Published in Asbury Park Press on October 6, 2009
John Kunka, 83, of Barnegat, passed away peacefully
Monday, Oct. 5, 2009, at Southern Ocean County Hospital, Stafford. He
was a firefighter for the City of Elizabeth, receiving a heroism award,
retiring in 1990 after 32 years of dedicated service to the town where
he was born and raised. Prior to this, he was employed by Esso, now known
as Exxon, and he also served honorably in the U.S. Army during World War
He was one of the most multi-talented and versatile athletes ever to play
in the city of Elizabeth.
He is the only athlete from Elizabeth known to have excelled in four sports:
basketball, baseball, football, and softball. The Cleveland Indians signed
him to a professional baseball contract to play in Pittsfield, Mass. Later,
he played football with the championship U.S. Army teams in Europe and
semi-professional with local teams upon his return home.
He was inducted into the Elizabeth Athletic Hall of Fame in April 2004.
He was also an avid golfer and enjoyed boating, fishing and crabbing.
He was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10092 and the N.J.
State Fireman's Mutual Benevolent Association.
He was predeceased by his wife of 53 years, Matilda C. (Szczepanik), in
August 2002 and is survived by a daughter, Jane, with whom he made his
home; a son, John of White House Station and daughter-in-law, Lucie; and
two grandsons, Michael and Steven.
The viewing will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 7
at Barnegat Funeral Home, 841 W. Bay Ave., Barnegat. A Mass will be offered
at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 8 from St. Mary's Church, Barnegat.
Interment will be in St. Mary's Cemetery, Manahawkin.
In lieu of flowers, donations to SOCH Foundation, 1140 Route 72 W., Manahawkin,
NJ 08050, is appreciated.