George Brunacini excelled at everything he did.
The Albuquerque businessman and Kentucky horse breeder would help anybody with anything.
Those are the memories that came through Jude Worden’s shock after hearing that Brunacini, 60, had died Sunday in a plane crash.
“I always wanted a brother like him, if I could have had one,” said Worden, 71, of his cousin. “He was a good man.”
Those who knew Brunacini were in shock Sunday after learning that he was one of 50 people aboard Comair Flight 5191 from Lexington, Ky. to Atlanta.
The plane crashed Sunday morning during takeoff, killing everyone on board except the first officer. Final identification of the victims has yet to come, but family members confirmed that Brunacini was on board.
“He (Brunacini) lived in both Albuquerque and Kentucky, back and forth all the time,” Worden said. “That was the scary part of seeing that plane. I just had a bad feeling about it, but I didn’t want to believe it could happen, and it’s still kind of hard to believe.”
Worden remembered Brunacini’s fierce competitiveness, especially on the racquetball court.
“He didn’t like to lose,” Worden said. “He was a dominator, and he was good at everything he did.”
He said Brunacini would have been 61 in early September, but age wasn’t slowing him down.
“He told me he was going to retire when he was 50, but he didn’t quite make it,” Worden said. “He was too ambitious and had too many things he had to do.”
Brunacini’s career as a businessman in Albuquerque went in many directions, all of them successful, Worden said. When Brunacini was younger, he worked at an Albuquerque appliance store owned by his parents. Worden said Brunacini founded a thriving real estate and construction firm that has developed many large projects throughout the Duke City.
Then there were the horses.
“That was a passion,” Worden said.
Since 1996, Brunacini has owned and operated Bona Terra Farms, a 200-acre facility near Georgetown, Ky., that is home to about 50 mares, according to the Web site of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. A horse that Brunacini bred, Flower Alley, placed ninth in the 2005 Kentucky Derby.
“The dream was to . . . not only train, but to be a horse breeder,” said Nino Trujillo, a friend of Brunacini’s since the early 1980s. “He wanted to do that for a long time.”
The two men worked together often on real estate deals and regularly shared meals. It was just three weeks ago they ate breakfast, Trujillo said. He remembered their conversations often centering on work.
“He just was always thinking about the next deal he wanted to do,” he said. “He was always busy doing something.”
But never too busy to attend the wrestling matches of his son, Angelo Brunacini, Trujillo said.
“His family came first,” he said. “He was very generous and just down-to-earth individual. I’m going to miss him.”