NEW YORK – The Larry Siegel Ensemble played favorites, old and new, and the crowd took to the dance floor May 19 to celebrate Si and Sophie Gerson’s 70th wedding anniversary at Winston Unity Center.

Bill Davis, chair of the New York Communist Party, and Carole Marks, a member of the CPUSA National Committee, welcomed the crowd of almost 100, which included Si and Sophie, their children and grandchildren, and scores of friends and comrades. Members of the Young Communist League (YCL) also joined the festivities.

Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields came to greet the Gersons, pointing out that the city is still rebuilding in the aftermath of Sept. 11. “We’re at a time when working together is more important than ever,” she said. “That’s the spirit in which we come together today. I extend my best wishes to Si and Sophie Gerson.”

Simon W. Gerson, now in his mid 90s, is a member of the National Committee of the Communist Party USA. He met Sophie Melvin in the 1920s when both were active in the YCL. In 1929, Sophie hitchhiked to Gastonia, N.C., to join in solidarity with the striking Loray Textile mill workers. The mill owners attempted to frame Sophie and 14 others on murder charges. Si rushed to Gastonia to join in the defense of the Gastonia 15, a victory won with a worldwide solidarity movement. Si and Sophie were married in 1932.

Their granddaughter, Timmie, spoke of growing up in conservative Annapolis, Maryland. She now works at Public Citizen’s anti-corporate globalization project in Washington, D.C. She told the crowds he is often asked how she came by her radical politics. “I tell them, ‘It’s genetic.’” She praised her parents and grandparents for instilling in her a passion for equality and justice.

Si and Sophie’s daughter Deborah, a sociology professor at San Francisco State University, said her understanding of race, class and gender politics began in her childhood with her mother’s socialist, working-class brand of feminism.

Joe Walker, former editor of Muhammad Speaks, who emceed the event, recalled his friendship with the Gersons dating from the struggle to end the Vietnam War and to free Angela Davis. “In all the years I have known them, they never attempted to sidestep a struggle for justice,” Walker said.

Communist Party USA Executive Vice Chair Jarvis Tyner praised the Gersons as examples of the “greatest generation” who pushed through the New Deal, defeated fascism and McCarthyism and stand today for the socialist future.

The Bush administration, Tyner said, has unleashed a vendetta against Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), for raising questions about a briefing Bush received by the CIA on the terrorist danger of airline hijackings weeks before Sept. 11.

Tyner called on people to give Sen. Clinton support. “We can’t let them cover this one up. These new revelations are starting to turn the tide in the fight for peace and justice.”

YCL National Coordinator Libero Della Piana said, “Si and Sophie were not only shaped by their world, they shaped it as well,” he said. “They met the challenges of their time and that is what we must do today.”

PWW Editor Tim Wheeler recalled his many visits to the Gerson home when he was Washington correspondent and Si was executive editor of the Daily World. Sophie, he said, filled the house with the aroma of her gourmet cooking. “But she also kept a list of stories in defense of Social Security and Medicare that she wanted us to write,” Wheeler said. “What I remember most is Si’s insistence on building broad, grassroots movements. They have never lost confidence in the power of the people to win democratic change.”

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