2006.07.31: July 31, 2006: Headlines: COS - Micronesia: Obituaries: Newsday: Obituary for Micronesia RPCV Henry Gilgoff

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Micronesia: Peace Corps Micronesia : The Peace Corps in Micronesia: 2006.07.31: July 31, 2006: Headlines: COS - Micronesia: Obituaries: Newsday: Obituary for Micronesia RPCV Henry Gilgoff

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Obituary for Micronesia RPCV Henry Gilgoff

Obituary for Micronesia RPCV Henry Gilgoff

In 1967, the Gilgoffs joined the Peace Corps, escaping the undertow of the Vietnam War draft on the shores of a tiny Pacific island territory then called Truk. The dozen-odd islands -- now called Chuuk and part of the Federated States of Micronesia -- in the late '60s lacked basics like plumbing, electricity and, of all things, journalism. So, on a mimeograph machine in a government building they put out Truk's first newspaper -- called Met Poraus, Truk for "What's New" -- and they broadcast a news digest on Truk's only radio station. The Gilgoffs eventually came home, where Henry found a job at Newsday.

Obituary for Micronesia RPCV Henry Gilgoff

Newsday journalist dies at 61
BY JENNIFER SMITH AND ERIK GERMAN
Newsday Staff Writers

July 31, 2006

Henry Gilgoff, a father of five and a reporter who shaped Newsday's consumer affairs coverage for decades, died yesterday at age 61. The cause was complications of amyloidosis, a rare disorder of the liver, family members said.

Friends and family said the defining themes of Gilgoff's life were his devotion to his family and his commitment to journalism. In 1963 at William Howard Taft High School in the Bronx, Gilgoff, then 17, served as managing editor of the school newspaper. His close working relationship with the features editor, Alice Kottek, 15, soon blossomed into more when he asked her on a date.

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After a night out seeing a Broadway show, "No Strings," the young editors were an inseparable couple. "He'd walk me home from school, he'd carry my books. I just loved talking to him," said Alice Gilgoff, now 59. "I was very impressed with how smart he was."

The conversations continued in college, as both helped to put out the student paper, The Campus, at City College of New York, where the pair quickly exhausted the university's journalism offerings. "They had maybe four journalism courses and we took them all," Alice Gilgoff said.

Alice Gilgoff said her mother insisted the couple delay marriage until after graduation.

"We graduated college on Sunday and got married Monday," she said.

In 1967, the Gilgoffs joined the Peace Corps, escaping the undertow of the Vietnam War draft on the shores of a tiny Pacific island territory then called Truk. The dozen-odd islands -- now called Chuuk and part of the Federated States of Micronesia -- in the late '60s lacked basics like plumbing, electricity and, of all things, journalism.

So, on a mimeograph machine in a government building they put out Truk's first newspaper -- called Met Poraus, Truk for "What's New" -- and they broadcast a news digest on Truk's only radio station. The Gilgoffs eventually came home, where Henry found a job at Newsday.

Those who worked with Gilgoff remembered him as a meticulous, dogged reporter who would patiently sift through the fine print that baffles many people -- product warranties, insurance claims and the like -- and then challenge companies on their own policies.

"Henry had a knack for explaining to people what happens when you don't do what you're supposed to do and he had a way of informing us all how to extricate ourselves," said Charles Gardner, director of the Suffolk County Office of Consumer Affairs, who worked with Gilgoff for more two decades. "He had a way of explaining things in everyday language that everyone could understand."

In the years that Gilgoff covered consumer affairs for Newsday, he wrote about everything from lost luggage to a run on a Waldbaum's Thanksgiving promotion that left several customers one turkey short for the holiday. Recently he profiled the travails of an East Atlantic Beach family whose house -- which had been converted to natural gas over a decade ago -- was flooded with 222 gallons of heating oil because of a botched delivery.

"Henry strongly believed that consumers need a voice and needed somebody to take up their cause," said Steve Sink, former Newsday business editor and a colleague of Gilgoff's for more than 15 years.

"There was no question that if a business or a company got a call from Henry Gilgoff, he got results -- it inevitably led to a change in the policy or how they dealt with customers."

But he was no bully. A gentle, gracious man whose infectious laugh rang through the newsroom when something tickled his finely developed sense of the bizarre, Gilgoff was quick to help other reporters out, sharing contacts and context on the beat he covered for so many years.

"He was a true gentleman who always had no problem being tough when it mattered, whether it came to getting the truth for our readers or facing the ongoing crisis caused by his health problems," Newsday editor John Mancini said. "We will all miss him."

Gilgoff did make the illness -- which impairs the function of organs and tissue with deposits of excess protein -- the subject of his final column, writing of his hope to receive a liver transplant.

"I've come to understand why we who want to live another day may not simply be overusing the medical system, as some critics contend," he wrote. "Instead, we're pushing the envelope. I want you to know that all along I've enjoyed your company."

Gilgoff went to great lengths to accurately report out all angles of a story, treating even Long Island's most infamous scam artists with scrupulous fairness, said Mark Harrington, a Newsday business writer and friend.

"If he put it in the paper, it was nailed down," said Newsday business editor Benjamin Weller.

In addition to his wife, Gilgoff is survived by his sons Hugh, 35, and Joseph, 23, both of Manhattan; Jon, 33, of San Francisco, and Matthew, 30, of Smallwood, N.Y.; and his daughter Julie, 26, of Brooklyn. He also had a younger sister, Maxine of Columbus, Ohio. Services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday, at Temple Sholom in Floral Park. The family has asked that donations in Gilgoff's name be made to The Amyloidosis Research Foundation, 4174 Meyers Ave., Waterford, MI, 48329.

Staff writer Tami Luhby contributed to this story.





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Story Source: Newsday

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