Bob Carney was more than just the friendly face in the tavern that’s been described as this small community’s “Cheers.”
He and his wife, Rosemary, also volunteered for the Ballston Lake Fire Department and supported just about every community event as owners of Carney’s Restaurant in the hamlet on Route 146A.
And he was active — canoeing, bicycling and walking around Ballston Lake. So it was a shock to friends and customers when 71-year-old Bob Carney died Wednesday after a short illness.
“This is a terrible shock, and it’s a loss to our community,” said Joanne DeVoe of Glenville, a customer and longtime friend of the couple. “He was always there every time we went in. It’s kind of our ‘Cheers,’ ” she said of the tavern, referring to the popular TV show in the 1980s and early 1990s about a neighborhood bar.
“He’d always say, ‘How are your kids?’ ”
But the memory that sticks in DeVoe’s mind of Carney was his tenderness with his wife.
At a private party in January on Ballston Lake, Rosemary Carney decided she’d be a “polar bear” with some other brave souls and plunge into the frozen lake, DeVoe said.
Bob stood on the dock behind her as she jumped in for a brief dip.
“She was the first one out, and he was right there to give her a hand and a towel,” said DeVoe, who got the news Thursday while vacationing in Florida. “I think they were very supportive of each other.”
Carney was also a good neighbor, said Patre Kuziak, owner of Marcella’s restaurant and deli in Glenville.
“It seems like the restaurateurs in this area always pull together for whoever needs us,” Kuziak said. “That caliber of people in the business and personally seems to be a dying trend, unfortunately.”
Carney and his wife have always been willing to pitch in for community events, echoed Ballston Town Supervisor Patti Southworth.
“Bob was one of those people you could rely on,” she said. “It was quite a shock this morning when I walked through the door and that was the first thing I heard.”
The restaurant, which is marking its 30th year under the Carneys’ ownership, is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, and holds a big St. Patrick’s Day celebration every year.
For most of its 175-year history, the building was a restaurant, hotel and train and trolley stop called the Ballston Lake Hotel.
The couple bought the business in 1982 without a clear plan, Bob Carney told The Sunday Gazette in February 2011.
“Neither one of us had any experience, but I always liked this place and taking it over was always in the back of my mind,” he said. “It was run-down. It was a mess. But we did a lot of cosmetic work, and then renovated just about every room in the place.”
The business saw its share of struggles over the three decades. In 2008, a sewage issue and disagreement with the state Department of Environmental Conservation almost caused the restaurant to close.
About six years ago, a septic system on the property was found to be failing and was sending raw sewage into a tributary of Ballston Lake. In late 2006 the restaurant installed a holding tank and began pumping it out at a cost of more than $900 a week.
The state then assessed $454,000 in fines and penalties, which the Carneys challenged in court in 2010.
Carney was born in East Meadow, Long Island, and grew up in Troy, graduating from Troy High School in 1958, according to his obituary. He and Rosemary tied the knot in 1966. They have four children and six grandchildren.
He served in the U.S. Marine Corps and worked as a machinist for General Electric in Schenectady before devoting himself to the restaurant.
In addition to his local service work in Ballston Lake, he was currently president of the Saratoga, Schenectady and Warren County Restaurant and Tavern Association.
Calling hours will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Glenville Funeral Home, with the funeral service at 2 p.m. After that, an Irish wake will take place at the tavern starting at 3:30 p.m.
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