By Dan Moffett
MANALAPAN — Tom Gerrard became Manalapan’s mayor in 2008 and quickly earned a reputation as a progressive leader who was popular with town staff and residents.
People at Town Hall couldn’t wait to see him show up in the morning — yes, partly because of his good nature, but also because of how he might arrive.
“You’d never know what kind of classic car he’d drive up in,” said Linda Stumpf, the Manalapan town manager. “Every time it was something different. It was great fun.”
Mr. Gerrard was fond of his 12.5-bathroom home on South Ocean Boulevard, but what he really wanted to talk about was the garage he built beside it that housed dozens of his prized vintage automobiles. He considered them works of art and scoffed at modern vehicles as “computer-produced and bean-counter engineered” abominations.
The classic American rides of the ’50s and ’60s, convertibles and pickups, were his consuming passion. “If it were treatable, it would be a disease,” he confessed to The Coastal Star in 2011.
Mr. Gerrard died on July 23 in Big Sky, Montana, after a short illness. He was 74.
William Thomas Gerrard served as Manalapan’s mayor for two years before moving to Montana to be closer to family. He also kept a home in Fort Lauderdale. During his time on the commission, he guided projects that have left a lasting mark on the town.
“He had a great impact on the community,” said Keith Waters, the current mayor. “Many of the things we’re working on now he brought to the table. He was a good man.”
Mr. Gerrard pushed for improvements to the town’s water delivery system and stormwater drains. He oversaw the renovation of the water plant, and helped negotiate a sand transfer plant agreement with Ocean Ridge.
It was his passion for vintage autos, however, that gained him a national reputation among collectors and aficionados.
“Tom loaned the museum cars on multiple occasions,” said Jeffrey Bliemeister, executive director of the Antique Automobile Club of America in Hershey, Pennsylvania. “I’m sorry to hear of Tom’s passing.”
Mr. Gerrard donated his collection of thousands of owner’s manuals, brochures, engineering diagrams, fabric samples and catalogues to the AACA’s Library and Research Center in Hershey.
“Tom was an exceptionally generous man with an incredible eye for detail and a dedication to preserving automotive history,” says Chris Ritter, the library’s head librarian.
Ritter said Mr. Gerrard’s love of classic autos was infectious: “It was always a joy to see Tom in person and see how much fun he had with his cars.”
Mr. Gerrard was born in Queens, New York, but grew up in Indiana, where he worked as a gas station attendant and his love of cars began. He moved to South Florida in 1957 and graduated from Broward Junior College and Florida Atlantic University. He established his business career as president of CMH Corp., a supplier of high-rise cranes and elevators.
He transitioned from cranes into telecommunications, owning Air Space Radio services and Advanced Radio Communications Services, companies that grew to rank among the industry’s largest. In 2003 he became chairman of Interlaken Inc., which specialized in Everglades restoration work for the South Florida Water Management District.
Mr. Gerrard is survived by his children, Lisa Marie Gerrard and Mark Thomas Gerrard; a sister, Darcy Jean Gerrard; and grandchildren Miles Barrett and Brenden Patrick Radick, and Grace Kendal and Jack Thomas Gerrard. His family asks that memorial charitable donations be made to Eagle Mount of Bozeman, the Yellowstone Park Foundation, Big Sky Community Organization or the AACA Library.