John Bach celebrates 90 years

An extra-special birthday present: Granddaughter Katie Duff publishes book she wrote about his life

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  • Katie Duff (left) with her grandparents John and Carol Bach.

  • John Bach looks at the book his granddaughter wrote about him.

  • The old Seely farm.

"He became a very successful, prominent person on his own, without help from anyone.”
John Bach Jr.

By Ginny Privitar

— Having just turned 90, John Edward Bach is the American success story. In his youth he endured the privations of poverty and became a prisoner of war, but in the end was blessed with business success and an adoring family.

His story impressed his granddaughter Katie Duff so much, she's written a book about his life and times.

“I’m very fascinated with his life story, and I’m thankful that he is around still so I can learn all this history," said Duff, 21, who lives with her grandparents when she’s not attending college in Wisconsin. “He’s had quite a life. He’s very charismatic and very wise, and he’s very social.”

Farming and fighting
Bach was born July 3, 1924, on the Seely farm on Old Chester Road, one of six children born to Frederick and Rebecca Brede Bach. The family, very poor, lived as tenant farmers and moved around a lot. They lived on Greenwich Avenue in Goshen when Bach was in elementary school, then moved to his mother's family home at 50 Scotchtown Avenue. They owned that house for awhile, raising chickens in the yard and getting milk from their cow. Bach attended several schools, including the one at the intersection of Main and Erie.

Eventually the family moved again, to the Smith farm on Phillipsburgh Road. Bach and his brothers walked to school, cutting through the area where Route 17 now passes. Bach graduated from Goshen Central High School in 1942.

After graduation he joined the Air Force and became a bombardier, flying in B-24s. He became a first lieutenant.

His plane was shot down during a bombing run over Germany in October 1944. His family received a telegram, dated Nov. 10, that he was missing in action over Odertal, Germany. For about 30 days, a local family resistant to the Nazis sheltered him in their farmhouse. But then he was discovered, and was taken prisoner to Cracow, Poland.

He was eventually liberated. But his family says that Bach, like many veterans, doesn’t like to talk about his time as a POW.

Success in business and racing

After Bach was discharged in 1945, his aunt Rose convinced him to work for her boss, a Mr. Roberts, for about a year. He was paid $50 a week through the GI Bill and also worked for a title insurance company in Newburgh for 12 years.

Then, in 1959, Bach started his own business: the Goshen Abstract Corp. at 168 Main Street on Lawyers’ Row. With his partner, Paul Miller, he formed another title company, P.J. Enterprises. In 1972 they formed Hill ‘n Dale Abstractors, which is still thriving and run by Bach’s two stepsons, James and John Wood. Bach was in the title business for 50 years.

When Bach retired around 1999, his stepsons took over the business. But he still comes in most mornings at 7:30 a.m. to help out.

After the war Bach married Ruth Koroski. They had seven children together and later divorced. Their son John Bach Jr. is an attorney who works in the same Goshen building as Hill 'n Dale Abstractors. Their other children are Kevin, Bernice, Rosemarie, Marguerite, Jamie, and Rebecca.

In 1980 John Bach married Carol Mesnica Wood, who had three children from a previous marriage: John and James, who carry on the title business, and Katie’s mom, Cheryl Wood.

Bach’s father, Frederick Bach, actually worked for Good time Track owner W.H. Cane as a teamster. Bach also has a long history with harness racing. He's on the Goshen Historic Track’s board of directors and volunteered his time for all sorts of things, including time trials for horses during racing season. His business success enabled him to own horses that raced here in Orange County and also in the state of Florida, and he did some driving for a time. He watches the races, as he did on his 90 birthday last Thursday.

An admiring family

John Jr. noted his father wasn’t able to further his own education because of his growing family, but that he valued education and “directly or indirectly, he got me interested in the practice of law.”

Bach's family threw him a surprise party, attended by 70 friends and family members, in honor of his 90th birthday, which was made more special by the presentation of his granddaughter's book, which she had professionally printed.

"He was very appreciative of it," Katie said. "The party was great. He claims he was surprised but I still think he knew. He was very thankful to all of the guests that came."

John Jr. summed up what was special about his father's life.

“I think the most impressive thing about him is the fact that he had a very difficult childhood, with financial issues," he said. "But once he got out of the war, he took advantage of GI Bill to get involved in abstracting, which eventually evolved into the title insurance industry. He created the first title agency in Orange County, and it’s amazing because he was a high school graduate but he became an expert in real estate. Thereafter he got involved in the sale of real estate and became a broker and then appraiser. And he was a successful investor in real estate and he became a very successful, prominent person on his own, without help from anyone.”

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