George T. Dracker, Typesetter and Printer

Dec. 9, 1921 - Feb. 03, 2016
George T. Dracker, Dec. 9, 1921 - Feb. 03, 2016

George T. Dracker, who made East Hampton his home for almost 70 years and worked as a linotype operator for The East Hampton Star for 14 years, died on Feb. 3 at his house on Dayton Lane. He had been in declining health for several years.

He was 94 and during his life those who knew and loved him called him Red.

Born in Winfield, Queens, on Dec. 9, 1921, to George A. Dracker and the former Amelia Schneegas, he was one of six children. His four brothers, his father, and his grandfather were all in the bricklaying trade. Winfield is now part of both Maspeth and Woodside.

His Catholic faith was important to him from childhood on, but so, too, was his family. One of his favorite stories about growing up during the Great Depression was when he was an altar boy. Every morning, he would run to St. Mary’s Church for 6 a.m. Mass. One day, a man who had watched him run by every morning secretly placed a dollar bill in his path. Amazed, the preteen scooped it up, ran home, and gave it to his mother to buy food with. Then he ran back out and made it in time for Mass.

Baseball was the game of the day when he was growing up. Red lived for the game, his family said in a notice to The Star, and he would play as often as he could, until the sun set.

At one point in his youth, he was stricken with rheumatic fever. Bedridden for six months, as soon as he was out of the house he was back on the baseball diamond in Winfield. Along with his brothers, he and other local youths started up a sandlot team called the Winfield Buccaneers, playing other teams from across the city.

After graduating from Bryant High School, he took a job at a Manhattan financial firm, E.W. Axe and Company. He started out in the mailroom but ended up being assistant to Mr. Axe.

When the war came, he enlisted in the Navy. He mastered Morse code and was deployed as a radioman on seaplanes like the Pan American Clipper. Stationed in Florida, he flew transports of men and materials throughout South and Central America.

During the war, his relationship with a Winfield girl ripened to love through the letters they sent back and forth, and he married the former Ellen Emma Graulich on Aug. 28, 1945, just days after leaving the Navy. The couple initially settled down in Carmel, N.Y.

He took a job at the local Carmel newspaper, The Putnam County Courier, where he set cold type for the paper from a typesetter drawer, after studying linotype operation and typesetting in Manhattan.

In 1947, he saw a help wanted ad in The New York Times for a job as a linotype operator at The East Hampton Star. He took the long ride out on the Long Island Rail Road and was hired that day for the job by Arnold Rattray, who put him up that evening so that he could start work the following day. He went on to set the hot lead type for the next 14 years for the paper.

After living on Main Street for several years, Mr. and Mrs. Dracker purchased a property on Dayton Lane from E.T. Dayton. There, they lived ever since, raising six children. One of those children, Merilyn Bellafiore of Sag Harbor, spoke yesterday about the family routine in the summer when her father was working at The Star. He would work all day, she said, until dinnertime, when the family would come pick him up. They would go to Georgica Beach and have dinner, and then it was back to work at the paper. She recalled how her siblings used to come by The Star and peek in the window, watching their father work.

In 1966, Mr. Dracker purchased Long Island East, Inc., a printing business in Southampton. He worked for many years there, setting type and printing along with his partner and son-in-law, Gregory Bellafiore.

He was very involved with local organizations and activities, serving as a volunteer fireman in the East Hampton department, a Boy Scout leader of Troop 102, a coach of the local women’s softball team, where he taught all his daughters to play ball, and a member of the Community Council and Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church.

His love of his faith and of his wife showed itself best when it would snow. He would clear a path from their Dayton Lane house to the church, so that his wife could attend daily Mass. Mrs. Dracker died in 2014.

He loved working in his garden and reading about history, especially that of the town he loved.

George Dracker is survived by his son, George Dracker Jr. of East Hampton, and, in addition to Ms. Bellafiore, four other daughters: Barbara Dracker and Pune Dracker of Manhattan, Patricia Dracker of East Hampton, and Ellen Mullen of Hyattsville, Md., as well as his older sister, Dorothy, who lives in Queens. He leaves four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. His brothers died before him.

There was a funeral Mass held for him at Most Holy Trinity on Monday, after which he was buried in the church’s cemetery.