James E. Gage Sr.

KNOX — James E. Gage Sr. died in a farmhouse on a road named for his family, on land that had been in his family since the early 1800s, where he — and several generations of Gages before him — had grown up.

In other words, James Gage belonged to that still-enduring circle of descendents of first settlers of the area that came to be known as the Hilltowns.

He was 67 when he died at his home on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016,  surrounded by family.  Mr . Gage was born April 23, 1949, the son of Ernest and Irene (née Bassler) Gage.

The life he lived, said his sister Patricia, was a “simple and clean one.”  He remained close to the land, even as the family farm shrank to smaller dimensions. And, he found a lifelong interest and passion in restoring old farm equipment and engines of many kinds, and exhibiting his handiwork at the annual Gas Up held  in Schoharie and sponsored by the Mohawk-Hudson Chapter Pioneer Gas Engine Association.

“For 54 years,” his sister says, “he never missed that event.” In fact, she says, his participation preceded the chapter’s formation, when it was still a gathering of enthusiasts like himself getting together informally.

“He would drive a tractor over there,” she recalls, “or get his engines there on trailers.” He had a special love for equipment made by Farmall, a company that became International Harvester and one which an uncle in Altamont represented as distributor, says his sister.

He also liked to enter tractor pulls at the Altamont Fair and other county fairs.

Mr. Gage graduated from Schoharie High School in 1971. For most of his life, his sister says, he worked as an equipment operator and truck driver, most recently for the Knox Highway Department.

A post honoring him on the Facebook page of his fellow lovers of old engines bids him to “have fun with the guys.”

He had a “fiery temperament,” his sister says.  “He was a man who was either hot or cold.”

But he was also a man with a temperamental affinity and sympathy for the “downtrodden,” she says.

If he saw a horse that was being ill-used, he would take it upon himself to rescue it, or “if he saw a deer that was hurt, he would try to get officials to come and take care of it,” she said. He hated to see children abused, as well.

That same caring impulse, she thinks, may have led him to informally adopt two close friends, Wylie Spring and Ken Siegel. Mr. Spring was among those who cared for Mr. Gage during his long final illness.

One of her favorite memories of him goes back to the time when she watched him, as a boy of 5 or 6, find a bird that had fallen from its nest and then bear it to a new safe place.

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James E. Gage Sr. is survived by his son, James E. Gage Jr. and his wife, Leighann,  of Cobleskill, and their three children, Tyler, Cassidy, and Olivia Sophia-Leigh; his sister, Patricia Gage, of Altamont; his brother, Howard R. Gage and his wife, Virginia, of Oppenheim, and by their children, Kathrine and Samantha; and by several cousins.

He is also survived by two “adopted sons,” Wylie Spring and Ken Siegel, both in Freehold.

His parents, Ernest and Irene Gage, died before him.

Calling hours, from noon to 3 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 30, at the Langan Funeral Home, 327 Main Street, Schoharie, will  be followed by private interment in Knox Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Hudson-Mohawk Chapter, Pioneer Gas Engine Association, Post Office Box 393, Schoharie 12157, or to Frenesius Dialysis Center, 650 McClellan Street, Schenectady 12034.

— Tim Tulloch

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