Edward (Ted) James Kozak
January 5, 1943 – June 24, 2019
Sometimes even a very small man can cast a very large shadow. (G.R.R.Martin)
Ted was born in Vancouver, but his heart and soul was given to the beauty of the Winnipeg River where he lived the rest of his life. From his father, Nick, he learned how to care for a family, grow a garden, hunt, fish, pitch horseshoes, and build a home. Rule #1 was never use one nail if two will do, better yet, use 3” screws. From his mother, Grace, he learned how to swim, how to waltz and polka, how to make the world’s best pancakes, and that boys should be comfortable giving and receiving hugs.
He and his kid brother, Tom (Judy), and younger sister, Rosemary (John) were part of a large extended clan of Kozaks, Hicks’, Lindsays, Morgans, Greens, Sundquists, Gaudreaus, and Garrows and family gatherings were frequent and lively.
Ted enjoyed a wonderful free-range childhood once chores were completed. With a gang of Keewatin and Norman friends and cousins he roamed by bike, fished and swam in the river, played endless games of pick-up baseball in summer and lived at the outdoor rink in winter. The mischief they got into was never destructive or malicious, but they certainly had their share of adventures. His teen years, especially in company with brother Tom and their Garrow cousins, stepped things up a notch to include girls, cars, hustling pool, and dancing and drinking at the Kee Wat Inn and Chez la Rat. In later years he vehemently denied that he was ever given the title of “Terror of Chicken Point”.
In his twenties and thirties he began to establish his own family. He loved his children Sherry (Harold), Evonne, Nikki (Helder), Terrence (Lisa) and Jon (Nora) beyond measure and was happy and relieved when each found a partner who not only deserved them but enriched their lives. Marriage to Arlaine expanded that love to include his step-children Laura (Rod), David (Jasmin) and Catherine (Nathan) and the resulting Brady Bunch family was a happy one.
The arrival of grandchildren created a whole new level of delight. Jackie (Matt), Scott, Faith, Brett, Blake, Alex, Eric, Jacob, Sam, Jackson, and Laith were his pride and joy. Great grandchildren Kyler, Jasper, Lucas and Emilia firmly established his role as patriarch. One of his few regrets was that cancer denied him the opportunity to watch them grow and to celebrate the many happy times and achievements that he knew lay in store for them all.
Ted wanted a career that would combine working with children with his love of sports and initially set out to earn a degree as a physical-education teacher. He hit a stumbling block at the University of Manitoba in the shape of abysmal marks in mandatory courses in Physics and Chemistry, so switched to obtaining a regular certificate at Lakehead Teachers’ College. He signed his first contract before graduation and spent the next 32 years contentedly teaching grade six at King George and Keewatin Public. He did eventually complete a BA in Psychology and Sociology and spent many happy years teaching PE classes to kids of all ages. His lunch-hour floor hockey sessions were a favourite activity for many years. He always said that he learned far more from his students than he ever taught them.
When some of his King George girls lamented that they could not play hockey, he set about finding an alternative for them. Within a couple of years, he was coaching 150 girls a week in the emerging sport of Ringette. He was eventually inducted into the Ontario Ringette Association Hall of Fame as a Community Builder, but his true reward was the joy of watching the girls he coached grow up become amazing young women. In time he moved on to coach boy’s hockey as well, spending more than 25 years behind the bench as a volunteer.
Ted loved playing almost any sport, with perhaps the exception of basketball. His Garrow cousins had staked previous claim to most of the height genes in the family’s DNA pool and so he learned to content himself with developing excellent athletic skills, quick reflexes, great strength, and terrific co-ordination, which he combined with strategy and tenacity to compensate for his small stature. He was a good ballplayer as shortstop and pitcher on local softball teams, but hockey was his first love. He played recreationally in Kenora into his early 70s and then turned his energies to the presidency of the Keewatin Senior Men’s Curling Club. Spending time with the guys at the rinks was a highlight of each week of retirement.
A proud local boy, he was content to live out his life close to home but was eventually coaxed (coerced?) to vacation further afield. He and Arlaine began slowly with road trips that soon covered all the Canadian provinces and expanded to visiting more than half of the U.S. states. Encouraged by his love of the Pacific Ocean, they ventured to try an Alaskan cruise and he was hooked. By cruise or small-group tour they began checking off their bucket list: The Panama Canal, Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, the Far East, the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, the British Isles including the Orkney Islands, and finally Scandinavia and St. Petersburg, Russia. With each new adventure, he expanded his horizons and learned that “different” didn’t have to mean “frightening”. Ted was especially impressed by European attitudes towards the environment and the promotion of physical activity that was incorporated into everyday life.
He was a news junkie, and weather channel fanatic. He loved jigsaw puzzles, balanced budgets, dance floors, French toast on Sunday morning, and pizza on Saturdays. Despite radiation and chemotherapy, he managed to plant and tend his beloved garden and to catch fresh walleye for dinner only a couple of days before entering hospital. He thrived on problem-solving and his own, sometimes quirky, solutions. He was more concerned with how something worked than how it looked, often to Arlaine’s chagrin.
That extended to his wardrobe (or lack thereof). The only criteria were that his clothes be comfortable, serve their purpose and cover the essential portions of his anatomy. He still wore cut off Adidas track pants that made their first appearance in a class photo in 1973! And his red Keewatin Hawks 1982 team jacket was his fall standby. Perhaps most annoying, was the fact that he kept himself in such good shape that both still fit.
There were few things that he really disliked. Canada Geese on his beach and lawn and groundhogs in his garden would have topped the list. Add to that anything he considered un-necessary fuss, which is one of the reasons why he did not want a funeral or memorial service. It is difficult to honour his wishes, knowing the fondness that many held for him, but all he wanted was for Arlaine to write his obituary, with stern instructions not to get too flowery. He didn’t say anything about too lengthy.
So, in lieu of a funeral gathering, consider this his eulogy. Find yourself a drink of something refreshing and enjoy it, perhaps while listening to the Wailing Jenny’s version of The Parting Glass, then think of him kindly and wish him well on his next journey.
If you choose to do so, the family would be pleased to have you honour his memory in any of the following ways:
Take a kid fishing or cheer their efforts at the rink or on the field, or on the stage. For bonus marks, turn your phone off the entire time.
Consider a donation to T.R.I.P.L.E. Play to ensure that every kid gets to participate in a sport they love.
Plant and remember to water a tree, or a flower, or a vegetable, and/or support the efforts of those creating a Memorial Garden at St. Andrew’s Church in Keewatin.
Perform random acts of kindness towards people, animals, or the environment. Even better, try to remember to do them daily.
Contact a former teacher or coach and let them know that they made a difference.
Volunteer your time to an activity or social cause that you think deserves support
Look for the positives when you are tempted to criticize the efforts of our local hospital. Dedicated staff members in every department are doing their very best, often under stress, and while under-staffed. Our family will always be eternally grateful for their kindness and professionalism over the past difficult weeks.
To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Rest peacefully, my Ukrainian leprechaun, knowing your life was a success.
Alcock Funeral home & Cremation Services (Highway 17 West Keewatin) in care of arrangements, 547-6000.