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Long hours, elbow grease make Park and Rec. flourish

Date: 9/8/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM -- Long hours, a little elbow grease and a dedicated staff are the makings of a successful Parks and Recreation Department, according to Jack Kunasek Sr., the department's first director.

His 27-year tenure as director, which began in 1969, built programming for youth and adults from the ground up. Kunasek will be recognized for his service next month when town officials dedicate the softball field at School Street Park in his honor.

"The Parks and Rec. Department wouldn't be what it is today had it not been for his pioneering efforts," Henry Kozloski, chair of the Community Preservation Act (CPA) Committee, said.

The three-member committee recommended honoring Kunasek to the City Council, which unanimously approved the dedication last month.

Louis Russo, vice chair of the CPA Committee, said he voted in favor of the dedication because of Kunasek's unyielding to the department and the success of its programs.

"He's really just been a great guy for our community ... I feel this is an honor he deserves," Mayor Susan Dawson said. "He's given of himself [to benefit the town] on a regular basis. I think that people need to know what they mean to the community while they're alive because I've seen way to many leave [this life] before they know."

Kunasek told Reminder Publications he was surprised and honored when notified of the ceremonial dedication during the Rotary's annual Harvest Fest on Oct. 3. He will also throw out the first pitch of the town softball game between members of the police, fire and public works departments.

Kunasek added that he's honored that the softball field will be named after him because of his connection to the successful adult softball league established under his direction. He noted that at its peak, the department fielded 40 teams and boasted an "outstanding" women's league.

"I just put the programs out there and I had good people who worked for me [to see them through]," Kunasek said.

He noted that although he's now retired, his heart is still in athletics. Kunasek still serves as an umpire for baseball games in town.

The dedication ceremony for the softball field at School Street Park will take place on Oct. 3 at noon, followed by a schedule of events in honor of Harvest Fest.