By Grace Bennett
A village turned out for a service Sunday at Chappaqua’s Temple Beth El to honor the much beloved and colorful “Gabby” Gabriel Rosenfeld. New Senior Rabbi Jonathan Jaffe led the service and offered a moving tribute to one of the Temple’s founding members, lamenting only that he wished he could have met Gabby. So many came to pay tribute, yes, to his legacy of military and civic service (see end of article)–but even more so to his charitable nature, inquisitiveness and, most of all, his sense of humor (since his high school days); in Gabby’s case, a true talent too.
It was something he used, his son Eric Rosenfeld noted, to effectively diffuse tension in different situations, for example, in his role on the New Castle Zoning Board for 30 years (that service gives him the distinction of being the longest serving public official in the history of New Castle).
Additional family members, including Gabby and Louise’s daughters Leslie and Alison, and daughter in law Sally, shared a variety of special memories. Eric also read a letter honoring him from Secretary Hillary Clinton in which she recalled her privilege to have pinned him with a French Legion of Honor medal, awarded for his service in World War II.
Clinton expressed her regrets for not being able to attend and said she was writing with a “heavy heart.” “Gabby was a remarkable man and Great American,” Sec. Clinton wrote. “I consider myself lucky to have known him and always looked forward to our chats on Memorial Day. Gabby’s love of country, devotion to his fellow veterans and service to our country exemplifies precisely what is meant by the “Greatest Generation.”
Clinton had also called Gabby at the hospital in his last days, Eric said, and the two engaged in a warm, personal conversation.
Congresswoman Nita Lowey arrived to honor Gabby, and pay her respects to the family, at the outset directing her comments to Louise, saying, “Everywhere it was Gabby and Louise, Louise and Gabby.” She spoke further with affection about a community member and an “ardent Democrat” who won’t soon be forgotten.
As portrayed in an obituary in the New York Times, Gabby’s legacy was felt in his service “on the Boards of Northern Westchester Hospital, Katonah Museum of Art, A-Home, Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center, Neighbor’s Link, and the Chappaqua Women’s Shelter.” He was “a long time supporter of the League of Women Voters and New Castle Democrats. Kind, funny, WWII combat vet, Purple Heart, Bronze Star, French Legion of Honor, ardent Democrat, Chappaqua, Chappaqua, Chappaqua, community service, Memorial Day Parade, motorcycle sidecar-ist, boat modeler, landscaper, Erasmus Hall, Cornell, chocolate, Adventurer’s Club, Naval Order of the United States, Cautioneer, Rotary President and two-time Paul Harris Award winner, funeral director, stockbroker, business manager of The New York Cosmos, Bahamas, Westchester Municipal Planning Federation, National Maritime Historical Society, New Castle Historical Society, Southwest Harbor, corn, great laugh, noodles, people, fried clams, dogs, family, inspiration and influence to many. ”