Gerard Killenberger picked grand marshal for Goshen parade
Goshen. This veteran has dedicated his life to serving others, from his service in the Navy, in the NYFD, in Goshen's fire and EMT services, at St. James, and as a local Boy Scout leader.
By Wendy Bynum-Wade
Some people say it’s a calling. Others say it’s a desire to help others. For this year’s grand marshal of Goshen’s 2019 Memorial Day parade, community service been a way of life for most of his adult life.
Born in Manhattan 80 years ago, Gerard Killenberger was one of three brothers who served their country. From 1956 to 1962, he served in the Navy as an electrician on the USS Vandivier DE 540. His older brother, Fred, served in the Korean War and his younger brother, Robert, served in Vietnam. Both brothers were in the Army, serving as infantrymen.
Killenberger describes his ship’s mission as an extension of the coastal defense system. At that time, our coastal bases could only defend 250 miles out into the. Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. With ships like the USS Vandivier, our Navy provided an extended line of defense with floating radar and sonar detection systems, marking Killenberger’s first stint as a “first responder.” The USS Vandivier patrolled from Newfoundland to Cuba.
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Upon discharge, Killenberger married Barbara Murphy and started his career with the New York City Fire Department. After welcoming Beth, Dee-Dee, and Ed to their family, the Killenberger clan began to look north for a place to raise their children and become part of a community.
Killenberger had been told that the best way to learn about a community was to talk to a local mailman. He rolled into Goshen and got an earful about how wonderful Goshen was from Joe Berg, a fixture in town as he made his daily deliveries along his route. According to Killenberger, Joe and pharmacist David Reese get the credit for selling him on moving his family to our community. Dave, who was part of the Strong family pharmacy (precursor to Baxter’s), was also deeply involved in the Minisink Ladder Company. All these years later, Killenberger is being honored for his community service that started soon after moving here.
Saving lives in the NYFD
When told he had been selected this year’s grand marshal, Killenberger was surprised and humbled. He has always worked to give back to his community in any way possible without any desire for recognition or personal reward. Perhaps that’s one of the first requirements for this honor: providing service to one’s community in as selfless a manner possible. Saving lives in the NYFD
He served the NYFD assigned to Ladder Co. 33 in the Bronx. In 1968, at the height of the fires raging in the South Bronx, Killenberger helped start Ladder Co. 55. From there he spent 12 years in Manhattan with Ladder Co. 36, then back to the Bronx with the 18th Battalion. His last assignment with the NYFD was as a fire marshal and chief of staff with the Manhattan base of the Bureau of Fire Investigations.
Of all of his experiences on the job, Killenberger describes saving lives at a scene as a lasting memory, and, in a close second, being instrumental in the beginnings of first aid services as part of the NYFD. In the early '70s Killenberger began fundraising in the community local to his fire station to provide first aid kits and emergency supplies to be available on every call at his station. Today, the NYFD provides ambulance service throughout the five boroughs, but back then, Killenberger saw a need, and he did something about it.
He also saw the need in his new hometown of Goshen. He’s been a life member since GOVAC’s inception in 1974 and served actively as an EMT from 1974 through 1992. As a member of Goshen’s Minisink Ladder Company, Killenberger has served as president, vice president, and treasurer as well as serve the Goshen Fire District as Fire Commissioner. The need to give back has not been restricted to emergency services.
Killenberger was a Boy Scout Leader with Goshen’s Troop #63 and helped many of Goshen’s young men through the process of achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. He looks back on those days with immense pride as he notes that many of “his boys” have devoted their lives to public service as professionals or volunteers in Goshen and beyond.
He has served his church community at St. James Episcopal Church with the same commitment and dedication he has shown as a first responder. For the last few decades, Killenberger has held many positions in the church: lector, vestrymen, risk manager, and warden, and took responsibility for buildings and grounds. Most recently he’s qualified as a eucharist minister, enabling him to administer communion to church members unable to attend church services.
Killenberger is still involved with the Minisinks, with 2019 marking his 48th year of service. These days, Killenberger plays a major role in cementing not only his own legacy but in providing for a strong future for the department. He interviews every prospective member, sharing his credo of commitment, dedication, and pride. He believes it means being proud of what you’re doing, dedicating yourself to the group doing that job, and committing yourself to the community you serve. Those words are inscribed in the newest Minisink ladder truck.
Killenberger and another one of the men he mentored along the way, Jay Jonas, were honored at the dedication of that truck. A picture of the helmet Jonas was wearing when he was rescued from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, also hangs in that truck.
Congratulations to Jerry Killenberger for his many years of doing so in our midst. Thank you to Joe Berg and Dave Reese for making sure the community he and his family chose to serve was Goshen, N.Y.