THE GREAT KEN GWOZDZ
Ken Gwozdz (Goosh) was always hard to miss. He always towered above the crowd. It was only natural, with his basketball player’s stature, but it was more than his height and frame that set him above those crowds, it was the giant of a man who lived within.
Kenny grew up in Enfield, where he’s a member of the town’s athletic hall of fame, and he went on to become a two sports star at the University of Hartford, where he was inducted into the schools athletic hall of fame as both a basketball player and a baseball player. As proud as he was of his athletic accomplishments and the lifetime relationships they brought, including longtime friendships with many of the most well known and influential sports figures in state history, Ken was most proud of his accomplishments after college, when he embarked on a 35 year career as an educator in the East Hartford school system, where he served not only as a teacher, activities director and interim assistant principal, but also as a coach and an advisor, who took a special interest in helping troubled youth find the best in themselves and make it flourish.
His efforts in that direction weren’t limited to his professional life. In 1992, on his own time, with his own efforts, Ken established the Student Assistance Center, which went on to earn national recognition. The center used peer mediation to solve conflicts among students before they had a chance to become violent, teaching students to reach their potential through safe and peaceful methods. In the first three years of the program suspensions in the East Hartford school system were reduced by more than 50% and in 1995 Ken’s program was one of only seven such nationally to be recognized for it’s efforts by USA Today.
For years Kenny volunteered at Natchaug Hospitals Journey House, helping, through his many contacts, to provide cultural and educational experiences for troubled young women that, otherwise, they would not know. He also worked as as part time contractor for the Department of Children and Families, for whom he established Project Connect to help young people on parole transition back into school or work, and into society. Ken also served as a trustee for the Hartford Wolf Pack Foundation, helping to direct the foundation’s funds to deserving programs within the community, which made him a close confidant of Wolf Pack coach Ken Gernander, to whom the work of the foundation became so important.
That there was ever time for Ken to just be Ken, with his friends and, most importantly, with the love of his life, Dana, his wife of 27 years, was always a marvel to me, because he had allowed himself to become so many things to so many people, so important in the lives of all of them.
Ken and I always shared our love of sports and our membership in the East Hartford Explorers Tap Off Club Hall of Fame. As a regular member of the Tuesday morning Willow Inn Hot Stove League Kenny has been a major part of my life for more than 30 years, one of those stablizing influences that offers perspective and balance, as he has done for so many young people for so many years.
Kenny Gwozdz passed away Monday evening of complications from an illness he courageously battled for several years. He leaves one of those voids that can never be filled, because there just isn’t anyone out there big enough to fill it.
On behalf of so many friends in the sports world who will miss Ken Gwozdz so much, I’m Scott Gray.