so effectively that he got more than he could handle in one trip… and that launched his charity. Gene got a trailer, and he and Poco used that to take load after load to the reservation. Over the course of more than a decade, they delivered tens of thousands of pounds of clothing, furniture, and household goods, ending only when age kept them from the activity. Their efforts were written up in the Congressional Record in 2002.

In his later years, he wrote a set of memoirs – not an attempt at a full biography, but just interesting stories from his life, including his adventures traveling. These can be downloaded as a PDF for free, or purchased as an inexpensive book.

Gene spent the final years of his life falling into dementia, and it was the effects of that which finally took him on January 25, 2022. He leaves behind him his sister Joan Rosenberg; loving wife Poco; the four kids he had with Susan (JJ, Dave, Nat, and Brie Gertler) and their spouses (Judy Bradt, Sue Kost, Lara Gertler, and Marty Porush, respectively); stepdaughter Sunshine; and various grandchildren, stepgrandchildren, and stepgreatgrandchildren.

I have led a life blessed in many ways, and, like you, aimed at job satisfaction and a contribution to society rather than the accumulation of wealth. --Gene Gertler, in a letter written to his children in 2009 but with instruction that it not be opened until his death.