May 28, 1936 — Jan. 14, 2019
Charles J. Gervase discovered the satisfaction of being a builder after he and his wife Shirley bought their first home in North Buffalo.
“He remodeled the bathroom and he did a beautiful job,” his wife said.
When they decided to have a new home built in Amherst, he took the role of general contractor, hiring subcontractors, overseeing every step of the construction and pitching in on the carpentry. When it was done, he added a screened patio himself.
It prompted him to change his career.
“He made a nice house,” his brother, Joseph F. Jr., a Buffalo attorney, recalled, “and in the course of doing that, he met other people who introduced him to Marrano.”
He applied for a job with what was then Marrano Enterprises, a leading local home builder. He became purchasing manager, then vice president for purchasing.
After he moved to South Florida, Mr. Gervase worked again with Marrano there and continued to be involved in construction and home improvement for many years.
He died Jan. 14 under hospice care in his home in Cornelius, N.C., from complications of renal disease. He was 82.
Born in Buffalo, the third of four children, he grew up on the lower West Side and attended School No. 1. Graduating from Grover Cleveland High School in 1954, he played on the basketball team, was senior class president, sang with the Glee Club and was the vocalist in a student combo that included jazz saxophonist Don Menza.
“He was a good singer,” his brother said. “He competed in the annual talent show. In eighth grade, he went to the top floor of the (Hotel) Statler and sang on WBEN-TV on a Sunday program hosted by Ed Dinsmore.”
He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in business from Canisius College, where he also sang in the Glee Club and was a member of Army ROTC. Upon graduation in 1958, he served for eight years in the Army Reserve, attaining the rank of captain.
In the fall of 1958, he married his high school sweetheart, Shirley Santasiero, and became a sales representative, first for Berkshire Life Insurance Co., then for Moore Business Forms.
He moved on to work for International Multifoods and became purchasing manager at its Robin Hood Flour plant.
Then he went to Marrano. While there, he was a member of the board of directors of the Niagara Frontier Builders Association.
When the market for new homes in the Buffalo area bottomed out in the early 1980s, Mr. Gervase and his wife moved to Coral Springs, Fla. While she found a position with a regional bank, where she became facilities manager for nearly five dozen branches, he rejoined Marrano and worked on its sprawling Jupiter Bay condominium project.
“When they completed the subdivision, he started doing his own thing,” his brother said. “He got a general contractor’s license and a real estate license and he started selling building materials.”
In the 1990s, he worked for the home improvement store Builders Square, helping in the recovery from Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and serving as a kitchen remodeling consultant.
“He was their top salesman in the country,” his wife Shirley said.
When Builders Square closed in the late 1990s, he went to the Home Depot, continuing to work part-time as a kitchen designer for the company after he and his wife moved to North Carolina around 2000 to be near their daughter and her children.
“He would develop a plan, go out and take measurements and get it remodeled,” his wife said. “He’d make sure the contractors and subcontractors were doing it right. He was a perfectionist.”
On a hill behind their home in Cornelius, north of Charlotte, with the help of his son-in-law, he installed his last major personal project — a three-tiered deck.
In addition to his wife and brother, survivors include two sons, Charles R. and Gregory S.; a daughter, Jacqueline Murray; seven grandchildren, two step-grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Services were held Jan. 20 in Huntersville, N.C.