Gelman had built up a reputation for service and kindness in a quarter-of-a-century on the Glens Falls business scene, holding leadership positions at various times in about a dozen service, religious and philanthropic organizations.
“There was in the essence of his spirit the quiet, persistent urge to convert life, rather than be converted by it, to mold the years into kindness, considerateness and generosity, into the love of mankind and the will behind mankind,” the editorial stated.
A century ago, Gelman was the first president of the Glens Falls Kiwanis Club.
Max Stein, a national Kiwanis Club organizer, came to Glens Falls in August 1919, staying at the Rialto Apartments on Warren Street and setting up shop at the Elks Lodge at the corner of Glen and Ridge streets.
“It is a personal acquaintance, a friendly handshake, the weekly meetings which cause us to learn the qualities of heart and mind of our fellow members.”
It would seem these ideals fit with Gelman’s business slogan: “the store of cheerful service.”
Kiwanis, started in Detroit, had 179 clubs in United States and Canada, at the time, including clubs in Albany, Schenectady, Syracuse, Utica, Rochester and Buffalo.
Stein, the organizer, suggested a Kiwanis Club would give Glens Falls prominence.
“It is the purpose of this club to develop such a high standard of business certainty, integrity, probity (strong moral principles) that the fact that one is a member will be a badge of honor.”
By Aug. 29, Stein had recruited 18 prospective members, and he was confident of soon reaching the 50 members needed for a charter.
The current Glens Falls Kiwanis Club charter dates back to 1925.
Either the club disbanded and reorganized, or it took longer than expected to reach the 50-member mark.
On Sept. 29, 1919, the club met to elect officers and plan an initial social gathering for Oct. 2.
Gelman was elected president, Walter Shaw vice president, Fred N. Pulver, business manager of The Saratoga Sun, as secretary, and Dr. A. F. Mosher, a local physician, as treasurer.
The club held its first dinner meeting at Church of Messiah Parish Hall on Oct. 9, with Edward F. Kelly, secretary of the Schenectady Kiwanis Club, and Glens Falls acting Mayor Julius Jacobson as speakers.
“Kiwanians of the local club enjoyed a fine dinner. … It was a big gathering of good fellows and progressive business men at which there was nothing lacking in the way of enthusiasm,” The Post-Star reported.
Speakers at early luncheon meetings at the Glens Falls Y.M.C.A. on Glen Street, in the building that now houses Spot Coffee, included Rev. Charles O. Judkins, pastor of Christ Church Methodist, Rev. David Solly, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, and J. Edward Singleton, a local lawyer.
Gelman, the first president, came to Glens Falls from Troy to partner with Louis Kempner and David Merkel of Plattsburgh to purchase Goodson’s, a long-standing dry goods and clothing store in downtown Glens Falls.