SOUTH PORTLAND – John Gerity rose from humble beginnings as a railroad messenger to become president of Maine Central Railroad and later vice chairman of the board of directors for what is now Guilford Transportation Industries.

Though he achieved great success in his career, nothing overshadowed the love and devotion he had for his family.

Mr. Gerity, who died Thursday at 88, was a loving husband to Marie Gerity for 64 years. The Geritys met at Boston & Maine Railroad, where he worked as a messenger.
Mr. Gerity’s son Michael, the youngest of his three children, said Friday that his parents shared a great life together.

“My mom and dad adored each other till his last days,” he said. “They were extremely happy. My dad was a gentleman. My mom was a lady. He opened the car door for her as long as he could. They had the utmost love and respect for each other.”

In 1955, he was transferred to Maine Central Railroad. He worked his way up the ranks of the company, holding positions including auditor of disbursements, comptroller and vice president. He was named president of the railroad in 1978.

When the railroad was acquired by Guilford Transportation Industries, he became vice chairman of the board of directors. He retired in 1986.

The younger Gerity said his father was a self-made man.

“I asked my father in the last 10 years or so what he would change about his life, if anything,” his son recalled. “He said nothing. It’s impressive that he had no regrets. I think he saw what was in front of him and rolled up his sleeves and accepted the challenge. … He loved the business. He wanted to know all the answers and worked hard to know more than anyone else.”

Though he worked long hours at the railroad, Mr. Gerity always made time for his family. He attended his children’s school events and games and made it home for dinner every night. His son remembered how he would tuck them into bed. What he didn’t know was that his father would go back to work.

“My mom said recently that my dad’s priorities were family, business and church,” his son said. “He was the most unpretentious man. He did things because it was the right thing to do. He didn’t look around for the accolades of what he had done. … He was a great man.”

Mr. Gerity was a devoted member of Holy Cross Church. He was active in the parish council and served a short stint as president. He was also very active in Portland Lions Club 2344 and the Grand Knights of Columbus.

Mr. Gerity was a member of Riverside Golf Course for more than 30 years.

His son said his parents went on golfing trips to Florida, North Carolina and Jackson, N.H., where they played a nine-hole course that had accommodations for dinner and dancing.

Mr. Gerity’s health steadily declined during the past two years, but he never complained, his son said. He said he will miss his father very much.

“He was the center point of our lives,” he said. “He was the leader of the family. All we can do is carry on with what he left us and (remember what) he taught us and showed us.”

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: [email protected]