Gerald J. Fordham (1928 - 2014)

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SALAMANCA - Gerald J. "Jerry" Fordham, 86, of Salamanca, died Sunday (Aug. 17, 2014) at Buffalo General Hospital in Buffalo.
Born on Feb. 23, 1928, in Binghamton, he was a son of the late Daniel and Claire Rogalski Fordham. He was married Aug. 4, 1956, in the former St. Patrick's Church to the former Barbara Poydock, who predeceased him Dec. 26, 2009.
Mr. Fordham attended schools in Hornell, Olean and Jamestown, graduating from Jamestown High School in 1946. He graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 1950 with a B.A. in history. In 1970, he was awarded an M.A. in history from St. Bonaventure University.
He served in the U.S. Army from 1950 until 1956, spending two years in active duty with the Provost Marshal's Office at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and four years reserve duty with the Civil Government Reserve Unit in Jamestown.
Mr. Fordham was employed in various positions by the former Erie Railroad from 1944 until 1958. He was an agent at Lewis Run, Pa., at the time of his leaving the railroad. He worked in the traffic department of the former Kendall Refining Co. in Bradford, Pa. from 1958 until 1967. In 1967, he joined the faculty of Salamanca Central High School, where he taught social studies, retiring in 1987. During his educational career he pursued graduate studies not only at St. Bonaventure University, but also at Northeastern University, Boston, Mass.; University of Colorado at Boulder; University of Oregon at Monmouth and John Carroll College in Cleveland. In New York state, he pursued graduate studies at Canisius, Pace University, Union College and State University at Albany.
Following his retirement from teaching, he became associated with the Salamanca Rail Museum, serving at various times as director; chairman of the board of the Salamanca Rail Museum Association and president of Friends of the Salamanca Rail Museum. He was editor of the popular series "Tracks from the Past," which appeared regularly in The Salamanca Press. He was co-editor with Kevin Burleson of the popular book "Life on the Rails," published by The Salamanca Press. He also produced the annual calendar for the museum as well as the quarterly newsletter "The Junction Express," published by the Friends of the Salamanca Railroad Museum.
Mr. Fordham was active in church affairs, where he served in various capacities at St. Patrick's Church, including with the Parish Council, as eucharistic minister and as lector. He was a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Holy Name Society and the Mr. & Mrs. Club. He was chairman of the Bingo Committee and served for several years as chairman of the Large Gifts Division of the Parish's Catholic Charities Drive. He was a member of the Salamanca Rotary Club, serving in various offices, including president. He was a member of the New York State Retired Teacher's Association as well as its Cattaraugus County chapter. He was a strong advocate for labor unions. During his railroad career, he was a member of the Brotherhood of Railway Clerks and the Order of Railroad Telegraphers.
During his teaching career, he was a member of the Salamanca Teachers Association, the New York State Education Association and the National Education Association. He was a member of several historical societies, the Salamanca Area Historical Society, the Allegany State Park Historical Society and the Western New York Association of Historical Agencies.
He was a member of the National Railroad Historical Society (Niagara Division); the Erie-Lackawanna Historical Society; the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum; the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Historical Society; the Western New York Railway Historical Society; the Locomotive & Railway Historical Society; and the Pittsburgh, Shawmut, & Northern Railroad Historical Society.
As an advocate of a strong national railroad passenger network, Mr. Fordham was a member of the Empire State Passenger Association and the National Association of Railroad Passengers. He and his wife, Barbara, traveled by rail to all parts of United States and Canada, including Alaska.
He was active for several years in the Salamanca Area Chamber of Commerce as a director and treasurer. In 2012, he was awarded the "Star" award by the Salamanca Area Chamber of Commerce, a lifetime achievement award.
Mr. Fordham served for over 30 years on the Salamanca Library Commission as secretary for most of his tenure.
He was a longtime member of the American Legion Hughes-Skiba Post No. 535 in Salamanca.
Surviving are a daughter, Judith Herlihy of Henrietta; three sons, Gerald (Collette) Fordham of Santa Fe, N.M., Daniel (Kristina) Fordham of Peru, N.Y., and James Fordham of Charlotte, N.C.; 11 grandchildren and step-grandchildren, William Herlihy of Sarasota, Fla., Kaeti (Eric) Manning of Cortland, Lynn (Bruce) Heineman of Georgetown, Texas, Dennis (Shannon) Wiley of Syosset, Samantha (fiance Jeffrey Bradley) Wiley of Henrietta, Victoria Wiley of Austin, Texas, Evan Fordham and Julia Fordham of Santa Fe, N.M., and Abby (fiance Matthew Turner) Fordham, Shane Fordham and Mark Fordham, all of Peru; seven great-grandchildren, Carleen and Brooks Heineman, Delanie Herlihy, Reagan and Eliot Manning and Declan Wiley; a sister, Patricia Heath of Jamestown; many nieces and nephews; many friends at the Rail Museum; members of the Mr. & Mrs. Club and fellow Rotarians.
He was predeceased by a daughter, Elizabeth Wiley; three brothers, Daniel Fordham, Francis Fordham and Joseph Fordham.
Friends may attend a memorial visitation from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday in the O'Rourke & O'Rourke Inc. Funeral Home, 25 River St. in Salamanca. A memorial Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday (Aug. 26, 2014) in Our Lady of Peace Parish with the Rev. Patrick Melfi, pastor, officiating. Burial will be in St. Bonaventure Cemetery in Allegany.
E-condolences can be sent to or posted to
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials to the Salamanca Rail Museum, the Salamanca Public Library or Olean General Hospital as a way of honoring his life and long-term commitment to the community in which he made his home for 65 years.
Funeral Home
O'Rourke & O'Rourke Inc Funeral Home
25 River Street Salamanca, NY 14779
(716) 945-4760
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Published in The Olean Times Herald on Aug. 20, 2014
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