For decades, the Gelder family of Jeannette has had a front row seat to all of its hometown's parades.
This year, however, the Gelders won't be sitting on the sidelines watching marchers who pass on the parade route in front of their family's funeral home on North First Street.
Instead, the Gelders will be grand marshals of the annual Jeannette Community Day Celebration parade that coordinators say will be better than ever because this year's is in honor of the city's 125th anniversary.
"Jeannette's parades have always been a big thing," said Randy Gelder, third generation owner of the funeral home. "It's quite an honor for our family to be named."
The business was established in 1931 when Sherman and Helen Mason purchased a funeral home at South Second Street and Magee Avenue. In 1933, the business relocated to East Gaskill Avenue, then three years later moved to its present location.
In 1954, the Masons' nephew, Glenn S. Gelder, joined the business, and the name of the business changed to the Mason-Gelder Funeral Home. The third generation officially began in 1987 when his son, Randy Gelder, interned at the funeral home and became a licensed funeral director in January 1989. Randy's sister, Brenda Gelder Ribar, also a licensed funeral director, joined the firm in January 1996, while his daughter, Sara, recently joined the staff.
Mr. Gelder's mother, Carol, and his wife, Andrea, take care of the day-to-day office work. Glenn Gelder died in 2001.
Over the years, the Gelder family has been involved in the community, including the city fire department, the Rotary Club or other groups and functions. Randy Gelder and his father were city firefighters.
On Oct. 7, 2011, an electrical fire destroyed the funeral home. The fire's devastation was a shock to the Gelder family as well as the community.
Still, the Gelders refused to let the tragedy stop them and immediately started to rebuild. Some 16 months later, the funeral home was open for business.
The Gelder family was chosen to be grand marshals of this year's parade because of the contribution they have made to the city and their business, said Ed Schultz, parade chairman. Each year a three-member panel chooses a grand marshal.
The parade steps off at 1 p.m. July 27. Units will line up as usual on North First Street in front of the Mason-Gelder Funeral Home and march down Clay Avenue.
Linda Metz, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.