Ken is best described as a dedicated family man, with an incredible passion for sports and an entrepreneurial spirit.
Kenneth George was born June 3rd, 1938 to Ruth Vogel and Jerome Kowalsky in Preston, Ontario. At age five, Ken moved to Simcoe with his family. He attended St. Mary’s School, a two-room schoolhouse run by all nun teachers. In 1955, he graduated from Simcoe High School.
As a kid, sports meant everything. Ken played on four Ontario baseball championship teams and in two championship games. He played an Ontario Midget Hockey Championship in 1952-53. During his late teens and early twenties, he played baseball for St. Mary’s CYO commercial league. He pitched a no hitter striking out 19 batters in a 7-inning game and hitting a home run, while brother Earl caught for him, all in the same game. It stands out as a highlight of his sports career.
Less than 1 year apart in age, Ken and Earl were close. In the summer, they lived in Wellington Park playing and watching ball games. They spent hours playing in the dingle bush, pretending they were in the jungle. Ken and Earl played catch for countless hours, once breaking a car window; the driver gave Earl a dollar for not running away. In the winter, they played hockey on the ice rink in Wellington Park. As a father, he would later re-create an ice rink in the backyard for his kids.
Ken enjoyed visits to Kitchener to visit his family. His favourite place was Aunt Maime and Uncle Ed's; she would make them homemade fries and root beer, a big treat. Ken remembers sleepovers at Grandma and Grandpa Vogels, pulling two big armchairs together for his bed. Grandpa Vogel had a chicken coop, and Ken recalls his Grandfather placing the chicken’s neck in two large nails in floor, turning the nails so the chicken was caught, with one swing of a small chopper the chicken would flop around for a short time with no head.
Years later, when Grandpa Vogel would come to Simcoe to visit his daughter, Ruth would call Ken to come and cut his Grandfather’s hair. Ken always saw his Grandfather as a very jolly rotund man, however, in his final days in the nursing home we was only a whisper of himself, Ken recalls how sad he felt to see him that way.
Ken worked summer jobs at Canadian Canners and for Ralph Bint Construction. His first full time job was with the British Knit making $25.00 a week. They sold clothes by catalogue and Ken printed the catalogues. The business closed and Ken started with Simcoe Job Print. This business moved to Pond Street and became R.H. Perry Printing Ltd. Ken spent 13 years with Bob Perry, and brought brother Bob into the business. An opportunity to purchase the Simcoe Reformer printing division became available and with brother’s Bob and Rick, Second Ave Printing was born in 1969. This would be a big risk for Ken, but the risk would pay off, he retired 51 years later and sold his share of the business to son Jeff.
Ken first saw Jeannine Desmarais bowling in the St. Mary’s bowling league. She started to attend Regis Club (a club for out school single people) which Ken had been attending. Ken proposed to Jeannine after Midnight Mass Christmas 1959 in her parent’s home. They were married on May 28th, 1960 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Simcoe, Ontario.
Ken continued sports throughout his adult life. He took up umpiring as means of supplementing his income for his young family, often taking son Jeff to the games with him. He admits although a better ballplayer, his first love was always hockey. He spent 26 years playing competitive hockey then transitioned to pickup hockey until he hung his skates up at the age of 69.
Ken and Jeannine and their six children spent summer days around the pool and evenings at the ballpark. All celebrations revolved around the family coming together with lots of great food, a tradition that remains today. Sunday brunch and dinners were popular as well as Christmas Eve's were fondly remembered spending them with Grandma and Grandpa Kowalsky and Aunt Donna.
Church has played a prominent role in Ken’s life, early as a young altar server, then as a Eucharistic Minister for over 25 years. He is an honorary life member of the Knights of Columbus (51 years) and former financial secretary. He is the President of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
As a successful businessperson and an accomplished athlete, a husband with a proud 50-year marriage, wonderful children and plenty of healthful and happy grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Ken trusts this will be is his enduring legacy.
Happy Father's Day Dad!