Gregory (Greg) Joseph Klosek, my best friend of the last 34 years, was born in Brooklyn on April 8, 1948; raised in Seaford, Long Island; lived in Chelsea, after graduating from New York University; and in 1984, returned to Brooklyn, first to Park Slope and then to Kensington, where he passed away on or about July 6, 2013. His death certificate gives the date July 8, for that is when I found him, but after last receiving email from him on July 5, I would put the date of his death as the day after that.
Greg is survived by his parents Edward and Mildred (Sikora) Klosek of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, sister and brother-in-law Christine (Chris) and Tom Montour, of Springboro, Ohio, and other family members, including a new grand-niece, and many neighbors, colleagues, and friends, including Jane Testa, Barbara Campagna, and their son Michael Jo Campagna Testa, whom we welcomed into the world, in Portland, Maine, 11 days after Jane gave birth to him; Paul Kimball and Barry Sorkin, with whom we shared three decades of Gay Pride breakfasts; Marc Sutton Roth, with whom we spent a number of New Year’s Eves, in Jersey City and then in Ramsey, New Jersey; Santiago Echeverry, who made a film of Greg shaving my head; and my spouse Joe Saporito and me, and cats Sonyetka and Leonie.
Greg worked for Social Security Disability, as an examiner, then as a supervisor, for more than 30 years until he retired in 2008. The first times that we saw each other, in mid-1979, were in the ‘antechamber’ to the New York State employees’ cafeteria, on the 43rd floor of Two World Trade Center, when I worked for the State Attorney General, and we would both be doing the New York Times crossword puzzle at lunchtime. Greg had also been a French teacher, a taxi driver who numbered Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Hermione Gingold among his passengers, and according to Chris, a Good Humor man. His first job ever had been at a concession stand at Jones Beach. His all but fulltime job, during his retirement, had been as a volunteer in Prospect Park, then as a trainer of volunteers, and a project to which he had been particularly devoted was the creation and maintenance of Carmen’s Garden, named for a volunteer who passed away and located in front of Litchfield Villa, headquarters of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation in Brooklyn, in Prospect Park. A memorial service will be held at Carmen’s Garden in the near future and Greg’s ashes scattered there.
Greg used to refer to me as the brother his parents never gave him and that would go for me, too. Over the course of 34 years, we were boyfriends, exes, roommates, neighbors, opera and concert-going companions, running partners, each other’s cat sitter, travel companions, health care proxies and designated executors, and best of all, the closest of friends. Greg had a sharp wit and, as an Ares, sometimes a sharp tongue, but he was there for me during, after, and between romantic relationships, and was by my side through the illnesses, deaths, and their aftermaths of our friend Richard Nezda; my late partner Joachim (Jo) Ragoczy, with whom he shared a love of Russian language and arts, and whose grave at St. Tikhon’s monastery, in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, we visited semiannually; and my parents and aunts. He was my backup when I served as legal guardian to my mother, when she had Alzheimer’s, after my father’s passing, and was particularly close to my Aunt Sylvia, who had been the last survivor of the eight siblings in my mother’s family. Greg was included, in addition to Joe, in family gatherings, whenever we’d get together with my cousins for cemetery visits and dinners after them. Another thing we shared was that we were both longtime survivors of cancer and were by each other’s side through these illnesses.
Greg and I marched together every Pride since 1979 until this year, when his heart condition would no longer permit it, and in the Marches on Washington of 1987 and 1993, and shared many a Fourth of July Grove Invasion of the Pines. We traveled together to Provincetown, Greg’s first time ever on a plane, in 1979; San Francisco in 1982, his first of many trips there; Cherry Grove, where we once had shares in a house together; Philadelphia, especially for the annual Flower Show; Key West; Maine; Boston; Washington, D.C.; and Australia, where, in 1994, we visited Sydney, the Outback, and the Great Barrier Reef. Beyond Australia, Greg’s travels to exotic lands took him to the likes of Russia, China, India, Vietnam, Turkey, Eastern Europe, Egypt, and South Africa, mostly with a company called smarTours, and this November, he was slated to visit Kenya and Tanzania.
Our shared love of music took us to Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Town Hall, Broadway, Brooklyn Academy of Music, San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House, the Sydney Opera House, Philadelphia Academy of Music, Constitution Hall, the Caramoor Festival in Katonah, New York, where he was to have gone on the evening of July 6, to Brooklyn, Queens, Lehman, and Hunter Colleges, the Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music, the San Carlos in Key West for a performance of “Cavalleria Rusticana,” and to the homes of many of the smaller opera companies in New York City.
We were members of the Wildlife Conservation Society and, as animal lovers, visited favorite zoos, aquariums, and preserves in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, Philadelphia and Camden NJ, Mystic, Connecticut, and Boston, San Francisco, Key West, and Sydney, Darwin, and Cairns, Australia. Greg’s love of plants and flowers, of which he had a large and flourishing collection of his own, took us to the likes of the New York and Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, the former Strybing Arboretum in Golden Gate Park, and the Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney.
Runners for 20 years, we participated in the Gay Pride Run in New York City for many years; in Gay Games 1994, during Stonewall 25, including the closing ceremonies, marching into Yankee Stadium under a Leather Pride flag; and in a couple of runs along the boardwalk at the Brooklyn beaches and in Woodside, Queens, where I grew up. One time, when we ran to the South Street Seaport, we greeted mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne and her then teenage daughter Angela, who were visiting there.
Beside his many plants—cacti, succulents, and flowers—Greg also had a large collection of antique clocks and was particularly fond of Seth Thomas clocks and Brooklyn-made ones from Ansonia Clock Company. He also collected stuffed bears and other animals. We knew each other through several generations of pet cats, often with Slavic or Russian names or ones derived from ancient myths.
Greg was a terrific cook, creating spicy soups and frittatas, and liked shopping for Polish kielbasa, pierogi, and babka at Eagle Provisions in Brooklyn. We went to many restaurants together, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Russian and Polish, Irish in Woodside, Italian, and a favorite diner, Olympic Flame, near Lincoln Center, before operas and concerts.
Beside Prospect Park, Greenwood Cemetery, where Leonard Bernstein and the family that made Steinway pianos are buried, was another of Greg’s favorite locales. While the park will be his final resting place, the cemetery was where he was cremated and where Joe and I picked up his ashes.
I’m glad that Greg lived long enough to see DOMA and Proposition Eight struck down this year and, two years before that, see same-sex marriage legalized in New York State. When Joe Saporito and I got married on the beach in Cherry Grove, on September 17, 2011, it was Joe’s mother who gave him away, but Greg who gave me away. Still numb with disbelief at this tremendous loss, I can almost not express how devastated I am by Greg’s death, and the extent to which it will affect me will only make itself clear in the weeks and months ahead. Rest in peace, Greg—you will be so very sorely missed.