I think this is the first obituary type of writing I’ve ever done, and I don’t exactly know how to go about it.
The fact is that Red Hook has lost one of the special people that make this the community special to so many. Just before the 4th of July, George was found unconscious outside of his bar, Rocky Sullivan’s. He had to be revived more than once and was on life support at Methodist Hospital before he passed away this past Thursday.
Just as I thought, very hard to write.
Anybody who has had the good fortune to know George Kornienko these past ten years, since Rocky’s moved to Red Hook from Manhattan, know what I am talking about. In a time when humility is almost a lost attribute, George was humility personified. I just looked up a phrase that comes to mind, although I didn’t exactly know what it meant – self-effacing. It turns out I had the correct idea: “not claiming attention for oneself; retiring and modest.”
I will always remember George for being one of the first people to welcome me to this community when I started the Star-Revue back in 2010. Rocky’s made its name as a writer’s bar, originally.
Our fourth issue, September 2010, featured a review of Rocky’s. In it, our reviewers described George as gracious. They also mentioned that he was excited that his plans for a winter street-hockey tournament outside the bar was finalized. George could get excited over lots of things – especially sports.
George was a huge sports fan – favoring the Rangers, Mets and Jets. I was kind of surprised last year when he told me he was traveling to London to watch the Jets play one of those overseas games. In retrospect, thank God he went and enjoyed it.
He never gave up on the Rangers when they were in the playoffs each year, although as soon they lost he would quickly change the channel. He knew I was a Met fan, and if I came in after a game, he’d right away tell me if they won or lost.
In 2010, I had just rented a large space at 101 Union Street, by the cranes. In addition to my regular business, I started the Star-Revue, and also had enough room to build a stage and a bar. I ran it as a kind of private party place, where neighborhood people would come and play music. When I had to leave there, in 2014, I felt a responsibility to the many musicians for whom our jams became a way of life. I went right to George and explained my situation, and without batting an eye he welcomed me and the Star Theater jam to Rocky’s.
From the next Monday on, until Rocky’s was forced to move last September, the jam continued and thrived. George and the rest of the Rocky’s crew welcomed all my friends as graciously as he welcomed me and just about everybody else who popped in through the door.
One of Red Hook leading citizens, John McGettrick, is frequently seen at the bar reading the Financial Times. He told us “George was an extraordinary human being. His ability to make people welcome regardless of their race or class will be sorely missed in Red Hook…He was always accessible, welcoming.””
I think I have to stop now. Rocky’s has other great owners, and they will surely continue on both as Red Hook’s one true neighborhood bar, and in memory of George.
And for those who care to pay respects, here is the information you need to know.
The arrangements for George Kornienko are as followed:
Marine Park Funeral Home, Inc., 3024 Quentin Road, Brooklyn, NY.
Visiting hours will be Monday, July 10 from 2-5 and 7-9.
A Funeral Mass will be held 10:30 AM on Tuesday, July 11 at Resurrection R.C. Church, 2331 Gerritsen Avenue, Brooklyn, NY. Committal will be private cremation.