Amsterdam’s victory parade at the end of World War II may have contributed to a trend toward outdoor wedding photography.
Sophie Bodak Gomula of Amsterdam once told me her wedding pictures were among the first taken outdoors locally.
The huge crowds watching the downtown victory parade the day of her wedding, Sept. 15, 1945, made it impossible for the wedding party to reach photographer Emil Zillgitt’s studio at 13-15 East Main St., where the photo shoot was originally scheduled.
The parade had more than 4,000 participants, according to Robert N. Going’s history of World War II, “Where Do We Find Such Men.”
There were an estimated 30,000 bystanders and the line of march took an hour and 20 minutes to pass a given point.
Sophie Bodak was the daughter of Theodora and Daniel Bodak and a 1943 graduate of Wilbur H. Lynch High School.
Right after graduation she worked at Schenectady General Electric.
Her fiancé, Stanley Gomula, was of Polish origin, the son of Mr. and Mrs. William Gomula.
Stanley had served 27 months as a U.S. Marine private first class in numerous Pacific campaigns.
Also a high school graduate, previously he had worked at Mohawk Carpet Mills.
Sophie was a lifelong member of St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church on Pulaski Street where their wedding took place.
The maid of honor was Sadie Szumska. The bridesmaids were Mildred Chupka and Stella Bodak, the bride’s cousin.
Sgt. Gilbert Kosiba was best man.
Pvt. Christopher Brunori of Cleveland, Ohio, and Cpl. Joseph Petroski of Hagaman were ushers.
Since the wedding party could not get to his studio on East Main Street because of the parade, photographer Zillgitt came up with another plan.
He suggested the Gomulas have pictures taken outdoors in his park-like backyard on Locust Avenue.
Zillgitt also did the Gomulas’ first anniversary pictures in the same location.
Sophie recalled that after that, outdoor wedding pictures became more common locally.
Zillgitt was born in Germany in 1884 and came to Amsterdam when he was 9 months old with his parents, Gustav and Wilhelmina Zillgitt.
He learned photography in the studio of Fred G. Morse of Amsterdam, with whom he was associated for 18 years, buying the business in 1922.
He became well known as a portrait and commercial photographer.
Zillgitt did house calls, said Amsterdam native Peter Betz. “I have a picture of myself in a sailor suit taken at home by Zillgitt sometime around 1944. I was about two years old and vaguely remember the gent because he was a very humorous man who knew how to get a nervous kid to sit for him.”
Zillgitt died suddenly in his photographer’s dark room on East Main Street in 1952.
The coroner ruled he died from natural causes.
Zillgitt had not come home for lunch and his wife, the former Eunice Bennett, called a woman who worked at another business in the building to check on him.
Sophie’s husband, Stanley Gomula, became an Amsterdam police officer in 1951 and later was head of the city police youth bureau and an investigator.
He died in 1974.
Sophie was a charter member of the Amsterdam Police Benevolent Association Auxiliary, serving as treasurer.
The Gomulas lived most of their lives at 10 First St. near Forest Avenue.
Sophie passed away June 30 this year at age 95.
Her obituary reported, “Her family was the most important part of her life. A friend to all animals, she adopted and cared for many cats over the years right up until she moved to the Wilkinson Healthcare Facility.”
Her survivors include two daughters and a son.
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