Coping with Grief
We would like to offer our sincere support to anyone coping with grief. Enter your email below for our complimentary daily grief messages. Messages run for up to one year and you can stop at any time. Your email will not be used for any other purpose.
Robert J. Gang, Jr., “Bob” died February 18 at the Francis House in Syracuse just months before his 105th June 6 birthday. He was a World War II and Korean War army veteran, lawyer, outdoorsman, world traveler and lover of his Otisco Lake home—which he built.
Bob was well known for his twinkling eyes, great smile and being the spirited life of the party.
A graduate of Christian Brothers Academy (CBA), Bob went on to serve for decades as a member of the board of trustees and later was named an honorary board member. He was always one of the most passionate board voices and championed the then controversial decision in 1987 to open the school to girls–a subject he knew well as the father of seven daughters.
His endorsement of the coed policy paid off when his youngest daughter Heather graduated from CBA the same year that Bob was celebrating his 70th CBA reunion. A front-page Sean Kirst article in the Syracuse Post Standard told their unique story that was unlikely to be repeated anywhere else in the country.
He entered Syracuse University in the fall of 1935 and joined the Syracuse University Army ROTC “Stalwart Battalion” program. He was a member of the Pershing rifle team. His life-long devotion to exercise likely began on his daily three and a half mile walks to and from his home and the campus.
After his 1939 graduation he enrolled in the Syracuse College of Law. Before finishing his law degree, he took his army physical just after the attack on Pearl Harbor and was ordered to report to the 630th Tank Destroyer battalion at Fort Jackson in South Carolina.
He served as an infantry officer at Camp Bowie and Fort Hood, Texas with the “Tank Destroyers” and as the Inspector General at Fort Hood.
He returned to Syracuse in 1945 and enrolled in the Simmons Embalming School carrying on the family funeral home business founded by his great grandfather John Gang and still in operation today. He also taught legal issues at the school while waiting for his law license. He was called back into service as the Korean War began.
Bob was a partner in the law firm Smith, Dolan, Gieselman, and Gang. He specialized in real property law and served as the assistant city corporate counsel. Later, he joined the firm of Mackenzie Hughes and retired after more than 50 years. He continued to do legal work into his 80s.
Bob’s love of the outdoors began early and continued well into his later years. He was an enthusiastic hiker—climbing Adirondack mountains and hiking 16 miles around Otisco Lake when he was 80. A devoted hunter, he shot his last deer at 93 and continued going out in the field on opening day until his 100th year. He hunted elk in Norway, Montana and Colorado and pheasants in South Dakota.
He was an avid skier—both downhill and cross country—and was still skiing at 88. He and his wife Holly met on a ski trip to Vermont. He was also an ardent camper. Bob, Holly, and their daughter Heather slept outside every night in their lean-to by the water from May-September until his 96th year.
Bob enjoyed boating, sailing, canoeing, and fishing and the fact that he could do them all in front of his house. He had epic fishing trips to Quebec and Labrador in Canada.
He was a founding member of the Ka-Na-Wa-Ke Canoe Club and held yearly canoe club picnics at his lakeside home-the last one was soon after his 104th birthday.
He was an early member of the Onondaga Ski Club and he and fellow member Art Zimmer negotiated the purchase of a Vermont farmhouse in 1970 that became the club’s still operating lodge. He was also a part owner of the Ironwood Ridge Ski Center.
He was a member of the Angler’s Association of Onondaga, Onondaga Bar Association, Skaneateles American Legion, Post 239, German-American Society of Central New York, Otisco Rod & Gun Club, and Arion Singing Society Men’s Chorus. As a member he sang at a concert with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra at Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo.
He was also a life member of the Skaneateles Y and still going regularly at age 102. He was the president and one of the original members of the Arion Stein Club. He was also a member of the Osceola Snowmobile Club.
When Bob was 78 years old, he and his friend cut down 60 trees to build a log cabin in the Tug Hill region near Osceola. He followed the pattern that he had used in building his larger Otisco Lake home 68 years ago—that project also requiring cutting down 60 trees.
A highlight of his 104th year was a celebration by Syracuse University naming him a “Hometown Hero.” The festivities were held during a Syracuse football game in late September. Since the game was broadcast nationally Bob’s story made national news and the game ball has a place of honor in his home. He especially enjoyed tailgating with the law students before the game.
The day after his 104th birthday, Bob was interviewed on TV as Syracuse University unveiled an exhibit at the Syracuse University National Veterans Center of Bob’s army memorabilia including his Eisenhower jacket which still fit.
Asked the secret of his long life, Bob replied with a smile: “picking the right wife.”
On his 103rd birthday Craig Boise, dean of the Syracuse Law School and other school representatives helped celebrate Bob’s birthday at his home and issued a proclamation recognizing the day as “Bob Gang Day.” Bob and his son went on the Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. ten years ago. On his 103rd birthday he was also honored as one of a small group of 100 plus year-old Honor Flight veterans.
He is survived by his wife Holly Gang, eight children, seven with his first wife, the late Carolyn Maxfield Gang, and his youngest, Heather with Holly. The children are Elana Moses, Karen Snyder, Susan Williams, Christa Maxfield, Lisa Breakell, Robert J. Gang III, Cynthia Smith, and Heather Pettit. There are also 15 grandchildren, 31 great grandchildren and ten nieces and nephews and eight great nieces and nephews.
Memorials contributions may be made to Francis House, 108 Michaels Ave., Syracuse, NY 13208.
Mass of Christian Burial Saturday at 10:00am in Assumption Church.Burial in St. Mary's Cemetery, Dewitt. Calling hours are Friday 3-7pm at the funeral home 104 Fordham Rd. at Teall Ave.