I lost a good friend yesterday and so did many, many others. Dennis Gorski passed away after a long fight against Parkinson’s disease.
Dennis approached that challenge just like he did in every other one he faced in his life – with determination, vigor and a positive attitude. That’s the way he was brought up and that’s the way he lived his life.
Life in the public arena can provide the highs of knowing that we have done some good for others but also the hurt of being criticized for things that didn’t turn out so well or maybe were just misunderstood. That’s life. Dennis knew that well.
I have been a friend of Dennis for nearly fifty years. Dennis’ work through all these years has been consistently dedicated and honest. It would be difficult for me to think of another public official who has worked harder to understand and to carry out his responsibilities.
We both grew up in the Kaisertown part of Buffalo where people understand and appreciate the value of hard work. For Dennis that is how he has operated in all the jobs he ever had.
The real world began for him in Vietnam. He was a Marine Captain and he learned very quickly how to lead by example and to push himself as hard as he pushed the men under his command.
Service in Vietnam was followed by a year in law school. But then along came an opportunity to run for public office, to stand up for what he believed in, and to try to accomplish some things for the people who put him in that office.
Three years as a member of the County Legislature were followed by thirteen more as a State Assemblyman. He understood his job was to serve and he made every effort to deliver for his constituents.
Where Dennis really made his mark was in his three terms as Erie County Executive, a job that he relished because it put him in charge of a government that touched the lives of most people living in the community through the provision of services and the management of public facilities. He went out of his way to learn all he could about all aspects of county government. He managed every dollar that the public entrusted him with as if it was his own.
I had the opportunity for the last three years of his time in that office to serve as the county budget director. That job showed me every day his skill in negotiating, cajoling and leading.
Dennis lost his try for a fourth term but he didn’t look for some sinecure to ride out his years. He worked for about twelve years in executive positions in the private sector at Blue Cross and McCullough Coffee, throwing himself into each job to learn all he could and to produce for his employers.
Along the way he served his community in a private way, providing direct and personal assistance to people in need. Most people know nothing about that work and Dennis preferred it that way.
And then the opportunity came along for public service once again. He worked with the same vigor in the 2014 campaign for Cheektowaga Town Justice that he did in his first campaign in 1971. Dennis brought the benefits of hard work and the experiences of a life in public service to the bench.
Life for most of us is not a straight-line path. It has highs and lows. It forces us to work to our strengths and deal with things we cannot control. Dennis was a master at navigating life.
Dennis leaves his wife of 46 years, Mary Jo. County government brought them together when he was a county legislator and she was a secretary in the county attorney’s office. Those offices were 7th floor neighbors at 25 Delaware Avenue back in the day. He cared deeply for his children.
Dennis Gorski will long be remembered and sadly missed. He earned the right to stand proud. I am honored to call him my friend.