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Longtime Niagara Falls historian is honored

NIAGARA FALLS – A man with a great love for Niagara Falls will be permanently remembered near the world-famous falls and on the calendar.

A plaque honoring Paul Gromosiak, noted area historian and author, was dedicated earlier this month in Heritage Park.

Gromosiak, who will be 73 next month, also has been the “unofficial historian” of Niagara Falls State Park, a place where he spent countless hours volunteering, State Parks officials said.

Gromosiak said his love for the area started when he was a child.

“We live in a very special place,” he said. “Despite the problems that we see, there’s a lot more we can do with its past to celebrate the future.”

About 60 people attended the July 10 event, where Gromosiak received proclamations from the House of Representatives, State Assembly, State Senate, City Council, Niagara County Legislature and Mayor Paul A. Dyster.

Heritage Park – located near the corner of Old Main Street and Buffalo Avenue, across from the Red Coach Inn – was refurbished about five years ago, as a number of plaques and monuments that had been placed in the state park were relocated there.

Gromosiak also was given the key to the city by Dyster, who, along with newly appointed City Historian Michelle Kratts, named July 10 “Local History Day” in the city.

Dyster said Gromosiak was among those who helped guide the Falls as it redefined itself from being an industrial city to a future focused on tourism, and whose reach extends “a couple of generations.”

“There are not a whole lot of positive things having to do with the history, the culture, the natural environment here in the Niagara region that have moved forward during the time that Paul has been on the public scene without his playing some sort of a very substantial role in them,” the mayor said.

Some of the notable projects in which Gromosiak has been involved include the Robert Moses Parkway, the Old Stone Chimney, the Niagara Arts & Cultural Center as well as efforts involving Nikola Tesla and the Underground Railroad, Dyster said.

Kratts, who called Gromosiak’s written works “the authority on Niagara lore and history,” credited him with inspiring a love of history in those he met and those who read his books.

“You have made all of us love this city and its history,” she said. “You have made all of us historians.”

Gromosiak, a Niagara University graduate, worked as a chemistry teacher in Niagara Falls schools, as well as a chemist for Eastman Kodak and Hooker Chemical.

His books include “Niagara Falls Q&A: Answers to the 100 Most Common Questions About Niagara Falls,” “Soaring Gulls & Bowing Trees: The History of the Islands Above Niagara Falls” and “Nature’s Niagara – A Walk on the Wild Side.”

Brian Meyer, a close friend of Gromosiak whose company published a number of his books, has worked with him for 25 years.

“He’s a phenomenal person and a wonderful crusader for nature, for all things natural,” Meyer said.

Tom Yots, former city historian in the Falls, said he’s known Gromosiak for 30 years and worked closely with him during his time as city historian. Many people, including Yots himself, have been inspired by things Gromosiak has said and done, Yots said.

“This is a man whose love for the history of this community is tied and equaled by his dream of having it be a better place,” he said.

“And I think he believes, honestly, that those two things are tied together and I think that we’re going to make that happen.”

Poet E.R. Baxter III, who said he has known Gromosiak for more than three decades, called the accolades “well deserved.”

“Over many books, he’s documented ‘natural Niagara’ in a way that will live for generations,” Baxter said.

The event was a surprise for Gromosiak, who said he thought he was coming for the rededication of the Thomas Welch monument in the park. Welch was a part of the “Free Niagara” movement and the first superintendent of the state park at the Falls.

Gromosiak, a Falls native who had been living in the Town of Niagara, recently moved to Lockport as he faces health issues.

He said he still hopes for the development of the long-proposed Niagara Experience Center, an interpretive museum, in the Falls.

Gromosiak stood near his own monument moments after the unveiling, with the plaque’s inscription coming from a poem he wrote.

“Listen! Hear the wind;

the thundering waters, too;

the gulls, soaring send

the word of God to you”

A thankful Gromosiak, honored for a life’s work, remains hopeful.

“I’d do it all again,” he said.