John Costello completing barge in brother’s memory

07/03/2014 8:00 AM |
John Costello, owner of Costello Marine Contracting, began working on this barge with his brother, George David Costello, before his brother died suddenly in December 2012. He’s since named the barge after George. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

John Costello, owner of Costello Marine Contracting, began working on this barge with his brother, George David Costello, before his brother died suddenly in December 2012. He’s since named the barge after George. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Years ago, George David Costello got a call in the middle of the night. A tall ship that had been floating in Greenport harbor for a competition that week was in distress.

The ship’s anchor had managed to hook onto another, discarded anchor that was lying at the bottom of the bay; the tall ship was stuck. So Mr. Costello got dressed, drove to the waterfront, sailed the family’s construction barge out to the ship and fished the anchor out of the bay.

He later donated the anchor to the Greenport school district, where it now rests in front of the school.

George Costello was always working and always volunteering his time, even beyond his limits, his older brother, John, said last week.

George — a Vietnam veteran — would put in 16-hour days with Costello Marine Construction, then spend his weekends volunteering at the local American Legion, John Costello said.

In what little free time they had between jobs, the Costello brothers began work on a construction barge, the biggest one they’d built yet. The barge was in the works for nearly four years, as work always got in the way of its completion. But in 2012, just a few days after Christmas, George Costello died suddenly. He was on a job in Southampton when the stress caught up with him, his brother explained. He was 63.

“You only go around once,” John said, sitting in the office he and his brother once shared. “When he did it, he was a worker. He was one that got things done.”

Nearly a year and a half later, the barge the two brothers started is almost complete.

It still needs sandblasting and a new paint job, and the crane and equipment have yet to be attached. But John Costello says the vessel does have a name: George David, after his brother.

The George David is 24 feet wide by 92 feet long, meaning it will be the largest vessel built and launched from the Greenport waterfront since World War II, Mr. Costello said. The barge will serve the family business, traveling across Long Island to repair and build docks and slips.

“It’ll be in Sag Harbor, it’ll be in Three Mile Harbor, it’ll be in Montauk, Riverhead, Mattituck,” Mr. Costello said.

The brothers had worked together since they founded the company in August 1976, yet always found time to give back to the community in one way or another.

George Costello had helped lead the restoration of the historic roller rink at the Burton Potter American Legion Hall on Third Street, said American Legion Commander Craig Richter.

“He actually did 90 percent of the work there,” Mr. Richter said. “He organized the work parties. He was organizing the fundraisers … He really put his heart and soul into it.”

He and other volunteers behind the American Legion Hall renovations were honored for their work in 2011 as The Suffolk Times’ Civic People of the Year.

Then Hurricane Sandy struck, flooding the interior of the hall and causing damage to the roof. The interior has since been gutted in preparation for a full renovation.

“It’s quite a project, and I’d like to kick George right in the ass for dying on us,” Mr. Richter joked.

The Legion has since discussed naming the skating rink in memory of Mr. Costello, he said. Leadership at the hall sent its members a survey about the proposed new name for the rink. Not one of the post’s nearly 90 members objected, Mr. Richter said.

“I think it’s George’s vision — as well as mine and many others — that this building is an asset to the community,” Mr. Richter said. “Everyone understood George’s commitment to seeing this through.”

John Costello said he plans to host a launch party for the George David as a way to not only honor his brother but raise funds for the American Legion. Last time the Costello brothers launched a barge, more than 200 people attended the party; this time, John is aiming for 600 guests or more.

“It’s going to be the biggest party ever,” he said.

Mr. Richter said John — who isn’t a member of the legion — has stepped up since his brother died.

“He’s been Johnny-on-the-spot for us,” Mr. Richter said.

John Costello said he sees the fundraiser as fulfilling his brother’s promise to get the job done.

“He was trying to help so many people,” John Costello said. “I’m just finishing through.”

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