George Pouder was born in 1923 in New York City. He joined the Boy Scouts in 1935 at twelve years old. He so enjoyed scouting that he worked at the Ten Mile River scout camp for four summers. He achieved the rank of Eagle Scout in 1940 at seventeen years old. He was also elected by his fellow Scouts into scouting’s honor society, The Order of the Arrow, also at seventeen years old.
At this point, he realized that most of his elective Boy Scout merit badges were related to nature: (trees, plants, garden design) that this suggested a career in horticulture for his life’s work. He applied to and was accepted to what has become S.U.N.Y., Farmingdale State College, majoring in horticulture.
During his high school years, he had a newspaper route after school in Mt. Vernon, New York and had saved his money for college. Such money quickly melted away, so he I got a job as a janitor’s helper and became an expert sweeping out classrooms and washing blackboards. Later, he became a dining hall waiter.
On December 7, 1941 his generation’s world came to an end at Pearl Harbor, and he volunteered for the U.S. Army in 1942. He was assigned to the Army Engineers and was scheduled to go overseas when he was hospitalized for pneumonia. His ship sailed off without him and was torpedoed and sunk with a total loss of the crew and the 504 soldiers aboard.
A week later, Private Pouder was discharged from the hospital and put on the next troopship and taken to North Africa, then to Corsica until the invasion of Southern France. He helped rebuild oil refineries that the Germans destroyed as they retreated. In December, 1945 he was reclassified for infantry and sent to the 42nd Infantry “Rainbow” Division, which was fighting in the Battle of the Bulge in Germany. There it was decided to put Private Pouder in a combat engineers company replacing a soldier who was killed by a mine. In April, 1945, he assisted in the liberation of the concentration camp at Dachau, without a doubt the highlight of his Army service. [In 2014, George Pouder was honored when the President of France made him a “chevalier” in the Legion of Honor for his services in the liberation of France.]
He was honorably discharged in January, 1946. He was completely ready for some practical experience in his chosen field of horticulture. He worked in commercial nurseries and greenhouses in Westchester, New Jersey and Long Island, saving every penny he could. He returned to New Rochelle in 1951 to buy a long established firm that specialized in growing and selling rare and unusual plants, Lieb’s.
Coinciding with his business debut was the woman who would shortly be his wife, Aurelia Raciti, M.D. and then a recent graduate of New York University’s Medical School. She had just opened her own office for pediatrics and just blocks away from George’s greenhouses. They are blessed with three fine, healthy sons: George, Leonard and Nicholas - in a marriage that has thrived for over sixty years.
Forty nine years ago, the Pouders moved into their North Castle home that was built in 1778. George’s business did well, but at Christmastime, about twenty years ago, the greenhouse boiler exploded, starting a fire that burned the greenhouses to the ground and destroyed all the plants. He and his son Leonard rebuilt the place to state-of-the-art specifications over a three-year period of construction. When he turned was seventy years old, George thought it was about time to retire and slow down.
BUT HE NEEDED A PROJECT! So, George began to help Lewis and Barbara Massi update the North Castle cemeteries inventory of Richard N. Lander, the Town of North Castle Historian and immediately became aware of the Civil War soldiers long forgotten in our cemeteries. Many names were barely legible on flaking gravestones overwhelmed by weeds and brush. Even the best preserved only showed their name, rank and outfit.
Three years in the Army had given George a mysterious kinship with these veterans and a desire to get their mute gravestones to release their stories. Barbara Massi and George co-authored a book that listed grave inscriptions of North Castle cemeteries. George then co-authored another book with Dr Nicholas Cerullo that explored the way the Town financed the soldiers’ bonuses and provided assistance to dependent families. For the first time, a chapter of book was dedicated to black Civil War veterans.
Finally, George compiled the “Soldiers, Rest” biographies of over one hundred Civil War soldiers and sailors. During this time, Mr. Pouder served as a vestryman at St. Stephens and as a trustee of the North Castle Historical Society.
Much work remains to be done to update data and make it more easily accessed. Fortunately, Jack Skiera, an Eagle Scout candidate, is well advanced in accomplishing this goal. After all, this time, at 95, George Pouder has to FINALLY slow down!