Friends, coworkers pay tribute to beloved 95-year-old MTA employee

CONEY ISLAND, Brooklyn (WABC) -- A man who worked for New York City transit for half a century, is receiving tributes from everyone who had the pleasure of working with him.

For generations of booms and busts, wars and the pandemic, the subway has been the life blood of the city.

The fragile and aging subway system is looked after by thousands of MTA workers.

"This shop was his family," coworker Eugene Leybovich said.

At the Coney Island Overhaul Shop, there was only one Frank.

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"All you had to say is one name, Frank, everybody knew who that is," Leybovich said.

The MTA's oldest employee was 95-year-old Frank Gurrera, who schooled an army of transit workers.

"Hi kid ... that's the way he was all the time," facility manager Thomas Mathai said. "I'm 55 years old."

After serving in France in World War II, where he built parts for the B52 Bomber and the Moonshot, Gurrera landed at New York City transit 50-years-ago.

He spent all that time at a workbench, working with his hands to produce the tiniest bits of metal that powered the city.

In the past year, he told his life story to the Coney Island History Project.

"Make this, fix that, it's all part of the job. Keeps your mind going. Keeps your hands active. Keeps your body going. I have to fix that," Gurrera said.

"He knew how to take a piece of metal -- just a piece of metal and make this happen," Leybovich said. "How many people can say that I can do this?"

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The New York City subway has thousands and thousands of cars coming through this facility for overhauls.

Gurrera, in a half century, has touched every single one of them, keeping tens of millions of New Yorkers moving.

As he got on in years, his coworkers would mark every birthday, and no one dared ask him when he'd retire.

"He'd laugh and ask me 'Shirley when are you retiring?' so when I'm retiring then he's going to retire," coworker Shirley Martin said.

"He came here every single day, he did the job," Leybovich said. "If you saw Frank call out it meant he really wasn't feeling well."

Late last year Gurrera went out.

Friends say his heart had started to fail.

He spent months on medical leave, until Thursday, when they learned he'd passed.

Gurrera left behind a legacy of hard work and grit that will see this city through.

"I was the one that made it. And it makes me feel good," Gurrera said. "I've accomplished something and contributed to mankind. And I still feel that way."


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