BKW grads go on to great things, share your own story

To the Editor:

The following will continue to provide a glimpse into the lives of some Berne-Knox-Westerlo alumni. I invite the readers to share letters with your recollections about yourself, your family, and friends who attended BKW. Special thanks to Tish Garry, and Ed Ackroyd for providing information.

Ed Ackroyd, the son of Henry and Virginia Hahn Ackroyd, is a truly unique BKW graduate. To my knowledge, he is our only graduate to sign and present his diploma to himself while serving as the president of our board of education. I challenge anyone to find another graduate from anywhere who did the same.

At 17, Ed left BKW and enlisted in the United States Army. First, he was sent to Germany and then a year-and-a-half later received orders to go to Vietnam. He recalls his 20th birthday as the day he took his GED [General Educational Development, a high school equivalency diploma] and went to see “The Bob Hope Show.”

Three days later, he was wounded and, despite giving a healthy appearance, has a 100-percent disability.  After returning home, he worked at various jobs.

Then, for 34 years, Ed operated his own business, Northeast Power Supply, which was both national and international in scope. Ed also owns a U.S. patent and worked on three other patents.

He and his wife, Valerie, are both retired. Val is retired from the FBI and was one of the first responders to the terrorists’ attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 as part of the Evidence Response Team. They have two sons who both attended BKW. Darrel is a tech teacher in Ballston Spa and Wade works at the state’s tax department.

Ed is actively involved in community service. He is currently on the Knox Planning Board and an office holder in the VFW. He is also a member of the Altamont American Legion which sponsors Boys’ State and he actively encourages boys from BKW to apply. Usually, two to four boys from BKW are selected annually.

A while back, Ed noticed signs in Guilderland for local service people who had been killed in action. He researched the Hilltowns and, as a result of his efforts, their names are now honored on the Glen Gilbert Plaque displayed at the VFW. Some of the names listed include: Danny Nye, Gene Curliss (Silver Star recipient), Richard Mosley, and Glen Gilbert. 

It is interesting to note that none of those individuals ever got to join the VFW since, if you can’t sign the membership application, you can’t join. Ed also worked with the American Legion and the county to have the roads they had lived on named after those killed in action. Thank you, Ed, for all you have done for all of us!

Another successful alumnus is John Garry (class of 1956), the son of Francis “Sonny” Garry and Marjorie (née Gallup) Garry. Sonny’s brothers were Harry Garry, who was married to Dr. Margery Smith, and George Garry, married to Martha Haluska.

The Hungarian family name was Gergulik but, upon arrival in this country, to better fit into the Irish New Jersey neighborhood where they settled, they chose to change to the popular Irish name Garry.

When Sonny was in his teens, his parents moved to East Berne and bought the farm that Harry Garry eventually farmed. Sonny’s future wife, Marge Gallup, grew up in Knox, but, since Berne had no high school at the time, she boarded and worked for a family in Delmar and went to Bethlehem Central for two years.

Later she was bused to Schoharie High School where she played basketball and graduated as the 1933 valedictorian with a 98.4 grade-point average. After marrying, the Garrys relocated to New Jersey, eventually returning to East Berne, purchasing a farm from the Van Rensselaer estate and shipping milk.

At a young age, John was tasked with making sure the fire in the smokehouse didn’t go out and helping with the bountiful vegetable garden. As a teen, John worked mowing and maintaining Camp Woodstock and later on worked on Ed Pitcher’s farm.

John’s mother helped him with his homework. He excelled in math and the sciences but had trouble reading and spelling. His mother would read books for him that he had to write or give oral reports on and tell him what they were about. He had a great memory and, although never diagnosed, it’s likely he is dyslexic.

Despite the dyslexia, John graduated as the salutatorian of his class, with a grade-point average of 93.5, only .25 behind the valedictorian, Dick Betts. At graduation, John took high honors in math and won the driver-training award for most courteous and sportsmanlike conduct, which was met with snickering from his classmates!

He always thanks Alberta Wright for challenging him to bring out his math ability. John jokes it was tough giving the speech at graduation because as his father was so proud, John feared he’d be hit in the eyes by the buttons popping off his dad’s suit jacket!

John was hesitant to attend college so enrolled in the three-year General Electric apprentice program and then the three-year manufacturing management program, including studies on three nights a week.

John’s jobs at G.E. included night foreman in the large steam turbine bucket shop, supervising 85 hourly, planning jobs; manufacturing engineer; and later supervisor for pumps, packing, and miscellaneous parts, including giant nuts, bolts and screws used in the production of electricity.

During his tenure, he engineered and bought over $5 million of equipment to manufacture steam parts for power plants, improved productivity, and cut operating costs. When faced with downsizing, due to union labor overpricing, he investigated and chose to farm out suppliers for much of the equipment that he originally purchased and installed.

John was recognized as innovative, knowledgeable, and creative. He was instrumental in introducing robotics to the G.E. plant in Schenectady. He retired from G.E. with 40 years of service.

John had two sons, Rob and Steve, with his wife, JoAnn Stewart. Rob attended Union College and is head of cybersecurity for G.E. in Greenville, South Carolina. His wife, Christine, is a school psychologist.

Steve attended Clarkson University and is a supervisor in the turf division of John Deere in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina. His wife, Jenny, is a former engineer. Between both of his sons, they have five grandchildren. John and his wife, Tish Dovhan, who was an administrative assistant at G.E. for 40 years, have been married 25 years and live in Galway, New York.

Helen M. Lounsbury Galicki

East Berne

Editor’s note: Helen M. Lounsbury Galicki graduated with the Class of 1956 and is a former teacher and former school board member for Berne-Knox-Westerlo.

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