When I was eight in 1962, I had the privilege of hanging out in a tavern alone, no parents, no adults, just me, the owner and a couple of Loftus Tavern regulars from the Yorkville neighborhood.
Jack Loftus would serve me my regular, a Coke with two maraschino cherries. I'd sit with him down the end of the bar and we'd split the newspapers. He'd slip me a dime for the jukebox. Jack loved Johnny Cash, I did too.
I'd do this on a Saturday or Sunday or a miserably hot summer afternoon when I had nothing to do. Jack never turned down a kid with a raffle ticket and never failed to buy a table for a neighborhood dance. Jack attended my baptism, communion and wedding. He was pals with my Italian grandmother. I was one of many local kids that counted Jack as an honorary uncle. Part of the Yorkville neighborhood dies forever with him.
Jack died at 90 years two weeks ago, Recently, I visited Jack in his apartment and we reminisced. He still loved the football Giants. Jack lived over his old establishment which is now called Bailey's Corner. The bar in Bailey's Corner is the same one my Dad danced on the night I was born 57 years ago.
This Saturday, April 30th @ Noon ~ I'm attending a memorial mass for Jack Loftus, at St. Stephen's of Hungary @ 408 East 82nd Street. After the mass we’ll walk three blocks along York Avenue back to Bailey’s Corner, Jack's old gin mill and toast him. If you knew Jack, and you’re local, I hope you make it there to say goodbye.
The only time I saw Jack outside his tavern, other than St. Stephen’s or Yankee Stadium was walking along the East River. Here’s the scene. Much as it was 60 years ago, except for this and that. Bye, Jack.