Thursday, June 5, 2014

James F. Donnery II: 1950 to 2014

"See, some people call this place here the bar. Others just call it Guinan's. I call it my riverside chapel." -- Jim Donnery, Winter 2001

His license plate said "Irishman." So it was fitting to first meet Jim in the green-walled pub of Guinan's. It was freezing outside, but warm in there. Jim made it warmer with his big booming voice that signaled friendship from the first word, even to a stranger. It happened to be me that night, tiptoeing into the sacred after-hours world of the little chapel for the first time, but I could have been anybody. That's just the way Jim was - he was kind. To people he knew, and those he didn't.

Jim was born on Christmas Eve in 1950 in Cornwall-on-Hudson, according to his obituary. When he was small, his Mom, Dorothy, would drive him down to the river banks to watch the tankers and freighters go by. Before Guinan's was Guinan's, his father as a kid used to row his boat across the river to buy candy and soda at the store.

To say Jim was connected to Guinan's is like saying beer was served there. It was just a fundamental truth. He made it down to the pub from Syracuse where he lived as an adult roughly every six weeks, first picking up his mom to bring her along too. She sipped Michelob Light, very cold, in the corner and spoke only when she really had something to say. When she got tired, she'd go sleep in the car. In the winter, she brought a blanket. Jim always took care of her. That's the way Jim was - he was loyal. To his family, and to his friends. Friends like Frank P. Hanes III (pictured w/ Jim above) who cycled 4300 miles across the United States to raise money for prostate cancer after his pal Jim was diagnosed.

Jim is survived by his wife of 35 years, Gail, who graciously shared him with his Guinan's family. They spent his last years traveling and seizing the day. We followed their escapades on Facebook where Jim shared pictures of their journey with us all. That's just the way Jim was - he shared. Indeed, I'd guess he shared something with just about everyone he met.

Tonight and tomorrow those of us who are his Guinan's family will say an official goodbye. We will thank him in our own private ways. We will thank him for being kind, for being loyal and for sharing. I will thank him for inspiring the title of Little Chapel on the River and for welcoming one more stranger into the core of the Friday Night Parishioners.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in his memory to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Ode to Guinan's: "Between the River and the Rails"

My friend Andy Revkin - a Garrison, N.Y. resident, writer, educator and longtime Guinan's patron - recently released his first CD called "A Very Fine Line." It's a collection of 10 songs recorded with some contributions from extraordinary local musicians, among them Dar Williams, Art Labriola, the Motherlode Trio, Al Hemberger, Bruce Molsky, and Eric Starr, among others.

The video above is a rendition of his song about Guinan's set to photos by the uber-talented Hudson Valley photographer, Christine Ashburn. Many of the photos were shot during the "Irish Night" musical sessions that occurred every Thursday after the full moon.

Andy is a guy of many talents, and he explains his segue into the music world in this write-up here. You can find he entire CD on Amazon and download on iTunes or from Andy (just $7) here.

 On Sunday evening (Dec. 22nd), Andy is hosting a CD celebration and musical jam with many of the contributing musicians at the Dogwood Bar & Grill in Beacon, NY.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Restaurant, Inn Planned for Old Guinan's Spot

Is this the next chapter for the old Guinan's building? Here's the latest story. The proposal is a long way from reality (just take a look at the condition of the building!) but at least there are folks willing to give it a shot.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Time Short - Help Support "Team Guinan" Members

Please join me once again to support Kelly Guinan Preusser and her husband Ed Preusser as they hop on bicycles to ride from Boston to New York City in the Sept. 28th to 30th "Braking the Cycle" in honor of Kelly's late father, John Guinan.

It's a tough fundraising environment out there, and any amount will go a long way to help them reach their goal of $3500 per rider. Here's the link to donate.

I won't be able to ride with them this year, but encourage anyone who has supported me in the past to please consider supporting Ed and Kelly. It's not easy to commit to this ride year after year - and this year's proceeds will go to support Housing Works, a community for people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Thanks to everyone who continues to honor John with their gifts and support.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Dorothy M. Donnery: 1926-2012

Dorothy M. Donnery - mother of Jim Donnery who christened Guinan's "Little Chapel" - died April 2, 2012.

The night I first met Dorothy solidified my commitment to writing a book about Guinan's. She was as eclectic and smart and compelling a character as I've ever met. She loved the Hudson River - loved watching the tankers and the freighters go by. She worked along its shores at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point for 39 years. When Jim returned home to visit Guinan's on Friday nights, she'd always have a sandwich and vanilla milk shake ready for him. At Guinan's she'd sip the occasional Michelob Light, though gin and champagne were her drinks of choice. If she grew tired of the barroom banter, she'd slip out to the car where she kept a blanket and sleep.

Dorothy suffered no fools; her smile was contagious.

The family has asked that memorial donations may be made to a charity of one's choice.

Photo courtesy Jim Donnery.

Jack McAndrew: 1939-2012

We lost one of our parishioners, John J. "Jack" McAndrew - a founder of "Irish Night" at Guinan's - after his fight with lymphoma. He was 72.

Jack is featured in the chapter "The Rising of the Moon" in Little Chapel on the River and at other points in the book. He was a friend to many in Guinan's green walls, and a teacher to those new to Irish music. Without fail, he'd play your favorite song without being asked. For me, that was The Wild Rover. With a nod, and wink, he would always launch in just as my hands were wrapping around the first cold Coors Light. I'll remember his smile and generosity as it swelled out from the dark room, dancing on the music that carried his spirit throughout the bar and beyond.

You can read Jack's "My Reflections as Session Leader" essay about his time at Guinan's.

Memorial donations may be made to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

Photo courtesy Christine Ashburn.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

High Holy Day 2012 at The Chapel

Long live the Chapel! A group of parishioners -- including family members Margaret Guinan, Kelly Guinan, Mary Jane Guinan & Ed Preusser -- gathered at the Chapel to celebrate the High Holy Day. Building might be shut, but you can't keep the community away. Everyone is very excited about the upcoming renovation and reopening.

Helping organize the event was Jay Vitale, a friend of the late John Guinan, who in honor of John has started a very cool charity called "Guinan's Aurora" where he collects used bicycles bound for the landfill and partners with local bike shops to help refurbish and distribute them to under privileged children or children in remission from life-threatening illnesses.

He's done incredible things so far. You can connect with Jay at or on here on Facebook. Address below:

P.O. Box 208
Garrison NY 10524