Category: Archive

Jim Guinan, Garrison, N.Y., storeowner, dies at 83

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Gwendolyn Bounds’s 2005 memoir “Little Chapel on the River” profiled Guinan, his family and the regulars in his bar and general store in the hamlet of Garrison, N.Y. The book was subtitled “A Pub, a Town and the Search for What Matters Most.”
Bounds told the Echo yesterday: “I think one sign of how well you have lived is how many people feel true loss when you are gone. Jim Guinan meant something special to almost everyone he met.”
She added: “What I hold onto now is that people honored Jim and told him how much they loved him while he was still alive. He simply elicited that kind of emotion from friends and strangers. That’s rare, and it’s wonderful. There’s some peace in knowing he knew how we all felt.”
Bounds, who lived on the edge of Ground Zero and was at home the morning of the terror attack, first met Guinan on a short trip to visit friends in Garrison on Nov. 1, 2001.
She said in an interview with the Echo in 2005: “I left Jim Guinan’s place that first day and went home and wrote in my diary something to effect of, ‘If I could just sit there and this little pub by the river just be there for a little while, everything would be okay.’
“I felt instinctively that this was where I was going to find my way back.”
By month’s end, Bounds had moved to the town, which is 50 miles from New York, and eventually bought a home there.
She said that due to his diabetes, Guinan was not regularly serving in the bar.
“It was very serendipitous,” she said in 2005. “He just happened to be back there. Some people believe in fate; some don’t. I do — so I think there’s a reason for that.
“I was attracted to his warmth and his hospitality. I was also attracted to his ability to make anybody laugh, to always have a story at his lips. He’s so fast, and I appreciate that in any person — it’s just fun to be around somebody like that.
“And he knows what the weather’s going to be before anybody else,” she said.
She said she was in awe also of “his practical knowledge and his ability to take care of an entire town.”
Jim Guinan was third in a family of 13 children in a Birr, Co. Offaly, household headed by a highway ganger. He emigrated to England after World War II and, in 1950, met Peg Curnyn. Both were working in the same Birmingham factory. They married the next year and had four children — John, Jimmy, Margaret and Christine — before moving to America. They opened the general store in Garrison in 1959. Peg Guinan died in 1988.
“Little Chapel on the River” also chronicled the early stages of the battle to keep the store open. It eventually closed its doors in January 2008. Guinan moved to Florida to live with his daughter weeks later.
His son John lost his battle with brain cancer last summer.
Jim Guinan, however, made one last pilgrimage back to Garrison for St. Patrick’s Day 2009, just two weeks before his death from heart failure.

Funeral details: Clinton Funeral Home, 21 Parrott St., Cold Spring, N.Y., on Monday, April 13, and Tuesday, April 14, 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. both days. Funeral Mass: Our Lady of Loretto, 24 Fair St., Cold Spring, Wednesday, at 10 p.m. Interment to follow at Cold Spring Cemetery.

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