“It is more than about time, 36 years later, to bid a proper farewell to Vernon Kroening.”


I almost missed “A Proper Farewell.” There is a compelling poignancy to this story of forgotten history, of the music director at a church entirely unworthy of him, and the little-known Dutch dorman, extending to the deranged shooter Crumpley, who spent the rest of his life in secure psychiatric hospitals.

The same writer provides further background here:

New York’s Own Anti-Gay Massacre, Now Barely Remembered.

A Proper Farewell, Finally, for a Victim of an Anti-Gay Rampage in New York, by David W. Dunlap (NYT)

Thirty-six years after Vernon Kroening, music director of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, was killed outside the Ramrod bar in the West Village, friends remembered him as “all-embracing.”

It is more than about time, 36 years later, to bid a proper farewell to Vernon Kroening.

Mr. Kroening, a Minnesota native and former Benedictine monk, was the music director, choirmaster and organist of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Greenwich Village.

He was 32 years old. He loved the liturgy. He loved the church. And he loved other men.

On the night of Nov. 19, 1980, heading home from a musical rehearsal, Mr. Kroening stopped at the Ramrod bar in the West Village. That placed him in the line of fire when Ronald K. Crumpley, a homophobic former transit police officer and minister’s son, went on a murderous rampage through the neighborhood, shooting a submachine gun indiscriminately into a crowd of men standing in front of the Ramrod and Sneakers, another gay bar, on West Street.

Mr. Kroening was killed instantly. Jorg Wenz, a 24-year-old doorman at the Ramrod, died hours later at St. Vincent’s Hospital. Six other men were wounded that night.

Prejudice and institutional reticence held The New York Times back from giving faces to these victims and telling their stories at the time, as it did with those who were killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., in June.