Dennis James Sweeney, 80, of Greensboro, N.C., and former longtime resident of Rye, N.Y., passed away on November 1, 2023. Mr. Sweeney was not only part of the team that created and operated some of Manhattan’s finest restaurants, but also served as a volunteer fireman in Rye.
Born on April 15, 1943, in Bayside, Queens, N.Y., he was the son of Margaret (Behner) and Howard Charles Sweeney. He attended PS 31 and JHS 74 in Bayside before his family moved to Rye in 1956. After graduating from Rye High School, class of 1960, he attended Cornell University, School of Hotel Administration, graduating in 1964.
Mr. Sweeney worked as a manager at Horwath & Horwath and as a vice president at Cini-Grissom Associates before joining Joseph Baum & Associates in 1974, becoming a partner four years later. During his 34 years working with Joe Baum and Michael Whiteman at Baum & Associates, he was part of the team that designed, built, and operated the 16 restaurants in the original World Trade Center, Aurora restaurant in midtown Manhattan, the Rainbow Room, and the second iteration of Windows on the World, among many others. He worked with some of the most highly regarded chefs of the era, including James Beard, Jacques Pépin, and Michael Lomonaco, and was proud when several of their restaurants earned three-star ratings from the New York Times.
He traveled the world consulting on restaurant conception and operations, including numerous high-rise towers in Tokyo, Taipei, and Sydney (and always returned with toys and postcards for his beloved children).
Dedicated to service and volunteering, he was there to help, whether a relative needed a house painted or the hotel school needed someone to serve on a committee. He worked tirelessly for the New York chapter of the Cornell Hotel Society as vice president and eventually president. He also served as industry advisor for the Hotel Ezra Cornell Weekend and was appointed by the college’s trustees to a four-year term on the Cornell University Council. He was honored for his efforts by the hotel school with its “Hotelie of the Year” award in 1998.
Mr. Sweeney devoted time to students in the hospitality industry, serving as a guest lecturer at NYU, Cornell, and École hôtelière de Lausanne.
The purest expression of his volunteerism was as a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Rye. He not only spent decades responding to alarms and accidents, but also served as Treasurer and Warden. And, of course, he planned, managed, and cooked for all the annual picnics and holiday gatherings.
However, his favorite activity was spending time with family and friends, telling jokes and stories while enjoying good food and good drinks. The entire family shares many fond memories of the Sweeney’s backyard filled with tables — all packed with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and in-laws — carrying on and laughing.
He managed to combine his love of spending time with friends, telling jokes, and donating time to the hospitality industry by serving as Toastmaster at the Partridge Club’s Scholarship Foundation luncheons. He closed each year’s St. Patrick’s Day luncheon with the same benediction:
May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings,
Slow to make enemies, quick to make friends,
But rich or poor, quick, or slow,
May you know nothing but happiness, from this day forward.
And may you have food and raiment, a soft pillow for your head,
May you be forty years in heaven, before the devil knows you’re dead,
May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night,
And the road downhill, all the way to your door.
May you live to be a hundred years, with an extra year to repent,
And may the Lord keep you in His hand and never close His fist too tight.
Dennis Sweeney is survived by his daughter Kimberly, son Daniel, and sister Janet, as well as numerous nieces, nephews, grandnieces, and grandnephews. He was predeceased by his older sister, Ellen, and his longtime partner, Maria Palacios-Hardes.
To write a note of remembrance, visit https://www.cumbyfuneral.com/tributes/Dennis-Sweeney. Memorial donations may be made to the Partridge-Invitation Scholarship Foundation, Inc., c/o The Princeton Club of New York (Attn: Jill Ostaszewski), 15 West 43rd St., New York, NY 10036.