A True Brooklynite Can Talk To Anyone

Yes ... It's the 70s.
(Peter with Marie)

The saying is if you are a true New Yawker -- you consider yourself multi-lingual -- because you can curse in a multitude of languages.

When Peter died as you can imagine a multitude of neighbors showed up to the funeral to pay their respects to the family, while honoring Peter's untimely death, amazing talents and beautiful personality. The most interesting thing was the wide range of people who arrived. There were childhood friends from East 15th Street  ... there were long time friends from Peter's early musical career (Stan Pillis, John Campos to name a few) ... there were parks department buddies ...

... and then there was a small group of teen Hasidic Jewish boys and their father, Mr. Gelber who came to pay their respects. While they didn't cry, they did tear up a little when speaking with Peter's sister Pamela about their relationship with Pete. They talked about how they first met Peter when they were very young (he would turn their lights on during the Sabbath). Then throughout their childhood Peter would invite them into his life ... by showing them how to work on his car, or what the meaning was behind the symbols that Peter painted on stage  backdrops ... they talked of Peter's cats ... how they missed Nettie ... and how Peter would ask them specific things about their religion and their family traditions. They felt that they could ask Peter questions about current affairs or to talk with Pete about what it was like traveling the world and playing instruments for millions of fans. They believed that Peter was a cherished friend. And in their life, there was no one like him.

Just like the Gelber boys, Peter had a desire to reach out and communicate to people who didn't fit neatly into his "inner circle."

When we were younger (I was 10 yo), a chinese family moved onto East 18th Street. The mother and father seemed to work all the time, leaving their children, Joseph and Linda, with their live-in grandmother. She was a short, stout, serious-looking women who didn't speak English, but created the most amazing backyard vegetable farm we had ever seen. While Marie and I became friends with Linda (my age) and Joseph (Marie's age), the grandmother wasn't very friendly to us at first ... but then she met Peter.

Every morning, Linda's Grandmother worked in her garden, and when Peter saw her, he would call out to her, in a made-up chinese SOUNDING language just to see what her reaction would be. He'd laugh and make goofy faces to see what she would do. At first she seemed to be a little frightened by him. Whenever she'd see him and he'd call out his language to her, she'd run back into the house. Then the next couple of times Peter saw her, he'd continue with his make-believe language. She would look at him and say something in her language and run in the house.

When Linda and Joseph were allow to play in Nettie's house with us, Peter asked Joseph to give him a couple of words to learn. To spell them out phonetically so he could try to mimic. Then one day we were all out playing "running bases" on the sidewalk -- Peter, Nancy, me, Marie, Joseph, Linda, Michelle, Josh and Tara -- the Grandmother came out to call her grandkids in for dinner. When she called their names, Peter mimicked her voice perfectly (Yuēsèfu  约瑟夫). And for the first time she smiled, waved, and Peter waved back.

Then every morning that Peter saw her, she would say hello to him in Chinese and he would have a conversation with her, using his made up Chinese language, and she would smile, laugh, wave, talk back to him, and blow kisses to him. Weeks later, she had invited Peter into her garden (he climbed the 2 fences between them), and she explained about her vegetables to him in Chinese, while he bantered back in English and his make-believe language. She would send the kids over with presents from Chinatown to Peter (Chinese Taffy was a favorite) and he would bring her watering buckets for her garden. She never learned English and he didn't really learn Chinese, but they were friends because Peter had an interest in her.


  1. 我没有中文语言线索。
    I have no clue in chines language, but the signs are nice. Thank you for this wonderful story again!

  2. What a doll. Seriously. Great man.

  3. What a lovely story! He really was magical wasn't he! That's one of the things I love about him the most....his ability to make everyone feel like they mattered! P.s that pic of him and Marie is priceless!!!!

  4. Ya know, you ladies have an awesome brother, uncle in Pete. Such a charasmatic and charming man. I dont use "had" as your memories are still alive within your heart. So yes, Pete is still alive. Some folks dont understand that if you still have that love deep within the heart that Pete's body may be gone, but his Spirit and love is still alive. In all of us weather we knew him or not. But thats just how I see it.

    I love your stories about Pete and the fun things he did in his life. I (we) am so happy for all of the wonderful memories of Pete that you share with us. Thank you much for that. Much love & utmost respect to the entire Ratajczyk family. xoxoxox

  5. its amazing how many people he touched...who knows or could know the countless lives he impacted through him just being him.great story,as always.
    -erik hernandez-

  6. Geez! Just when I think he couldn't get any better, he does! I don't know, these stories just make my day. What a soul he was, what a very special man.

  7. i am so glad to find this website,its so nice to hear these wonderful stories about Peter and his family, awsome.

  8. Hi girls--

    What a great story. He certainly had a knack for reaching out and touching people, connecting with them, in his own way.

    Much love & gratitide--
    Patty P

    P.S. Love the pic of Peter w/Marie. Peter and I are the same age, so seeing these pics brings back my own memories. :)

  9. He was truly a very special person.

  10. Why don't I ever get cool, amazingly sexy guys as neighbors? No, I always get stuck with the ancient hillbilly who collects dirty socks and never blinks. There is no justice in the world.

  11. This explains the time Pete responded with a Polish reply to a friend who was trying to impress him by speaking Russian to him. Ever the prankster but always trying to communicate. He must've known how isolated that neighbor was, having no one to talk with but family, and he did seem to reach out whenever possible. It's easy to envision his happier pre-fame days through your experiences and good to know he never let go of his willingness to share with people even after the craziness of fame surrounded him. Thank you.

  12. What a beautiful story. It put a genuine smile on my face. Thank you. :)

  13. This has put a smile on my face :) imagening Pete talking in Chinese - his interest for languages showed up early and it is such a gift if someone reaches out to other ones and tries to make a connection as Pete did - such a beautiful story again - the pic of Marie & Pete is so sweet.
    Thank you for sharing :)

  14. LOL....This is too funny, it just cracks me up that peter has such a great sense of humor! Awesome story thank you for sharing :)

  15. beautiful, touching story. Peter was indeed a sweet, loving soul. And kindness being a universal language, of course he would manage to reach out to this lady. Made-up Chinese LOL! Pure Peter. thank you so much for sharing

  16. AAAAWWWW; this story really touched my heart, thank you so much for sharing it with us. He was such a gentle and friendly human being, it's heart-wrenching to know he is gone. Stay strong & thanks for all the stories!

  17. Just another reason Peter was so very special. He made everyone around him feel loved and welcome in his life.
    Peter Steele will be dearly missed by so many people.
    I really wish I could of met Peter and seen Type "O" Negative. I shouldn't let the fact I got married in 1997 stop me continuine to love TON & that includes seeing a show or 2 or 3!!! In another life ,I definately will......