Harold Robert “Bob” Gammon, founder of Woodside Orchards in Jamesport, died Aug. 31 at his home in Laurel after battling skin cancer for more than 20 years. He was 85. The success of the business became his legacy for his family and his community.
Woodside Orchards had humble beginnings as a small wholesale apple farm. It was started by Mr. Gammon and his friend John Rose, who planted the orchard in 1982. It was and continues to be a family-run apple orchard providing fresh fruit and baked goods.
After joining the family business in 2002, Mr. Gammon’s sons, Robert and Scott, bought a property in Aquebogue, creating a second location to help meet the demand for apple picking in the fall. In 2012, that property became a tasting room, where they released Woodside’s first three hard ciders: traditional, traditional sweet and raspberry.
The business grew with the family. Both sons and their families would help with baking pies, cookies and apple bread and making apple butter and candy apples.
“The orchard was, I would say, all families and friends work there, there are really no outsiders. All local people that we grew up with, neighbors, friends, everybody you come across in your life that was a good positive person just kind of got sucked in,” said Scott Gammon.
He said his father’s passing won’t lead to many changes in the way the business is run.
“Fortunately, over the course of the years my brother and I have taken over the business so, fortunately, he taught us well,” he said. “So it’s going to keep going the way it is; that was the plan and the design.”
The biggest change, Scott Gammon said, “is his presence isn’t there. He was 85 so his abilities had diminished but his presence was always very strong.”
Granddaughter Gayle Gammon has been managing the tasting room, working mainly from the Aquebogue location. She also manages Woodside’s social media posts. She said they’ve been working on making the Aquebogue site more of an event venue. Despite whatever changes may come though, she said the family plans to commemorate Mr. Gammon in both places.
“I know we plan on putting up and creating a memorial kind of plaque at both locations,” she said.
Mr. Gammon moved to Long Island from New Jersey in the late 1960s. The family lived in Riverhead for a few years while he built his home in Laurel with his friends. The family moved to Laurel in 1976. His love of fishing also drew him to the community.
“His deep roots in the community — from serving on the [former] Laurel school board in the ’80s to being one of the founders of the Peconic soccer league in the ’70s — exemplified his commitment to the community,” said his daughter, Laurie. (The Laurel school district merged with Mattituck-Cutchogue in 1997.)
Mr. Gammon was diagnosed with his first melanoma in the late 1980s and was successfully treated with radiation, Laurie Gammon said. He had many subsequent surgeries over the years to remove various types of skin cancer, including a major procedure 14 years ago to remove a tumor from his face. He then received more radiation, which held the cancer at bay for a while, she explained.
A recurrence about five years ago required immunotherapy and a subsequent recurrence led him to seek proton radiation out of state. The most recent recurrence, in February, led to more immunotherapy, until last May, when it became apparent that all treatment options had been exhausted. Mr. Gammon had been in hospice since mid-June of this year.
“The doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering did an amazing job of keeping him with us as long as they could,” Laurie Gammon said.
Despite such a long and difficult battle, family members said Mr. Gammon remained positive and didn’t allow it to stop him from living his life the way he wanted to.
“He didn’t let it faze him at all,” Gayle Gammon said.