The Germains: Sailing, baking, drumming for 69 years

Dick and Joan Germain

There is nothing like waking to the sweet smell of apple pie baking in the oven, particularly when that oven is in the kitchen of a splendid sailboat docked at Navy Point Marina in Sackets Harbor, NY.  I refer to the boat Empty Pockets, a 42-foot Island Packet sailboat, owned by Dick and Joan Germain of Oswego.  The dinghy to their boat is aptly named Loose Change. (Quite appropriate for a Laundry and dry cleaner by trade.

My late wife Charlotte and I were guests of Dick and Joan Germain aboard their lovely yacht several years ago.  At the time, Dick was an avid sailor and Joan an avid baker.  Much time has passed since then, but the Germains, who will be married for 69 years this December, show no signs yet of letting up. Dick’s sailing days may be past, but his musical skills are still a big part of his life.  Joan doesn’t bake as much anymore, but when she does, her products are still simply scrumptious.

I would often see Dick and Joan out on the dance floor at Tin Pan Galley, one of my favorite restaurants when I lived in Sackets.  They still have quite the moves at 87 and 88 years of age, respectively.  Dick even continues to sit in on sets with the Double V band when they play at several local venues so he has been able to polish up his drumming skills on a regular basis.

I recently saw them at Canale’s restaurant over the Fourth of July weekend, where they both jitterbug danced and Dick played the drums as a guest musician. Dick was a successful drummer and occasional trumpet player for many years and played in many local bands.  He now concentrates only on his drumming and rattle those snare drums well, he does. He has been known to do occasional vocals also. Dick is still an active member of the Elks club in Oswego, as he surely gets around in his senior years.

The Germains have operated their family dry cleaning business in Oswego, Karpinski’s, for many, many years. It was destroyed by fire once and rebuilt in a new structure. Their family-owned business has been around for over 150 years.  Dick and his brother Art inherited it from the Karpinski side of the family and his son John and wife Kimberly are now the primary caretakers of the family dry cleaning and laundering trust.

The Germains have four living children, 9 grandchildren, and 12 great grandchildren.  Their sons Richard (wife Sharon) and Thomas (wife Debbie) both worked at Alcan and are now retired. Richard also operated a charter fishing business out of the Oswego marina.  One son, Chuckie died at the far-too-young age of 33 several years ago.  Their only daughter, Susan (Germain) Wells (husband Gregory) still works for the city of Oswego in the Fire Department.

Joan hails from a well known large Oswego clan, the AuClairs, including Gus, Eileen, Boogie (Melvin), Windy (Vernon), Jeannie, Gerald, Theresa, Sharkey (Jimmy), John and Joan, and all have large extended families.  Her sister, Theresa married an Oswego native who became a Long Island teacher, Dick Fellows, also a noted musician. Their son, Mike, was a childhood friend of mine who would often visit his grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Howard Fellows, who lived over Gover’s Department store across the street from where I grew up on West Seneca Street.  I can remember Dick jamming with his brother-in-law Dick’s band on Syracuse TV on the Dick Workman show (another Oswego native — Workman’s Florist) and playing for the famed Nick Sterio orchestra,  as well as many other bands.  

Dick and Joan, while short in stature, loom large in the life of their two communities, both Oswego, and their summer home of Sackets Harbor. Wherever you see them, they will most likely be holding hands as they walk into places. Here’s wishing them a happy upcoming 69th anniversary, and lots of clear sailing, drumming, and dancing, in the years ahead.

John T. Sullivan is a former Oswego Mayor and the author of three books, "Forks In The Road" parts I and II and an autobiography "Pee Not Your Pants — Memoirs of a small time mayor with big time ideas," available locally in the river's end bookstore and online.  His column appears exclusively in the The Palladium-Times on the first Monday of each month.

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