Article and photo by Michael DePietro
Interim Tribune Editor
Officials from North Tonawanda and Niagara County gathered on the steps of City Hall Wednesday for a swearing-in ceremony for 97-year-old William Gosch, who will serve as a temporary replacement for 2nd Ward Alderwoman Donna Braun. Braun was selected by the City Council Tuesday evening to serve as the city’s clerk/treasurer. Gosch will serve as a temporary replacement while the board conducts a search for its next 2nd Ward alderman.
Gosch, a lifelong NT resident, graduated from North Tonawanda High School in the Class of 1942, and Niagara University, Class of 1950. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II where he fought in four combat missions in the Pacific Theater. Following the war, Gosch served as general manager for the Richardson Boat Co. and, later, the North Tonawanda Housing Authority. Gosch said he also spent some time after the war working in the costume jewelry business in Honolulu, which he said was “the best job ever because you got to look at all the pretty girls.”
Conditions were idyllic for the ceremony; lots of sun, but none too warm. Gosch was surrounded by the smiling faces of friends and neighbors, many of whom were local officials.
“It’s a great day when we can honor one of our fine World War II vets, a lifelong resident, and a friend to me and a lot of people up here,” Legislator Richard Andres said.
Prior to the swearing-in, local officials took turns sharing their respect and admiration for Gosch, beginning with Assemblyman Angelo Morinello.
“I’m a combat Vietnam veteran, and to be able to honor a World War II combat veteran is really, and truly, a credit to what those veterans are made of,” Morinello said. “Bill here is asked that he fill the void with Donna Braun being elevated. It just shows that age is no barrier. The wisdom, experience and ability to serve – Bill has served all his life and he will continue.
I want people to remember, on Aug. 23, 2018, he was honored as a hometown hero. He has been serving his community since the day he was born and he is continuing to serve his community.”
North Tonawanda Mayor Arthur Pappas said it was an honor to appoint Gosch and said that his past, present and future services are valuable to the city.
“This is an honor, not just maybe for Mr. Gosch, but for all of us that are involved in North Tonawanda and our community and the surrounding area,” Pappas said. “To have someone like Bill Gosch still going strong in support of his community and of his country is an amazing feat. We have someone here who has not only been a lifelong resident, but has been a true citizen of this community and has helped in so many ways and promoted his community and has been a very, very loyal person to his country. ...
“People like this are few and far between; that devote such a lifetime to helping and promoting what this country and our communities stand for. I can only say thank you, Bill, for your service and your commitment through everything you do. He’s always followed through and is still doing it.
“If you thought you were out of service, we want you back! We still need you. We're still going to use the services you have to offer, and we thank you for being a part of this and being able to take over for Donna Braun for period of time here.
The master of ceremonies, Judge Shawn Nickerson, said, “They call Mr. Gosch’s generation ‘The Greatest Generation’ for a reason. They saved the world for democracy and Mr. Gosch is continuing to answer the bell and serve his community. I've known Mr. Gosch for quite some time and I'm honored to call him a friend, and I'm also very, very honored to call him a fellow citizen of North Tonawanda and a public servant.”
Former Legislator and longtime friend of Gosch, Roger Blackwell was on-hand to administer the oath of office. Following the proceeding, Blackwell joked, “Now there’s a P.S. that goes with that, because I'm a neighbor. And the P.S. goes this way, as he just swore on the Bible that he would do those things, the P.S. identifies that he will take care of my leaves and snow!”
Gosch himself said he was “absolutely overwhelmed” by the whole affair.
“I want to thank everyone here that’s given me the opportunity to be a bigger part of our community. I’ve lived here all my life and I don’t think there’s a better place in this world that a person would want to live – except maybe Hawaii,” Gosch said.
Elsewhere he added, “This is the greatest city in the world. Our crime rate is low, the public works are very good, and we have reasonable yearly temperatures. I mean the winter is no fun, but not as bad as Alaska.”
When asked by a reporter if the alderman position was something he’d like to keep, Gosch paused and, with a smile, said, “No.”