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Gerald R. Hallenbeck

From the History of the Valley of the Hudson, River of Destiny, 1609-1930, Volume V, Biographical. Contributed by Jerry Sterrit and transcribed by Arlene Goodwin

Gerald R. Hallenbeck, Catskill optometrist and owner of one of the oldest and largest jewelry houses in this part of the Hudson River valley, was born in 1907 in the community where he still resides. His father, Prentiss W. Hallenbeck, a pioneer business man of Catskill, worked in jewelry shops until he had mastered the trade and later became a watchmaker and optometrist. For twenty years he was associated with Joseph A. Hill, a well known jeweler, and, establishing himself in the old Willard store, he increased an already thriving business by methods direct and resultant. Mr. Hallenbeck remained active in control of the business until he became ill and then went to Saranac Lake, where he passed away April 6, 1929. His widow, Mrs. Mabelle A. (Darringer) Hallenbeck, then took charge of the business but died soon afterward, at which time her son, Gerald R., became head of the establishment, which is still conducted under the name of P. W. Hallenbeck & Son. The father belonged to the Catskill Chamber of Commerce and was one of its moving spirits. He was also identified with the Rotary Club, the Masonic order, the Improved Order of Red Men, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and other fraternal and social organizations.

Gerald R. Hallenbeck, an only child, was a graduate from the Catskill high school as a member of the class of 1926 and was next a student at Columbia University, from which he received his Bachelor of Science degree in optometry in 1930. In that year he became the proprietor of the Hallenbeck jewelry business, which in July, 1929, had been moved to the new location on Main street, where it occupies what is considered one to the finest stores of the kind in the town. Founded in 1802 by Horace Willard, the business has been in existence for one hundred and twenty-nine years and is one of the oldest commercial institutions in Catskill. At first jewelry, clocks, watches and silverware constituted Mr. Willardís principal stock but in 1823 he added a line of military goods, including swords with brass, steel and leather scabbards, gold and silver lace, epaulets, white, red and black plumes, and horsemanís pocket pistols. Horace Willardís son Charles, who succeeded him as owner of the business, added a stock of musical instruments, fishing tackle, and medicated compounds for stimulating the growth of hair. Howard Wilcox, son of Judson Wilcox, purchased the business at the death of Charles Willard in 1885, continuing it for thirty years, and the enterprise than passed into the hands of his son, Hiram. After the death of Hiram Wilcox the store and goods were purchased by Prentiss W. Hallenbeck, whose son, Gerald R. Hallenbeck, is now guiding the destiny of this pioneer jewelry house, steadfastly adhering to those high commercial standards for which it has ever stood.

In 1929 Mr. Hallenbeck was married to Miss Gertrude E. Teetsen, who also represents one of Catskillís old and honored families. They have membership in the Dutch Reformed Church and Mr. Hallenbeck belongs to the Catskill Chamber of Commerce, the Catskill Country Club, the Rip Van Winkle Club, the Rotary Club, the Columbia Alumni Association, the Union College Alumni Association, and the Sigma Chi and Upsilon Psi Upsilon fraternities. A young man of ability and energy, he is successfully following in the business and professional footsteps of his father and his winning personality and genuine worth have established him high in the esteem of Catskillís citizens, with whom his life has been spent.

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