Renowned Staten Island artist Gregory Perillo sculpts hard hat for neighbor’s dad

By Carol Ann Benanti Staten Island Advance

Perillo sculpure of a hard hat. photo Carol Ann Benanti

Perillo sculpure of a hard hat. photo Carol Ann Benanti

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — When George Gambon lived in Tottenville, he and world-renowned artist Gregory Perillo were neighbors. They developed a unique friendship — especially after the passing of George’s dad, Howard Gambon, in the year 2000.

Howard, an iron worker, sadly lost his battle with mesothelioma, a disease he contracted while working with asbestos.

In fact, it wasn’t uncommon for George to recount stories about his dad’s association with the World Trade Center, inasmuch as he was an iron worker who built the towers during the construction and ultimate completion of the four-year project back in 1972.

George would often relate to Mr. Perillo stories of his dad’s meticulous work ethic and conversed about a letter he’d written to his dad telling him how intrigued he was about his tedious profession.

After hearing interesting accounts of Howard Gambon’s life, Mr. Perillo offered to sculpt his hard hat helmet in bronze in a work of art he chose to call “The Beginning.”

The former Willowbrook resident reveals he’d like to keep the helmet for six months — since he was so close to his dad — and then subsequently donate the creation to the newly opened National September 11 Memorial Museum.

I found it interesting to note:

In George’s letter he further stated how intrigued he was upon hearing about his dad’s day at work — especially when he described the way in which he connected beams with a crane and how he never had a fear of heights.

Howard was responsible for hundreds of men — 400 to be exact — and interestingly one-quarter of his staff of high connectors were American Indians.

During the early seventies members of Howard’s Ironworker’s Local were presented with the opportunity to work on the World Trade Center II and were making progress as they built one floor a month, making headway — and was way ahead of schedule. Everything had been running like clockwork.

“My dad got along well with all of the brotherhood of workers,” said George and he couldn’t believe that the American Indians could walk steel and connect beams 1,000 feet in the air. And as the job was drawing to a close — they celebrated all as one!

In the year 2000 George donated much of his dad’s tools and leathers to the city Fire Department Ladder 166, where the firefighters hugged him as tears streamed down their faces.

In 2006 while cleaning out his garage as he readied himself for his move to Tottenville, George stumbled came across a box where he discovered his dad’s hard hat helmet that he wore each day while at work.

“I had no idea that when I moved, I was living across the street from world renowned artist and sculptor of American Indians — Gregory Perillo,” said George.

And as they say, the rest is history! 

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