Liverpool lost one of its coolest characters when Gary Black died Nov. 4 at age 75.
Although he was born in Troy, Gary lived his entire life in the village, graduated from Liverpool High School and worked for many years for the local firm Lew Payne Heating and Air Conditioning where he used his mechanical skills to keep customers warm or cool as the season dictated.
Yes, Gary was a heck of a handy-man! He even made replacement parts so that he could repair the car owned by his daughter, Sarah.
How cool a cat was Gary Black? He was a lifelong member of the Liverpool Fire Department, starting out as a volunteer firefighter and working his way up the ladder to become the Fire Commissioner.
Gary was the husband of Gloria Vanderbilt Black, longtime secretary for the Liverpool Central School District who died in 2014, and he was the brother of Liverpool’s first female mayor, Marlene Black Ward, who died in 2017.
Gary had a wistful affection for the past and enjoyed vintage TV shows and movies. He played scratch-off lottery tickets and was an avid NASCAR fan. He continued to record the auto races even though he watched them live, just in case he needed to see a replay, especially if the action involved his favorite driver, Million Dollar Bill Elliott, or Bill’s son, Chase.
Gary was gregarious, talkative, congenial and extremely personable. Everybody liked him. He invariably flashed a big smile and winked his eyes at life’s ups and downs.
How cool a cat was Gary Black? He was a longtime regular at two of Liverpool’s landmark watering holes, and he was so cool that he made sure to point out in his obituary that “His friends at The Retreat and the Cobblestone were much appreciated and a big part of his life.”
But one thing in Gary’s obituary had me scratching my head. His beloved cat, Max, was listed among his survivors, and Gary particularly thanked his brother-in-law, Richard “Ace” Ward “who was always there for him and continued the ‘Max Call.’”
What the heck was the Max call?
Ace Ward explains:
“Max is an alley cat who was Gary’s constant companion. When she was alive, Marlene would call Gary every night at 7:15 p.m. to check on him, and when Max heard the phone ring he would come running like Pavlov’s dog because he got a treat.
“When Marlene passed, the Max Call became my responsibility so every night at 7:15 p.m., I would call Gary and Max would come for his treat. I even continued to call Gary from Florida last winter.
“If for any reason I didn’t call, Gary would call me and let the phone ring to remind me to call back because Max would not appear until the phone rang. Max is not the most sociable cat and really doesn’t care for me even though I kept him supplied with his favorite salmon-stick cat treats.
“Max is getting used to his new home with Gary’s grand-daughter, Jordyn Striano — who lives in Liverpool — but the Max Calls have now stopped.
“Max was an is the perfect example of how an animal can be a perfect companion for a person. Our whole family owe Max a debt of gratitude.”
By the way, contributions in Gary’s memory can be made to the Liverpool Fire Department, 1110 Oswego Street, Liverpool, NY 13088.
I asked Village Historian Dorianne Elitharp Gutierrez when Liverpool began its annual Christmas in the Park event with a tree-lighting and an appearance by Santa Claus, which continued Dec. 2, at Johnson Park. She found that Christmas in the Park was initially celebrated 70 years ago, in 1948 when Michael Heid was mayor.
BTW, we all owe a big thank-you to village DPW Superintendent Bill Asmus and his crew for their installation of tasteful yuletide decorations throughout the village this year. God rest ye merry, gentlemen!
Vivacious vocalist Maria DeAngelis will headline a Holiday Jazz Vespers concert at 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, at the United Church of Christ, at 215 Blackberry Road in Bayberry.
DeAngelis will be accompanied by pianist Barry Blumenthal, reedman Mike Dubaniewicz, bassist Tom Brigandi and drummer Larry Luttinger who lives in Liverpool and is executive director of CNY Jazz Central, which is hosting Sunday’s event.
Admission is free, although goodwill donations will be accepted.
Meanwhile, that same evening over in Eastwood, longtime Liverpool resident Keith Condon and his daughter, Brianna, will be singing Christmas songs with the Mario DeSantis Orchestra at the 12th annual Christmas at the Palace concert, at the Palace Theater, 2384 James St.
MaryKay Manns, the former owner of the White Water Pub in the village, is now tending bar at the new Home Team Pub (formerly Uriah’s), at 7990 Oswego Road (Route 57). She’s also mixing drinks at Barado’s on the Water in Brewerton, at least until they close down for the winter.
But now MaryKay’s out on Route 57 greeting many old friends and former customers from her days at the White Water here in the village.
“There is a huge presence of White Water Pub customers at the new Home Team Pub,” she told me. “I think the ‘White Water refugees’ have found a new home.”
Home Team Pub is owned by Joey Kalil, a graduate of Liverpool High School who has extensive experience with sports bars; 315-622-6262.
“It’s a great space and location. We want it to be a place the community can take pride in.”
–Home Team Pub manager Joey Kalil