George F. Kovats was born to George Stephen Kovats and Clara Zabinski Kovats in Brooklyn, NY right before Europe knew WWII. Back then, the Great Depression left empty building lots in Brooklyn where kids would play stickball and bring stolen potatoes to roast during school hours, only to be chased by policemen. Back then, when you got caught, the roughing up done by the cop was nothing compared to what waited at home.
George was a tinkerer at heart, encouraged by his father’s vocation and days at his grandparents’ house pulling apart and piecing together appliances. His grandfather “Mudgie” in particular nurtured this curiosity, and helped shape George’s idea of manhood. In time he’d resemble the large stature of this Polish brass worker.
In school, he took to math, but was mostly drawn to machine shop. He’d even staged a personal protest against music class, until the school yielded and offered him consecutive classes in machine shop. It was no surprise he’d follow his father’s footsteps into noisy hangars of gigantic motors and machines.
The day after George graduated from Our Lady of Angels High School, he was at the office of American Machine and Foundry looking for employment. His father, George Stephen, was an acting foreman there and made certain his son would receive no preferential treatment. Following the ranks of many others, the younger George would work the floors building machines that made smaller machines. There were noises louder than you could imagine, dangers waited past every verbal rule, and a lot of sweat was owed each day.
George adapted, and went on to carry days at the shop and with nights as a Coney Island bartender. He’d sweat through his shifts, mingle in the evenings, and close each night with dip in the water. Before this became routine, he was drafted by the Army. In 1957, George was on the way to becoming a Motor-T specialist when his father fell ill. In the midst of training, George was transferred to Fort Hamilton, NY on compassionate assignment in order to stay close with his sick father. Lo and behold, he’d known the General’s secretary from bartending days, and soon he was the base General’s driver. His two years closed comfortably, and in spite of an offer to travel to France as a Sergeant, George opted to return to his sick father and the machine shop.
The years that followed would be marked by the death of his father, the marriage of his two brothers, a move to the New York City Transit Authority maintenance shop in Coney Island, and a routine of work, dinner with his mother, and nights out with the boys. By his thirties, George had become a professional bachelor, drinking through the nights and working his shifts with a heavy head. In the fall, he’d spend weekends with friends in an upstate New York hunting lodge, paying his way as the lodge’s cook. Living for years with his mother had honed his cooking skills, enabling him to manage a kitchen and meals for 40 men each weekend.
By 40, it would seem evident a family wasn’t in George’s future. With his two younger brothers long married, George was comfortable in his bachelor routine, living in the same apartment he’d grown up in, working days in Coney Island, enjoying his nights around Bay Ridge, and occasionally volunteering his time to church organizations for occasional events.
One fall, the wife of a hunting lodge buddy set George up with a neighbor on a blind date. He escorted a 31 year-old Pittsburgh native, Jennifer MacQueen, to a local Halloween dance at St. Anselm’s church. It was a busy evening as George was serving as both Jennifer’s date and one of the event organizers. In the midst of the evening, Jennifer had mentioned in conversation that she was holding a dinner with friends the next day. Once they’d closed their evening and parted ways, George returned the next day with a dozen trays of unserved food from the previous evening to help supply Jennifer’s gathering. That gesture won her over – it revealed a compassionate provider who would always find ways to help others.
A year later, the two would be married, and shortly after they would have their first child, another boy named George.