Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Delivers Remarks at Funeral of DOT Employee George Staab

April 14, 2018

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Father Purchal, thank you. And to everyone in the Saint Andrews community, thank you so much for welcoming us all and for comforting this good family.

I want to tell that family that it was so beautiful to hear those memories and to hear those reflections. Because what I felt as I heard them is that George did what may be the most difficult and most essential thing in life which is to take that love for family and live it out everyday. And I can tell you from my own journey and from so many hundreds and thousands of people I have met over the years that there are so many good people that for one reason or another don’t find the way to take the love within and to give it to their family day in a day out, year after year.

Someone who understands the best quarter of their life does that and gives of themselves so consistently has achieved in some ways as one of the greatest if not the greatest possible way of living on this earth. And that’s not the kind of thing that’s necessarily gets on the front pages of the papers but it is the most essential thing.

So hearing the purity, the depth, that feeling that you all have expressed for how he loved you, makes me see a greatness in him and makes me admire him even more. I also did not know until your reflections how devoted a Mets fan George was. So we should celebrate right now – Mets are as of this morning have the best record in all of baseball. And I know George is up there helping to make sure that continues.

[Laughter]

So we’re here to honor him and – I want to say all of us who are here from the City of New York and the Department of Transportation, and all the other agencies – we are here today because we appreciate for what he did for all of us. We are here because we appreciate that he served us, served 8.5 million people, and gave his life in that service and that means so much.

He literally was one of the people who made New York City work. And he had a particular skill, a particular ability which was rare and advanced, and sophisticated. And one of the special abilities he had and I guess it goes back to when he used to use his hammer and build things and get all the other kids involved. Well, in this time he had the ability to achieve things and teach others how to do them and that was so rare and so special – and particularly with these movable bridges that are a part of the landscape of the city and it’s something that makes our city very special and it’s something that [inaudible] back to another time. It’s that very reason there are very few people sophisticated enough to know how to actually make them work and to keep them working. And George is one of those people and anyone in New York City who is trying to figure how to deal with these bridges they probably have a cell phone, because he was one of the only few people who understood. He helped to keep the City moving literally. And it was well known that he loved his loved his work, he had a passion for it and he had a passion for teaching others and he was an example that others followed.

It’s very, very hard to make sense – it’s almost impossible to make sense of a tragedy that occurs like this, that is so strange and out of nowhere, so random and so impossible to comprehend. How one minute a good man is alive and then next minute he is gone. It’s something that we as humans grapple with and we never could entirely make sense of it.

But it comes back to what we heard earlier. The real question is how someone lived, and what they did with the time they had. Did they live a time to the fullest? Did they give it to others? By every measure George did that. Every measure he lived fully, he lived the kind of life we could all admire. He also exemplified a group of people who often don’t get to praise and the appreciation they deserve.

There is almost 5,500 people who work for our City’s Department of Transportation. And they do so much, their work is essential but it’s unsung, it’s not the kind of work again that makes the front pages, but it’s the kind of work that is essential so everyone else’s life can come together so everyone can get where they’re trying to go so the busiest place on earth keeps moving.

And I want to honor all of them, and thank everyone at the Department of Transportation for that work. But do so in the context of honoring George, because his devotion is an example to all of us. His understating of how important the work was. His sacrifice is something we all need to appreciate and remember and it should also be a reason to appreciate all who do this crucial work.

I want to finish by just speaking to the family once again. And I want to name everyone as I do – Tara I just want to thank you, because anyone who goes through life and lives the right way could only do so because they had a great partner by their side. To George’s children, Corey, and George, Meagan, David, Elizabeth, Emily and Tara and of course we remember Thomas who was lost earlier. And to all of his grandchildren, and his sister Carolann, thank you for the beautiful remembrances. To all the family here, I can only say to you something personal from my own experience. I lost my father too early in life as well. And I can tell you that it obviously creates so much pain so many times when you wonder what might have been but I can also tell you from the heart that your father is always with you. It’s an amazing feeling, but you will feel it many times. You’ll feel him by your side, you’ll feel him watching over you, you’ll feel him like an angel looking out for you. And it’s hard to describe, but it’s something you’ll come to know because you’ve got all that love, you’ve got a great example it doesn’t go away, it’s in you. And you will continue to feel it, and at any moments, including moments of doubt – sometimes you’ll wonder and it’s almost like you’ll hear a voice reminding you of all that your father taught you.

So he will be that angel on your shoulder. And I’m told that George’s co-workers heard him say more than once a phrase – it was someone is watching me from above. Well, I know someone was always watching George from above because his life came together in so many wonderful ways. But now we can all say that George is watching us from above as well. So to the family on behalf of 8.5 million New Yorkers, my deepest condolences and to George’s extended family at the DOT as well. To all who knew and loved him, I hope we all remember to keep his good memory alive and to live the way he lived.

Thank you, and God bless you all.

[…]

Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Department of Transportation: Thank you, thank you for being in this this beautiful house of worship. And thank you, Mr. Mayor, for those beautiful remarks. I know they meant a lot to Tara and George's family – means a lot to the DOT family as well. And Tara, I thank you and your dear children for allowing me to be here today to speak on behalf of George's DOT family, which is also grieving. He was loved by so many of us as well and I speak on behalf of me and so many of his colleagues who are here – Margaret Forgione, Joe Jarrin, Bob Collyer, many of his bridges colleagues and colleagues throughout DOT.

I've heard from them how George was so beloved particularly within the Harlem River Bridges Group, especially from his dear friend and partner Jesse Weber. Jesse was with George at the end and I know he's now experiencing his own treasured memories and those treasured memories will keep us all going. George as you all know he was an extraordinary colleague, a man of incredible positivity, experience, and energy. As we've heard today he was a man with incredible technical gifts – electrical work on our bridges many of them are very old. combining thousands of volts of electricity, massive movements of steel; they can be perilous. Jesse has talked to me particularly about how George's meticulous thoughtful nature and deep planning helped keep those dangers at bay.

As many of you know George would get up early.  He'd be at work early and already be pouring over plans, looking over as the Mayor mentioned some of the complicated and exotic bridges that the city owns. He had incredible talents as an electrician and he was revered within the DOT as the man you could call to fix a bridge that nobody else knew how to fix. He was of course also as we've heard so much today -- so many beautiful reminiscences from his family. You know a man naturally who has such a large and loving family he had also a natural affinity for the next generation. He was an incredible teacher and mentor and encouraged the young people at DOT to better their skills in their professional growth. You know as you heard the Mayor said George and his colleagues in bridges are really among the city's unsung heroes.  They're often out there day and night challenging sometimes dangerous conditions, making sure the city's infrastructure is working, making sure the city's running. And I want to thank him and his colleagues in the other parts of my agency: there'sBridges, Roadways, Sidewalks, Ferries, Signals, and Streetlights.

As we honor George, we honor them too.  As we have heard today George was a deeply spiritual person a devoted husband and family man.   I've gotten to know some of his family a little bit and hear some of the stories from Tara them growing up together and as we've heard today of the love, the laughter, the Saturday-night dinners they shared, and of course the rock and roll. And that of course George was well known with his family and his colleagues.  And I know he was a big fan of some of the big groups – David Bowie, Rolling Stones, and I know he and Tara made sure to take the kids sometimes to concerts, and I hope all of you will treasure those memories -- and I'm sure there are many other memories you have of your remarkable father. 

Again, I want to share my condolences.  And I just want to close by expressing DOT’s gratitude to some of our fellow city workers, many whom know the grief we are all feeling today all too well and they've been such a help to us in this difficult time.  From the NYPD Highway Patrol officers who arrived on the scene to the EMTs and workers at Jacobi Hospital and then to the remarkable FDNY team who've helped us and the family during these difficult days. DOT were so grateful to all of you who've aided us in our grief. They remind us all that all of us in city service, George included, are part of a larger family.

Tara, DOT does not lose many of our workers in the line of duty, with George we know we have lost such a special man. He will be missed and remembered by all of us and his DOT colleagues, we will continue to support you and your family in every way we can in the weeks and months and years ahead. 

And today, we're just grateful to be here to mourn but also to celebrate the life of this remarkable man and remarkable colleague.

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