By Jeff Gaster
I was recently moved by a couple of seemingly unrelated events that crystallized in my mind the importance of preserving the memory and the legacy of my late father, Bert Gaster.
One was the death of my mother Adele, who preserved his memory in her heart and her head, and who possessed all the many mementos that reflected his accomplishments in and impact on the Hartford and Connecticut Jewish and general communities.
The second was the 85th anniversary of the Ledger, which now seems to be the single most important monument to the legacy he left behind. This is a tremendous accomplishment. In the last months of his life, one of his most important goals was to make sure that the paper was placed in good hands, under which the Ledger he built through his own efforts would thrive and flourish.
I realized that I was the one left to carry on the Gaster family tradition and the great memories and legacy he left behind when he died 22 years ago. With the assistance of his great friend, Judge Jerry Wagner, I was able to obtain some of the multitude of awards and plaques that bore witness to the tremendous impact that he had on the community and so many people’s lives he touched.
But, the true living memorial to the mensch whom everyone knew simply as ‘Bert’ is the Ledger, which was his platform to become involved in and to serve the community. He raised the standing of the Ledger to one of the most prominent influences in politics in the state, a phenomenal accomplishment for a weekly Jewish newspaper.
When he arrived in Hartford in 1958 to work with the Ledger, neither he nor anyone else could have imagined how he would develop and elevate the role of an editor to a community leader.
Over time, it became apparent that this job was the perfect one he had sought all his life, and Bert shaped his role to be able to pursue the issues and interests that fascinated and drove him. Bert was the Ledger, and the Ledger was Bert.
The Ledger was an integral part of our family. Bert’s waking hours revolved around the Ledger, at the office, in the community at events, at home. My mother and I, from the time I was old enough to edit and write, played our own parts in contributing to the Ledger — sometimes visibly, as when Adele wrote reviews, but more often behind the scenes.
Sons don’t always realize how important their fathers can be in their lives, but I was extremely lucky to be treated by my father as his protégé, with rare entrée to politics, sports, the arts and the community from a young age. This led into my role as a recognized sports columnist for the Ledger.
The Ledger was at the center of our family life, so when my father passed away, my mother and I knew our mission was to publish the Ledger without missing a beat, as my father would have wanted it.
Bert recognized that the Ledger would be his legacy, and the fact that the paper is in good hands and carries on the tradition that he developed is a living monument to his memory.
May the Ledger continue to 120!
Jeff Gaster lives in New York where he owns and operates CitiFloral, a Manhattan florist shop.