Saturday, September 7, 2013

Castner Emmet Rapalee (1884-1976)

From the Geneva Daily Press, November 5, 1947.

    A distinguished business and political figure in the city of Geneva, New York, Castner Emmet Rapalee served as Mayor of that city for one term beginning in the late 1940s. In its century-plus history, this moderately sized city in the Finger Lakes region has elected over thirty persons as its head, and of those individuals, the name of Castner Emmet Rapalee is by far the strangest.
   Castner E. Rapalee was the son of native New Yorkers Hugh and Eva Rapalee, and was born in the town of Bath, New York on December 29, 1884. He relocated with his family to the towns of Dundee and Gorham, New York as a child and attended school in both villages, later studying at the Barclay's Business Institute in Geneva. Following the completion of his education, Rapalee settled in Geneva in 1900 and in that year became employed at the Phillips and Clark Stone Co. for a short time. He married in 1908 to Lancaster, Pennsylvania native Elizabeth Williams and later had one son, Castner E. Rapalee Jr. (1910-1975).
  Rapalee later left the employ of the Phillips and Clark Stone Co. and joined another coke distributor, the Empire Coke Co. He was connected with this company for over thirty years and eventually became its sales manager for a number of years. A notice for the Empire Coke Co. and Mr. Rapalee appeared in the April 4, 1921 edition of the Geneva Daily Times and is shown below.

   Castner Rapalee left the Empire Coke Co. in 1934 to stake his own claim in the fuel business, founding the Rapalee Coal and Fuel Corp. He operated this business until it was sold in 1945, whereafter he began a lengthy career as a real estate broker. Through his many business dealings throughout the 1920s, 30s, and 40s Rapalee garnered a reputation as one of Geneva's most prominent business leaders and proved to be a man of many hats when it came to his involvement in Geneva civic affairs. Rapalee was a former President of the Geneva Real Estate Board, a director of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, a past director and president of the Geneva Industries Inc., as well as a member of the Geneva Board of Public Works from 1928 to 1933. Following his service on the Board of Public Works, Rapalee was elected as Ontario County Supervisor in 1938 and subsequently held this post until 1942.
   As a popular citizen in Geneva, Rapalee's prominence eventually led to his nomination as the Republican candidate for Mayor in 1947. Rapalee became a candidate for that office in mid-1947 and in the lead up to election day was quoted by the Geneva Daily Times as promising "businesslike methods in City Hall" and made note that he would take "no dictation from any group or individual". His reputation as a distinguished local businessman obviously resonated with voters, as he emerged victorious on election day 1947, besting incumbent four-term Mayor Charles F. Nieder by a vote of 3, 840 to 2, 586.
   Rapalee's term as Mayor lasted from 1948-1950 and towards the conclusion of his term received lavish praise from Geneva finance committee chairman Franklin Toole, who noted that the average citizen "would never know the full extent of Mayor Rapalee's contribution to the operation of our city."Rapalee had chosen not to be a candidate for reelection during the 1949 election year, and on December 31, 1949 (Rapalee's last official day in office) his name appeared in the following humorous newspaper snippet in the Geneva Daily Times, under the title "Ex-Mayor Wants Job". It obviously shows that Rapalee left the mayor's office with his sense of humor intact!

  Throughout the latter part of his life, Castner Rapalee held memberships in a number of local fraternal organizations, including the presidency of the Geneva Shrine Club, and was a longstanding member of both the Geneva Elks and Moose Clubs. He was also a distinguished Mason, being a member of the St. Paul Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons and the Geneva Chapter of Royal Arch Masons. Rapalee celebrated his 90th birthday in 1974 and died at age 91 on February 6, 1976 at the Geneva General Hospital. He had outlived both his wife and son and following funeral arrangements was interred at the Glenwood Cemetery in Geneva.

Rapalee in his later years, from the March 27, 1969 Geneva Daily Times.

Rapalee's obituary from the Syracuse Herald American, February 8, 1976.

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