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Al Gilkes, 92, ex-Newsday manager, dies

Alfred Gilkes took delight telling stories to family and friends. Occasionally, the storyteller didn't mind being at the center of a tale.

A former circulation supervisor at Newsday, Gilkes, who died recently at age 92, dabbled in community theater, wrote poetry, designed his own Christmas cards and was active in his church, family said.

His son, Paul Gilkes, 56, of Sidney, Ohio, recalls one story about his father, from the early 1960s, when he was a circulation manager at Newsday, which then was owned by Alicia Patterson.

Circulation was involved in a promotion, Paul Gilkes remembered, and his father appeared before fellow employees dressed in drag, as the famous Miss P.

"It brought the house down and she loved it," Paul Gilkes said.

Alfred Gilkes moved to Ocala, Fla., in 1982, the year he retired from Newsday as a head circulation supervisor. He had lived for 32 years in Dix Hills, and worked for 35 years at Newsday in circulation, often recruiting and mentoring a crew of youth carriers, his son said.

"He was basically a kid himself," Paul Gilkes said. "He loved mentoring the kid carriers, and later in his life, many former carriers kept in touch with him."

One became a state trooper. Another a priest. "One former carrier visited my parents all the time, even after they moved to Florida," Paul Gilkes said.

He said his father, who died of heart illness on March 9 at Sylvia's House, an Ocala hospice, was an engaging personality and loved making friends.

"You either loved him or you liked him," Paul Gilkes said.

Gilkes, a World War II Army veteran, was born in Oceanside and was always a good athlete, family members said. His son said he flourished in what was a team-like atmosphere in Newsday's circulation department. He especially liked his role as a problem-solver.

Once in the late 1940s or early 1950s, residents of North Shore communities were calling Newsday with an inordinate number of subscription cancellations, Paul Gilkes said. His father delved into the reason and found that families of one religious faith did not want their paper delivered by carriers of another faith and vice versa.

Gilkes said his father gathered together religious leaders in the area and they worked with him to end the discord. "That was always something that made him proud," Paul Gilkes said. "He took not only professional pride in Newsday's growth, but he always felt he was a strong contributor to it."

In addition to his son, survivors include his wife of 61 years, Jean Gilkes, of Ocala, Fla; a sister, Adele Jones, of Simsbury, Conn.; sons Bruce Gilkes, of San Antonio; John Gilkes, of Ocala, Fla.; daughter Susan Reese, of Bedford, N.H.; nine grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Services were March 12 at First Presbyterian Church in Ocala, followed by burial at Highland Memorial Park there.

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