Ben Gilman, a Poughkeepsie native who served in Congress and represented Rockland County for more than 30 years and died Saturday, is being remembered as a legislator who went to bat for the people he served.
Gilman, who died at Castle Point Veteran's Hospital in Wappingers Falls, served in Congress as a Republican from 1972 to 2003, representing the Lower Hudson Valley.
“Congressman Benjamin Gilman was a true legislator...who honorably served the Lower Hudson Valley in Congress for 30 years," Congresswoman Nita Lowey said. "He was steadfast in his belief in the importance of steady American leadership around the world."
Lowey praised Gibson as a staunch advocate for his constituents and said he was not afraid to cross party lines if it was the right thing to do.
While in Congress, Gilman chaired the House Foreign Affairs committee and was known for being a staunch critic of then-President Bill Clinton's foreign policy. He retired from Congress when New York lost two seats due to redistricting.
Gilman served in the United States Army Air Corps from 1942 until 1945 during World War II. During that conflict, he flew 35 missions over Japan, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Clusters.
Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner ran against Gilman in 1998 and 2000, losing both times. He said when he met with Democratic Congressional leadership to discuss his campaign, they didn't even wish him luck.
"I should have gotten the message that even high ranking Democrats in Washington liked Ben Gilman," Feiner said. "When I ran against him in Rockland and Orange Counties almost everyone I spoke with had received help from him or knew someone who his office has helped. He had helped thousands of people overcome government red tape. Congressman Gilman will be missed by many people –whose lives he touched."
Feiner praised him for fighting against international drug trafficking and being a supporter of Israel.