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Obituary: George L. Kotrosa, Steelworker, Edgemere Restaurant Owner, Family Man

The Bay Shore Bar and Grill owner died of cancer Nov. 26.

Bay Shore Bar and Grill owner George Kotrosa owner died of cancer Nov. 26. Photo courtesy of Kotrosa family
Bay Shore Bar and Grill owner George Kotrosa owner died of cancer Nov. 26. Photo courtesy of Kotrosa family
George Louis Kotrosa Jr., a retired Bethlehem Steel Corp. employee who invested his retirement fund in an Edgemere restaurant, died of cancer Nov. 26. He was 69.

Kotrosa, who was born and raised in Edgemere and never ventured far from the peninsular community he loved, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in June 2012. 

He approached the illness like he did everything in his life, according to family members, attacking it vigorously, privately and with dignity and strength. He endured a comprehensive treatment program that barely slowed him down, and he lived nearly a year longer than medical experts expected.

Kotrosa graduated from Sparrows Point High School in 1962 and went to work at the nearby steel mill in 1963. Over a 40-year career, he worked in just about every division and department at the mill that employed generations of North Point peninsula and other nearby residents.

He worked at the plant's chemical lab, blast furnace and railroad, among other departments and divisions, his wife, Sharyn Kotrosa, said.

"He worked as an engineer at Bethlehem Steel and when ISG bought Beth Steel, he worked in the tech department, which wasn't connected to any shop," his daughter, Suzanne Hobson, said. "His job was basically to put himself out of a job at that point, as he moved from shop to shop installing or upgrading the technology in each."

While working full-time and raising a family, Kotrosa earned a bachelor's degree in engineering from The Johns Hopkins University and had completed most of the requirements for a master's degree in the same discipline, his wife said.

When ISG bought the plant from Beth Steel in 2003, the tech department was eliminated and Kotrosa received a portion of his previously promised pension in a lump sum, his daughter said.

Not looking forward to the prospect of starting again at the bottom of an information technology company, or competing with much younger job applicants, Kotrosa looked around for something to sink his retirement teeth into and discovered, through a happenstance meeting with then-owner Mike Birmingham, that Edgemere's Bay Shore Bar and Grill was for sale.

"Out of the blue, he decided to buy it," Hobson said.

Kotrosa apprenticed himself out as a volunteer at another restaurant in exchange for being able to learn the business from the ground up before taking ownership of his own eatery.

He mopped floors, cleaned the kitchen and did all the mundane chores for free while learning about ordering, unit pricing, building a menu, recruiting and hiring a staff, liquor laws and the service industry in general, according to Hobson.

He recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of restaurant ownership and was proud to see the Bay Shore continue as a family-oriented restaurant supportive of community efforts and programs.

Kotrosa married his high school sweetheart, the former Sharyn Shultz, on June 29, 1964.

He lamented that his illness would probably rob him of two important milestones in his life, according to his wife—he would have turned 70 on Jan. 7, and he and his bride would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary next June.

"He loved SCUBA diving and his garden—he grew tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables every year," Sharyn Kotrosa said. "His garden was a big thing, but he was involved in so many things."

For 25 years, he helped chaperone Scouting activities that his wife led.

"He went on every trip we took and helped with every activity we had," she said of her husband. "We were involved in Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and Explorers."

But beyond demanding careers and fulfilling hobbies and interests, Kotrosa was above all else a family man—his wife, children, grandchildren and extended family were everything to him, according to those who knew him best.

"He was an amazing husband and father," Sunny Campbell, a cousin of Sharyn's, said. "But being a grandfather changed his life in so many ways, from the moment they were born—it was just something different."

He taught his grandson, Zane, how to walk, and proudly supported the activities and interests of his grandson and granddaughter Erynn.

Kotrosa, who was raised a Catholic, attended St. Luke's Catholic Church in Edgemere in his younger years, according to his wife.

He died in the home that his father, George Louis Kotrosa Sr., built and in which he was raised.

In addition to gardening and being a family man, Kotrosa loved traveling and counted Aruba and Mexico among his favorite destinations, mainly because of his love of diving, his wife said.

He took a trip to Greece in September, a destination he had long had on his "bucket list."

In his final act of altruism, Kotrosa donated his body to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center's Sydney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center for research purposes.

Kotrosa was preceded in death by his parents, Barbara Ruth and George L. Kotrosa Sr.

In addition to his wife, daughter and two grandchildren, he is survived by his son, George L. Kotrosa III, sister Barbara Lee Strasburger of Indiana, brother Charles E. Kotrosa of Edgemere, numerous nieces, nephews and extended family members and countless friends and acquaintances.

A celebration of Kotrosa's life will be held for family members and close friends in early January.



Buzz Beeler December 12, 2013 at 10:27 PM
So sad to lose a loved one this time of year. It doesn't seem fair. My condolences to Mr. Kotrosa's family.
Elaine Summerhill December 13, 2013 at 08:34 PM
I'm so sorry to hear about George's passing. I had the pleasure & honor of working with with him on the "L" blast furnace. He was a good man. My heartfelt condolences & prayers to his family.

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