East Valley Tribune
East Valley Tribune
by David Kukulski
When I think of my “Uncle Barry” the first thing that comes to mind is walking through my living room after getting home from school as a kid and seeing him asleep on the couch. The “uncle” part was an honorary title that Barry worked very hard to get my brother and I to adopt when we were young, though it never really took. Nonetheless, Barry Sollenberger was a fixture around our house and in our lives when I was growing up.
He was the friend and publishing partner of my father (Dave Kukulski) dating back to the late 1970s. Barry was a character. He would drive my mother nuts with the aforementioned naps in our living room or his unauthorized raids of our refrigerator. Probably in no small part due to the fact that Barry’s own kitchen was used more for storage of sports books and research materials than it was for the actual storage or preparation of food. Though one might imagine it is difficult to cook while storing books in the oven. Barry spent most of his meals in sports bars and stadiums. Close to the company he enjoyed and the sports he loved.
Beyond the white jeans and the neck towels, Barry was kind and caring. He made us laugh as kids with his Donald Duck impression. He worked with us for years covering the North Gate at Sun Devil Stadium, selling ASU game programs for my father. He loved running and the two of them occasionally ran together. They bonded over their shared love of sports, on which Barry possessed a wealth of knowledge at nearly every level. He spent his career bringing a number of unique sports publications into existence. His most well-known being his Phoenix Metro Football Magazine.
Eventually, his proximity to local sports and his vast knowledge of sports history lead him to a job as the sports historian for the Arizona Interscholastic Association. While in this position, in addition to his regular duties, Barry continued to write and publish his Phoenix Metro Football Magazine every fall, which had by then become an essential tradition for players, coaches, and high school football fans throughout the Valley of the Sun.
Additionally, Barry did very touching things for local sports that only he would have thought up. A good example would be the halftime presentations he would orchestrate at the high school state championships. Honoring championship teams from decades past. Bringing those now-older players out onto the field and presenting them with recognition awards that he sometimes paid for out of his own pocket. Barry never forgot the achievements of these athletes and he didn’t want anyone else to either.
When Barry passed away in 2005, many people were completely shocked. He passed immediately following his morning run on his 60th birthday. Though I’m sure it was nothing compared to Barry’s own family, the Kukulski family grieved Barry’s loss deeply. Especially my father. The sudden loss of his friend didn’t seem possible. But I guess sudden losses never do.
At the time of his passing, Barry had almost completed the 2005 Phoenix Metro Football Magazine. With the blessing of his family and in Barry’s honor, my father and I finished the magazine and made sure it was released on schedule. Then we went on to continue the Phoenix Metro Football Magazine for another 7 years beyond that. Always in tribute to Barry. To keep his name and his work alive. A preseason football magazine carrying Barry’s name still comes out every fall. Diligently produced by the AIA and spearheaded by Jose Garcia. You can find their most recent edition by clicking here.
I originally built a tribute page to Barry Sollenberger years ago that included all of the articles written after his passing. First on the Kukulski Brothers website, then eventually migrating to a new Phoenix Metro Football site that I built and ran for the duration of our time producing the magazine. I have now rebuilt Barry’s tribute here at Kukulski Publishing as part of my effort to honor the memory of my father, who passed in June of 2023 from cancer. In addition to renewing my effort to preserve the name and legacy of my Uncle Barry.
Barry may have never been a part of Kukulski Publishing, but without the foundation built in those early years from the efforts of Dave Kukulski and Barry Sollenberger, Kukulski Publishing would never have existed. As my father’s final publishing partner, this is where I choose to honor my father’s first publishing partner, his business partner, and his longtime friend. Barry Sollenberger.
In Honor of Uncle Barry