September 17, 2014
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Man in white led parade for 21 years

Gerald Goldstein still has the white suit that made him a Gaspee parade standout. The suit must fit, too, for after all these years, Gerry hasn’t changed. You can count on Gerry.

It’s that quality that earned him the privilege of carrying the mace that reportedly is made from wood recovered after the burning of the Gaspee in 1772.

“I’m going to have to incriminate someone,” Gerry says with a laugh when asked how he came to lead the parade for 21 years and how he got to carry the mace. Now 85, Gerry, who served as the Warwick Ward 1 councilman for 16 years, tells the story carefully, leaving out names.

He didn’t incriminate a soul.

The mace is privately owned and was loaned for the parade on condition that its owners remained anonymous and that it was promptly returned. That worked for a brief period, but when the mace wasn’t returned until its owners made calls, they refused to loan it.

Gerry didn’t want to see a tradition lost. He visited the owners and told them he would be personally responsible for its care and return.

“I made a contract with them that I would pick it up before the parade and bring it back the same day.”

It worked. The owners – Gerry still honors their request not to be identified – put their trust in Gerry. Gerry kept his word and became, for lack of another word, the official keeper of the mace. When the mace was used for official events, such as inaugural ceremonies for Gov. Lincoln Almond, Gerry brought it to the State House and didn’t leave it out of his sight until it was returned. In that instance, Gerry said, the high sheriff carried the short staff that has a purple ribbon tied around its base.

Gerry became friends with the owners of the mace and would deliver vegetables from his garden and drop by for occasional visits. Gerry’s wife, Joan, even played a role. She made a ribbon to replace what “looked like an old rag.”

As for his distinctive white suit, Gerry doesn’t recall what prompted him to wear it.

“It was a little outlandish, that was the idea,” he said.

The suit was always spotless, which isn’t surprising as Gerry ran the Town and Country Cleaners at Hoxsie Four Corners. A Walgreens is now at the site.

Gerry recalled those times when it poured and he wore a raincoat and there was one year when he wore a colonial outfit. It didn’t last. He went back to the white suit. He also remembers the Gaspee Days clambakes at Salter Grove, the many friends he got to see along the parade route and the walk back that always took longer because of all the parties along Narragansett Parkway.

When it came time to retire, Gerry vouched for Milton Wrath, who assumed the role of the macebearer.

Now living in Cranston, Gerry keeps tabs on Gaspee events. Earlier this year when a painting duel between Mayors Scott Avedisian and Allan Fung was arranged in Pawtuxet to raise $5,000 to paint the red, white and blue stripe down the middle of the parkway, Gerry was there.

He made a contribution, too.

Being the diplomat and having lived in both communities, not to mention leading the parade in both cities, he split the donation between the competing teams.


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