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MARCH 7, 2014

‘Pops, Patriots and Fireworks’

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Peter Ehrlich, Bedford resident, dies at 83


By DON HEPPNER
PHOTO COURTESY BEDFORD HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Peter and Selby at the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the BHS in 1991.

 

Peter Richard Ehrlich of Bedford, aged 83, died on Feb. 27. A prominent resident, civic leader and volunteer, he died of complications from Parkinson’s disease.

“Peter Ehrlich was one of the stalwarts in the group of Bedford's old guard that truly loved the town,” said Bedford’s George Bianco, chairman of the town’s open space committee, on Monday. “Peter was always quick to volunteer, always had thoughtful ideas of how to get the job done. Peter was liked by so many that he was able to resolve conflicts and bring people together in an unflappable fashion.”

Similar sentiments were shared by other civic leaders. “It’s a great loss to the community; he was a real pillar to the town,” said Bedford’s supervisor Chris Burdick. “He was active in Bedford Historical Society, St. Matthew’s Church, part of the real fabric of the village of the town. I’ll miss him, and I know the town will.”

“Peter was a warm, wise, witty and gentle man,” said the Rev. Terence Elsbery of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church. “He loved his family, his church and his community. He and his wife Selby have long represented the best of Bedford and American values. We will miss him greatly.”

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of longtime board member Peter Ehrlich,” said Lynn Ryan, executive director of the Bedford Historical Society. “Peter served on the board of the Bedford Historical Society for 28 years, first taking on the role of treasurer and later vice president until his retirement in 2007. With his steady, quiet and unassuming presence, he kept our finances in order while staying active on multiple committees. His commitment to the preservation of Bedford Village and the BHS was unwavering. Even after he stepped down from the board, he continued to volunteer at events and programs, as did his wife, Selby.

Peter Richard Ehrlich was born in Cambridge, Mass., to Susan Mayer and Richard A. Ehrlich. He was raised in New York City and Rye and educated at the Browning School, Rye Country Day School, the Choate School and Johns Hopkins University. Mr. Ehrlich served in the National Guard from 1951 to 1961 and was a member of Squadron A stationed at the Park Avenue Armory. Mr. Ehrlich moved to Bedford in 1956.

“We were looking for a house to rent and we couldn’t afford any where our friends lived,” said Shelby Ehrlich, his wife. “We happened to be driving home and saw a man had a house for rent on Indian Hill Road. I’d never heard of Bedford before.”

“My father moved to Bedford slightly by accident,” added his son, Peter Ehrlich Jr. In 1956, many of his friends lived in Greenwich. Although he looked for a home in Connecticut, once he was shown a house in Bedford, on Horseshoe Hill Road, he immediately signed a lease. Within 10 years he was lucky to purchase a home only steps away from Bedford Village.”

The neighborhood was perfect for children, Mr. Ehrlich Jr. said. “The Ehrlich family had four boys, the McLarens had six children, the Stonemans had eight and the Harveys had three. There were at least 30 children spread among 10 homes. It was never boring for children or adults. After 10 years, my parents knew over 1,000 people in town. They were very much a part of the local community.”

Ms. Ehrlich said that both she and Mr. Ehrlich became involved in town affairs through their connection to St. Matthew’s Church. “I got involved in the Junior League and St. Matthew’s Church.”

Mr. Ehrlich was an investment advisor, spending 20 years at Merrill Lynch before starting his own firm called Peter Ehrlich and Associates, which flourished from 1974 to 1994.

“My earliest memories of my father are of his intense work ethic,” said Mr. Ehrlich Jr. “He would wake at 5 a.m., drive to a train station, take a train into Grand Central Terminal and then fight his way onto a subway to Wall Street. Then at night he would reverse the process. He always arrived home after dark. This was before trains and subways had heat or air conditioning. I am still amazed at his self discipline and dedication.”

Mr. Ehrlich was a longtime member of the Bedford Golf & Tennis Club and sat on various boards, including the United Way, the Bedford Historical Society, A-HOME housing and St. Matthew’s Church. He was a member of the Bedford Village Historic District Review Commission.

“Peter was the chair of the Bedford Village Historic District Review Commission, and he was memorable for being diligent, flexible, calm and always well prepared,” said Richard Farrell, a fellow review commission member. “It was always a pleasure to serve with Peter on the Bedford Historical Society Board. Perhaps most importantly, he always had a ready smile, open mind and a warm greeting for everyone on the commission and on the street. He was a good Bedford person.”

Mr. Ehrlich and others, including Oliver Hazard and John Friedler, were guiding forces behind the Bedford Association and the Bedford Coalition. The group helped to create a blueprint for development and planning within the community, helping to preserve open space in the town via a real estate transfer fee, successfully lobbying for the implementation of conservation overlay zones and helping to forge a strong master plan for Bedford.

The 1999 Bedford Coalition was one of the group’s greatest triumphs. In bringing together a wide array of Bedford’s civic groups and residents, the coalition was able to approach issues of not only development but also of vitality in all three of the town’s hamlets, as well as traffic concerns, the need for enforceable speed limits, maintaining area viewsheds and more.

Mr. Ehrlich was part of a surge of support for land preservation, proposing a community bond issue to purchase open space. At a meeting of the coalition in 1999, he identified properties to be maintained for open space, including Sunnyfield Farms, Mianus River Gorge and Beaver Dam.

“He was a wonderful man who did all that he could to support and further the mission of the BHS,” said Ms. Ryan of the Historical Society this week. “He was a really nice, quiet guy who truly cared about Bedford.”

“His presence was warm, with true concern for the work of the society and for all of Bedford,” said Bedford’s Jackie Farrell. “He was a good friend and neighbor, and we will miss him.”

Mr. Ehrlich was the husband of Selby Newell Brown, brother of David Ehrlich of Washington, D.C., and father of Peter R. Ehrlich Jr. of Miami, James N. Ehrlich of Atlanta, Timothy H. Ehrlich of Miami Beach and Bedford, and John N.B. Ehrlich of Canada. Mr. Ehrlich was the grandfather of Samuel H. Ehrlich, Katherine A. Ehrlich, Josie Ehrlich and Peter Ehrlich.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to the American Parkinson’s Disease Association and to St Matthews Church. A memorial service will be held at St Matthew’s Church this spring.


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