NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — Family, friends, and colleagues are mourning the loss of a man affectionately known throughout the Newport community as “Cornbread.”
James Crookes, 58, died at the hospital after he was pulled from a fire at his Clinton Street home on Friday.
Crookes worked at the Castle Hill Inn for decades, having been hired right out of high school.
“He would’ve just celebrated his 39th anniversary with us,” manager Brian Young said. “When other people had a bad day, he would always say something to lift their spirits.”
Crookes was the chef responsible for the inn’s famous clam chowder, according to Young.
“He was an amazing man,” Young said. “I saw him daily because he single-handedly made all of the clam chowder over the years for all our hotel’s guests and our restaurant.”
“Even if he wasn’t at work, if he was off for a little bit, he would always talk to people closest to him, the chef, or to me, and say, ‘How are things, and how’s the chowder going?'” he added.
The family said they were already dealing with a tragedy when they were handed another loss.
“It’s tough because we just lost my brother,” his cousin, Brigid O’Brien, said. “[Crookes] is like my fourth brother. I have three.”
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
“We’ve all been affected,” Young said. “But we do know he’s up there and making clam chowder.”