The Obit For Ed Kukulka

Ed "Cookie" Kukulka, 92, Ballplayer.

Published in the Journal Inquirer from 4/2/2009 - 4/6/2009

A loving husband, father, family man, and fitness pioneer passed away on Monday, March 30, 2009, at the Kimberly Hall Nursing Home in Windsor.

"Cookie," as he was known by friends and co-workers, left behind generations of men who were influenced by his personal interest in them as "ballplayers." Almost all remember Ed as a baseball player and fitness enthusiast, who was always running, swimming, playing pool, bowling, weight training, or walking anywhere in Enfield.

He was born in Thompsonville, in the shadow of the Bigelow-Sanford Carpet Mill, and attended the Higgins School and the old Enfield High School, where he played and excelled as a baseball and basketball player, graduating in 1934. Upon graduation he signed a professional baseball contract with the St. Louis Cardinals as a pitcher and played with such baseball legends as Dizzy Dean, Paul Medwick, and Frankie Frisch.

Throughout the next three years he progressed through the Cardinal farm system until an elbow injury sidelined his immediate pursuit to play in the majors. During that time he played one season of semi-pro football with the Hartford Grays as the quarterback and punter. He returned home to Thompsonville and played baseball locally until he enlisted in the Navy in 1942.

In the Navy, Ed served for three years as a radioman on the Destroyer Escort USS Eisele in the Pacific Fleet with combat tours off Okinawa and in the build-up for the invasion of Japan. In 1946 he was honorably discharged and awarded the Good Conduct, Victory, and Asiatic Pacific (one-star) medals and returned to Enfield, where he remained a member of the John Maciolek American Legion Post.

After the war in 1947, he continued his pursuit of baseball with the Dodger organization, where he met a younger generation of ballplayers and played with the likes of Jackie Robinson and many others in that 1948 training camp.

He was released from play by Leo Derocher, who felt that at 27 he was too old to start a "rookie" career and, in turn, offered him a coaching position in the Dodger minor league system. Ed declined the offer as his desire to play baseball still burned fiercely.

Ed returned to Enfield to play baseball for the Bigelow-Sanford Carpet team and led them to an AAA Championship in 1948. He then moved on to play in the Hartford Twilight League from 1949 to 1962 and in the Industrial State League from 1952 to 1962. In each league he was both a pitcher and third baseman, winning 10 consecutive batting titles and eight golden glove awards.

Following his retirement from competition, he began to coach his sons and the neighborhood kids in Little League. His love for the game and his devotion to fitness allowed him to pitch batting practice for his sons and their teams years later when they played for Enfield High School in the early 70's and even train with his sons when they played collegiate sports.

In 1988, he was inducted into Hartford's Twilight League Hall of Fame and in 1997 was inducted into the town of Enfield's Athletic Hall of Fame. Ed retired in 1982 after 30 years of service for Hamilton Standard and in 1989 moved with his wife to Redding to be near his new grandchildren. In 1995 they returned to Enfield.

In April 1948, Ed married Jeanne Loftus, who survives him and with whom he enjoyed a lifelong romance. He is also survived by his son, John, and wife, Elizabeth Hanson, of Ridgefield; his son, Walter, of Phoenix, Ariz., and daughter, Kathryn, and her companion, William Habler, of Laguna Beach, Calif.; grandchildren, Ian of Winter Park, Fla., Jocelyn of New York City, Whitney and Charmagne of Phoenix, Ariz.

Ed was predeceased by his brother, Joseph, and is survived by his sisters, Mary Messina of Manchester, Josephine Murawski of Torrington, Stella Malinoski of Enfield, Frances Mell of Longmeadow, Mass.; and brothers, Theodore "Ted" of Ellington and Raymond of Coventry, R.I.

Calling hours will be held at Browne Memorial Funeral Chapel, 43 Shaker Road, Enfield, on Saturday, April 4, 2009, between the hours of 9 and 11:30 a.m., followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at noon in St. Martha Roman Catholic Church, 214 Brainard Road, Enfield. The burial with military honors will follow in St. Patrick's King Street Cemetery.

Memorial donations in Edmond's memory may be made to St. Martha Church, 214 Brainard Road, Enfield, CT 06082.