Surrounded by family, the 85-year-old stood on the grounds of the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site Wednesday, holding a restored oil painting of her father, Harold Nagell, who served as captain of the New York State Police Troop K unit from 1928-33.
She was positioned among three historic trooper vehicles, smiling for a photograph taken by her father's modern successors - the men and women who, along with state police across New York, celebrated 90 years of history in April.
"This meant everything to me," Gercak said.
She came from Florida to see her father's memory recognized at the public introduction of the Troop K Heritage Association and the unveiling of the book "Images of America - New York State Police Troop K," written by Frank Goderre, the association's president.
"The story of Troop K is one we've carried in our hearts for many years," she said, reading from a statement she and her brother, James Van Buren Nagell, prepared together. "A ladder has now been built, rung by rung."
Artifacts representing the long and bountiful history of Troop K were displayed at the event. Old badges, patches, coats and revolvers lined glass cases in the hallway.
"When a trooper passes away, a lot of his effects and stories are lost forever," 1st Sgt. Edward Moore of Troop K said. "We're reaching out to families to let them know your family members who have served, their legacy can be carried on for years."
He said there are people who either hold onto these pieces of history, storing them in cellars and attics, or sell them on eBay.
"We're here to say that we're here to collect these things and preserve them. Just by word of mouth, we've already received pictures of troopers, heads of state, old uniforms, pictures taken at the FDR estate and documents that are very significant," Moore said. "We even have two antique cars that are part of the association now."
Another item the association is interested in preserving is old postcards.
Moore said troopers would go on horse patrol and if they needed any back-up, they would have to send a postcard asking for help.
An old video, recorded in 1932, was also recovered and shown at the celebration. It documents 15 years of Troop K history, which began in Haw-thorne, where troopers lived year-round in their castle-like headquarters with their mascot, a live rooster.
Goderre later narrated a photo presentation, which included pictures of the late Capt. Nagell.
"My mother idolized her father and she missed him so much," said Kathryn Munch, daughter of the late Virginia Nagell Casino.
"She was about 4 when he passed," Munch said. "I just wish she could have been here."