62° Good Afternoon
62° Good Afternoon
Long IslandObituaries

Edna Gerrard, women's advocate, world traveler, dies at 86

Edna Gerrard, 86, of Middle Island, died on

Edna Gerrard, 86, of Middle Island, died on May 16.

Edna Gerrard never had time to waste.

She had far too much to do -- managing a printing business, supporting her family, advocating for women, traveling the world, raising money for worthy causes and being a church steward.

Gerrard, of Middle Island, died May 16 at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital from complications of esophageal cancer. She was 86.

Gerrard's commitment to helping others was matched only by her love of family -- particularly for her husband of 65 years, former Brookhaven Town Councilman Eugene Gerrard, relatives said.

"They never did anything alone. It was always a partnership," said daughter Pamela Ruschak of upstate Canandaigua.

Born in Manhattan in 1929, Gerrard was raised in Franklin Square and graduated Sewanhaka High School, Ruschak said. She earned an associate degree in marketing from New York City Technical College.

Gerrard met her husband while in college. "My father was smitten with my mother, but my mother was like, 'I don't want to see this guy,' " said her son, Paul Gerrard of Georgetown, Kentucky.

Her feelings changed and the pair married in 1949, settling in Valley Stream. Edna Gerrard became a homemaker, while Eugene Gerrard worked with his brother at Gerrard Printing in Elmont.

The family moved to Mount Sinai in 1964, where Eugene Gerrard ran his own printing business out of the couple's basement, their children helping to collate and run the press.

They founded St. Gerrard Printing in Port Jefferson Station in 1965, and Edna Gerrard became CEO and president. The company did printing work for various Long Island hospitals, and the couple became more involved in community and political groups as the business grew into a multimillion-dollar enterprise.

In 1979, Edna Gerrard and seven others founded Decision Women in Commerce and Professions Inc., a networking group for women business owners.

Celeste Siemsen, who met Gerrard at the group's first meeting, said Gerrard helped establish the organization because Rotary and Kiwanis wouldn't accept female members at the time.

Siemsen said Gerrard was a compassionate leader whose advice was coveted, adding, "We went to Edna to run everything by her; that's the respect everybody within the organization had for her."

Edna Gerrard lobbied Eugene Gerrard -- then a councilman -- to establish a town division dedicated to women's services in 1985, said Marianne Gillan, chairwoman of the Women's Services Advisory Board.

The division grew to offer financial counseling, support groups and a "Dress for Success" event that provides career attire for women re-entering the workforce, said Gillan of Port Jefferson.

"She was just one of a kind, and she will never be replicated," Gillan said. "She was a woman ahead of her time who was involved with . . . the needs of women starting 30 years ago -- long before feminism became a vogue word."

In addition to daughter Pamela and son Paul, survivors are her husband, Eugene Gerrard; daughters Patricia Leffke of Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Ann Marie Dunn of Pottstown, Pennsylvania; nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild. She was predeceased by daughter Christine McKenna and sister Claire Murphy.

Services were May 19 at Moloney's Port Jefferson Station Funeral Home. A funeral Mass was said May 20 at St. Frances Cabrini Church in Coram.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

Latest Long Island News