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MEMORIAL TRIBUTES

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November 16, 1951 - June 13, 2023

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Speech from Memorial Service

Andrew Kukulski

I’d like to start out by saying that there is a fair chance I won’t make it through this, if anyone wants to start taking bets.

 

I’ve spent a long time trying to figure out what to say about my father. He has meant a lot of things to a lot of people. Including the people in this room. But I can’t actually speak to that. So, I won’t. You all know better what he meant to you than I ever will.

 

All I can speak to, really, is what he has meant to me. But even that feels like a daunting task. Over 40 years of my life. Filled with special memories of him. How do you distill that down into a few minutes? I don’t know if you can.

 

So, I’ll tell you two things that are important to me about my father. First is that he is my hero and second is that he was kind enough to know when to piss me off. 

KUKULSKI

DAVID ROBERT 

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I’ll start with the second one first. One of my most vivid memories from when I was a little kid was my father teaching me to swim. We never had a pool or regular access to one. I did take swimming lessons in the summers and my mother helped me learn to swim too. 

 

But it was specifically my father that stands out in my mind when it comes to this. We would be going over to Grandma Pat and Papa’s house or Aunt Dar’s house or somewhere that had a pool and Dad would tell me to bring my swim trunks because we were going to practice my swimming. 

 

He would get in the pool and go out a few feet from the edge. I would be standing on the side. There was actually a picture of this I put in the video. And he would tell me to jump in and swim to him. I obviously didn’t know how to swim well and when I would get in the water I would end up panicking half the time.

 

But I would rationalize to myself that he was only a few feet out and I could get to him. So, I would jump in and swim my hardest to make it to him. And what he would do even pissed me off back then, it still pisses me off now even though I know why he did it. If he were here now he’d be laughing at this point. 

 

He would back up. He’s watching his young child, struggling to get to him before sinking under the water to my demise and he would back up and keep backing up. To the point that in later sessions, before I would jump in my first question would be, “You’re not going to back up, right?”

 

To which he would say, “No. I’m not going to back up.” And then I’d jump in and he’d do it anyway. I still remember how mad I would get. But even back then, it didn’t take me long to understand what he was trying to teach me. Aside from learning to swim.

Life almost never goes according to plan. You have to be ready to adapt, come up with new ideas, and probably work harder than you thought you were going to have to in order to get where you’re trying to go. He wasn’t trying to teach me to swim to him. He was trying to teach me not to need to. 

It also wasn’t until later that he described to me how he had his hands right under me under the water. So he could have gotten a hold of me the moment I started to get into real trouble. Kind of like how I wanted to go to the movies by myself for the first time when I was only 7 years old and he convinced my mom to let me do it. Only for me to find out years later that each time I did, he was sitting up in the back row of the theater.

My father was always trying to encourage us to believe in ourselves, to try new things, to be willing to fail, and to learn to rely on ourselves. I learned these lessons and more with varying degrees of success. Some of them I’m still learning. But he never stopped trying. He often saw more potential in people than they could see in themselves. He certainly always did with me.

As to my first statement, my father is my hero. I know it’s a cliché for a son to say that his father is his hero. If it helps, he’s not my hero because he’s my father. That was just a bonus. He’s my hero because of who he was. 

 

He was unapologetically himself for his whole life. He wore t-shirts and sweat shorts to business meetings and it didn’t matter because he was so clearly great at what he did. Long before Kukulski Brothers, as a young man with a young family, when he didn’t see life offering up the type of career he wanted to pursue, he took a risk and created one for himself. 

 

He certainly had help along the way, but there was a lot he did alone. Staying up til all hours and traveling countless miles. Working hard. Willing it into existence. I watched him do it my whole life. 

 

I have vivid memories of getting a bowl of cereal after school and my Dad’s strained voice as he would see me casually eating among a dinner table full of thousands of dollars worth of his publishing work.

 

He traveled all the time when I was young. But he almost never missed anything that was important to us. He went to nearly all of my brother’s sporting events and my sister’s dance performances. He would have come to any extra-curricular I’d have done. But those involved being around people, which was never my strong suit. 

 

I started working for him when I was two years old. He would tell me that if I helped him yell “programs” he’d buy me a toy. I’d have yelled for free. 

 

I remember thinking, even as a young kid that I’d love to work with my Dad one day. Even if working at Kukulski Brothers had given me nothing else, it gave me the last two decades working side by side with my father. He would call me his right-hand man. It’s one of the proudest titles I’ve held in my life.

 

He was in charge, but my input was always valued by him. He treated me as an equal, even when he didn’t have to. We’d exchange emails at 4 AM, when we were on deadline, telling each other to go to bed. We took care of each other. In many ways, our work felt more like a partnership. One that carried through his treatment as well. A partnership I was, again, very proud to be a part of.

 

He was kind, and fair, but only tough when he had to be. He was intelligent and he was never intimidated by the intelligence of others. He was funny and to no one more than himself. 

 

He cared about other people more than himself and he showed it on a regular basis. He was someone that people gravitated toward. I spent my life watching people come to him for his guidance, his assistance, and his calming influence. Myself included.

 

I am honored to be someone he opened up to about his thoughts, his fears, and his dreams.

 

He was my work partner, he was my father, and he was truly my friend. I love him, and there won’t be a day for the rest of my life that I don’t think about him and miss him. 

 

I feel like I’m in the water trying to swim again. I can’t see him anymore, but I can still hear his voice. So I’m just going to swim as hard as I can … like he taught me … and hope that one day, somehow, I get to see him again.

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