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Three well-known voices from the Mohawk Valley

Three well-known voices from the Mohawk Valley

Richard W Stander, Rabbi Samuel Bloom, and Judge Raymond Zierak

Richard W. Stander

Richard W. Stander, Sr., of Johnstown, who almost made it to his 101st birthday, was a caller to radio talk shows from the 1960s until shortly before his death in April 1993.

Born in 1892 in Newark, New Jersey, Richie worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He and Alice Stahl of New York City married around 1923. They became caretakers for a wealthy homeowner but had to leave that job when their son was born.

Richie then operated a farm stand in Westchester County. John D. Rockefeller stopped by and gave Richie a Rockefeller trademark dime to present to his son.

The Standers moved to Ames, south of Canajoharie and raised vegetables. Hearing that a Johnstown greenhouse had been abandoned, Richie refurbished it. He couldn’t find a buyer so the Standers went into the flower business in the 1940s on North Perry Street.

By 1980 when I started hosting WGY’s night time talk show, Richie already was an on-air phenomenon. 

Bill Miller, my predecessor, had started a feature called Talent Night. Richie played harmonica, musical saw, sang and yodeled over the phone. His dog Astra barked along.

In 1981 a taxpayer group honored Richie at a dinner in Fultonville. There were other dinners. Once he came to WGY to co-host the talk show.

Richie frequently remarked that such experiences were “Too good for the poor.”

Rabbi Samuel Bloom

Samuel A. Bloom, who went on to be Congregation Sons of Israel’s rabbi for 39 years, came to Amsterdam in 1949. Bloom was born in Savannah, Georgia where he attended high school. He was ordained at Beth Joseph Rabbinical Seminary in Brooklyn and earned a doctorate at New York University.

Rabbi Bloom was heard weekly over WCSS radio for thirty years. The rabbi’s son, physician Michael J. Bloom, wrote, “I remember vividly accompanying him as he recorded the tapes for his radio show. And how hard it was for me to be perfectly silent as I sat next to him.” Apparently none of the recordings has survived.

Active in community affairs, he was president of the local clergy association and headed United Way campaigns. His wife, Eleanor Golub Bloom, was executive director of United Synagogue of America for the Empire Region.

She died in February 1988 and Rabbi Bloom died in July of that year.

Judge Raymond Zierak

Born in 1914, Raymond J. Zierak grew up on Reid Hill’s Hibbard Street in Amsterdam. His parents, Albert and Mary, worked in the carpet mills. His father died when he was young and his mother later married Louis Zajaczkowski.

Zierak worked his way through Union College and Albany Law School. He served as a lieutenant with the Marine Corps in the Pacific in World War Two.

He married Lucy Drzewicki from Amsterdam in 1942. Raymond and Lucy settled on Locust Avenue and raised a son and two daughters.

His legal practice focused on the Polish community as Zierak was fluent in Polish and Polish Americans trusted him.

Zierak was elected to City Court when its work consisted of civil cases. After 24 years on the part-time bench, he became an assistant to New York Attorney General Louis Lefkowitz. Zierak did legal work for the Polish Consulate and helped Americans with legal issues in Poland.

Judge Zierak was a speaker at events honoring veterans, functions put on by the Republican Party and organizations ranging from St. Luke’s Lutheran Church to the Soap Box Derby. He wrote speeches on a yellow legal pad while sitting at the family’s dining room table. He enjoyed playing piano.

Zierak’s wife died in 1999. The judge passed away in 2006.

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