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Additionally, for more on Guinan's and little chapels everywhere, please read the new blog.
Frequently asked questions about the LITTLE CHAPEL:
Q. Is Guinan's still around?
Guinan's closed its doors after 49 years in business on January 31, 2008. It was granted several extra bursts of life in recent years thanks to the steady hands of three generations of Guinans. In addition to Jim, John and Margaret, Christine & her husband Mike -- John's daughter, Kelly, also stepped in to help keep the tradition alive. She did this in addition to a full-time job as a graphic designer. There were many others in the book, Mary Ellen Yannitelli included, who were instrumental in helping support Guinan's in recent years.
The closing of Guinan's obviously marks the end of an era. But we are lucky to have had the extra time these folks brought us. There has since been a tremendous and feisty push from the local community and the extended Guinan's community nationwide for a new space that serves the public to reopen in the Guinan's building.
Keep up with what's happening on this front and with the characters from Little Chapel at the new blog.
Q. How is Jim?
Jim died of complications from a cold in April of 2009 after a fantastic last trip back to Garrison from Florida where he was living with Christine & Mike to see his friends and family over St. Patrick's Day. During his last visit, he sang Danny Boy in the local pubs and was wined and dined by the throngs of parishioners who loved him. He is survived by his children Jimmy, Margaret and Christine as well as multiple grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.
Q. What about the rest of the immediate Guinan family?
A. Margaret recently retired as a detective from the Yorktown Heights police department. Good news for the criminals of Westchester County -- bad news for its citizens. We're all happy though because we actually get to see her. Jimmy still lives and works in San Francisco while Christine and her husband Mike and their sons are having good success running various entrepreneurial ventures in Florida where they live.
The Guinan family and community of Philipstown suffered an enormous loss when John Guinan died last year after battling brain cancer for about a year and a half. In the fall of 2006, not long after pedaling 275 miles from Gettysburg to Manhattan on his bicycle to raise money for AIDS, John felt numbness on his left side en route to open the store one morning. His doctor called an ambulance for him, and on his way to the hospital with his wife Mary Jane, he suffered a Grand mal seizure.
Doctors located the culprit: a 2-centimeter mass in the right rear of John's brain. Surgery revealed more: the mass was a malignant tumor, an aggressive form of cancer called glioblastoma multiforme that begins in the brain.
John took the news better than anyone. There was no ‘why me,’ but just a simple acceptance and belief that he would persevere. To say he had strength isn't quite right. He was strong, yes, but he was more than that. He was no different a man than he had been the day before the diagnosis. And by that I mean that he held us all up, continued going down to the store every morning as long as he could, buttering the rolls, finding smiles in weary commuters and setting ground rules such as: no tears.
Listen to a short clip (see link below) from an interview he did on XM Radio’s “Broadminded” show. It was a remarkable conversation. We sat together in my basement while he talked by phone to the hosts, and they graciously opened up their show to him. What came out of him during those 20 minutes was a riveting reminder of exactly what goes into making a man’s character true. Many times since meeting John I have thought to myself, “I do not know a better man.”
John fought until the end. He is survived by his wife Mary Jane, his sons Sean and Casey and his daughter Kelly, John's daughter, is now married to Ed Preusser, a character in the book. Sean and his wife Amy gave birth to John and Mary Jane's granddaughter, Zoe, before John passed away. He thought she was miracle.
Q. Did Fitz move?
Fitz finally sold his house. He moved upstate, but I can't tell you where because he'll track me down and....well, you know. In true Fitz fashion, he refused to let anyone throw him a going away party. So someone stuck a sign on a picture of him in the bar that said: "This seat available: inquire at the bar."
Q. Are all the parishioners still alive?
No. Ken Anderson -- a morning regular famous for his height, no-nonsense demeanor, and quips ("I'm just like two pianos: upright and grand") died this winter. There was a service held at St. Philip's Church, and Frank the preacher was appropriately wry and touching in his remarks. 7:20 a.m. isn't the same anymore at the chapel.
Another loss we had was Tip Dain, one of Jim's Fearsome Foursome golfing partners. Dry-witted and fiercely funny, Tip sang and cracked jokes at Jim's 80th birthday party. His service too was held at St. Philip's. We also lost Mike Mihalik "Old Mike" in 2008 from a heart attack. Please remember them all and carry their spirits with you.
Q. Do you still live in Garrison?
Yes. Garrison is my home. I continue to fix up the house I bought in 2003 -- it will always be a work in progress, I think. I spend my days in Manhattan now back at The Wall Street Journal , and while I miss the Hudson Highlands every time I leave, the two worlds along the river-that-flows-two-ways feel very connected to me.
Q. How is Walter, your chain-smoking next-door neighbor?
Walter quit smoking. Cold turkey. Doctors saw a spot on his lung and that was it. For many years, he continued to clip coupons, pinch pennies and come to my house and offer home improvement advice, solicited or not.
On Friday, August 31, 2012, Walter died following complications from unexpected bleeding in his brain. He was 73. His local obituary is here.
Walter was, and will always be, one of my best friends. I miss him constantly, particularly when I'm covered in joint compound, and will forever remember his words: "If you take care of it, it will take care of you."
--Last updated: October, 2013