BY VINCENT ABBATECOLA
Besides being known throughout the community as the owner of Haverstraw Transit, Inc., he has other accomplishments for which he should be remembered.
Zeh was a member of the New York National Guard and received the “Soldier of the Year” award in New York State in January 1961 for his skill in motor-pool operations and readiness to perform.
He served as president of the New York School Bus Contractors Association, and was awarded “Contractor of the Year” in 1992. The Rockland Business Association recognized him as Business Man of the Year in May 2001.
Zeh served as the chief chauffeur of Rescue Hook and Ladder Co. 1, and was a life member of his company and the Rockland County Volunteer Firemen’s Association.
Zeh’s contributions to North Rockland are recalled by several of its residents, whose lives have been impacted by his kindness and generosity.
“I graduated high school with Gary, so I knew Gary all my life,” said Councilman Vincent J. Gamboli. “Through the years, Haverstraw Little League always approached Gary when we were having fundraisers. Gary was just a pure philanthropist. He did so much through the community and gave back to the community. Whenever he was asked, he was there for us. There are a lot of examples that I can give through the years, but there’s one in particular.”
Gamboli went on to describe a time when the Haverstraw Little League was raising money for a new concession stand and meeting room for their field. The organization sent out letters that were looking for help in raising the money.
Zeh received a letter, and then requested for Gamboli to meet with him. The cost estimate for the project was $310,000, and through his altruism, Zeh wrote a check for the Haverstraw Little League for $31,000.
“He never wanted any notoriety,” said Gamboli. “Never wanted any credit for anything, but he did this constantly throughout the community.”
According to Haverstraw Town Supervisor Howard T. Phillips, Jr., one of Zeh’s biggest loves was the fire department, and with that came his love for the ladder truck. In a story shared by Phillips, there was a debate when the fire department wanted to order a new one.
Many of the members didn’t want a cab on the truck because they thought it would be easier for visual to see without it. Because of how long that type of truck is, other members insisted that the time came to have a completely sealed cab for the driver to sit in. In the end, those who wanted a complete cab won out. After the truck arrived one night, its cab was taken off, and nobody ever found where it had gone. The story goes that it was buried over by the Haverstraw Transit bus garage.
For Jeannie Nicolakis, proprietor of Sparky’s Diner in Garnerville, Zeh was always there for her when the weather became dangerous.
“I remember when we had bad snowstorms,” said Nicolakis. “He would come up to my house with his station wagon every morning with the snow, pick me up and bring me here between 4:00 and 4:30 in the morning. He was always there to make sure that I made it at Sparky’s on time.”
“My children grew up to know who Gary was because of everybody talking about the man,” said Nicolakis. “They were only little kids when we first met Gary, and they still, to this day, remember Gary. I have never met anyone in this community who has anything bad to say about the man. He was one of the nicest people that I met in this county. You can’t get enough words to describe this man. He was one in a million. He was a pillar to the community. I’m sure nobody will ever forget Gary Zeh.”
Reverend Thomas F. Madden of St. Peter’s Church in Haverstraw, who delivered the eulogy at Zeh’s funeral mass, said: “Gary Zeh was a leader in our community who led by his example, by his public service, by his faith and by his love.”