Theodore J. Zulkowski, son of Jan and Bronislawa Krauze Zulkowski, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, November 1, 2023. He was born on June 26, 1919, on the west side of Newark, New Jersey in a predominately Polish neighborhood. As a teen, his aptitude in math and science placed him in an accelerated pre-engineering program at West Side High School, where he graduated from in 1939. Ted’s dream was to study engineering, so he applied to and was accepted at Carnegie Mellon Institute, MIT and West Point Academy. At the time, our country was recovering from a depression and on the verge of entering World War II. His mother, having been widowed, needed financial assistance, so instead of heading off to college at age 18, Ted stayed home and went to work. His first job was driving a delivery truck for Noxon Polish and Wax Company in the greater New York City area, earning 20 cents an hour. He also worked weekends as an apprentice tool maker at Western Electric in Kearny, NJ. In his spare time, he helped his family maintain two six-family houses they owned in Newark. Ted was smart, a fast and eager learner, and in a short time was promoted to toolmaker at National Tool in Kenilworth, NJ., where he found himself on the cutting edge of a surging industrial technology: plastics. Working to develop plastic parts, he was soon earning 60 cents an hour.
In 1941, the US officially entered World War II, and Ted was drafted into the Army in 1943. Not qualifying for the infantry due to a vision problem, he was given written tests to determine placement. His high scores allowed him the choice of weapons maintenance operator or surgical technician. Ted’s longtime interest in the medical field made it an easy choice, and he began training as a military surgical technician.
Prior to being deployed, and after months of roller skating past her apartment window, he married the love of his life, Theresa Marie Yeno, on June 23, 1943, in Newark. Soon after, he was transferred overseas, leaving a newly pregnant wife, and was stationed in Cherbourg, France just west of Normandy Beach. In June 1944 , PFC Zulkowski worked at a hospital as a medic, treating soldiers who were injured during the infamous Battle of Normandy. When the war ended in 1945, Ted was sent to an Army Training Center in England to further his knowledge of toolmaking. After returning home, he met his 1-year-old daughter, Carol Anne, for the first time.
Ted was on the forefront of research & development in both computers and plastics and was soon hired by IBM as Assistant Engineer, precipitating a move to suburban family life in Poughkeepsie. In the early 50s he was tasked by the US Government (through IBM) under a tight 30-day deadline to develop an integral plastic part that would become one of the core technologies ultimately allowing computers to become staples of the business world. He would always fondly remember his trip to the Waldorf Astoria where he received a bonus of $500.
It was during this time, that Ted’s family was growing, with the addition of daughter Teresa Marie, and son, “Teddy”, and so was his interest in communications – in particular ¬– amateur radio broadcasting. Again, he excelled in the exams and soon earned the call letters K2JMY. This license enabled him to contact other HAM radio operators throughout the world. This was a time before rapid global communications, and Ted had the knowledge and technology to set up phone patches, enabling people to contact family members, colleagues, and friends overseas. This was particularly crucial during times of conflict and natural disasters. In November 1999, Ted was honored by the American Radio Relay League, winning the DXCC award, the most prestigious award for radio amateurs for his work contacting and phone patching 363 different countries. This hobby continued throughout his life, winning him multiple awards, and he may well have been the world leader in number of countries contacted (close to 400) . He has a collection of over 5,000 QSL postcards to prove it!
Ted was very proud of his accomplishments in World War II, in his HAM radio achievements and most notably of his participation in the Honor Flight. In 2015, he and fellow soldiers were flown to Washington, D.C. and honored for their service in foreign wars. After the trip, Ted began speaking openly about his time in the war. In 2019, at age 99, Ted was interviewed at West Point about his WWII experiences. The 90-minute interview is now preserved for others to watch and listen to in the archives of Oral History at the Academy.
Ted was most proud, however, of his family, all of whom have done what he always wished he could have done: graduate from college. Ted was remarkably articulate and curious for his age, and whenever he was asked, “What is your secret for living so long?” he would say, “Every time you smile or laugh, it adds 15 minutes to your life” and he certainly followed his own advice. He would often add “Stolat!” the Polish expression for “May you live 100 years.”
Ted was predeceased by his wife, Theresa, his brother, Stanley, and his dear son, Sergeant Theodore Zulkowski, Jr. He is survived by his daughter Carol Kurto, son-in-law, Peter Kurto, daughter, Teresa Zulkowski Sullivan, grandchildren, Beth Kurto Rowen, Peter (Molly) Kurto, Jr., Jeffrey (Heather) Kurto, Kari (April Ruedaflores) Kurto, and Anne Patrice Sullivan; great-grandchildren Dusty, Synclaire, Max, Ella, Peter II, James, Georgia, Tadeusz (Teddy) , Beatrice and Paxton.
The family would like to thank Ted’s home healthcare aide, Chelsea, and her family for all the help and support they have given him; the staff at Lutheran Care Center for their help in his time of need and all his HAM radio pals who have been such wonderful friends over the years.
Calling hours will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. on Friday, November 10, 2023, at the Hufcut Funeral Home, 3159 Route 22, Dover Plains, NY. A Mass of Christian Burial will take place at 10 a.m. on Saturday, November 11, 2023 at St. Charles Borromeo Church, 62 Mill St., Dover Plains, NY. Burial with military honors will follow at St. Charles Cemetery in Dover Plains. Memorial contributions may be made to: Hudson Valley Honor Flight, P.O. Box 375, Walden, NY 12584 or www.hvhonor-flight.com or the LaGrange Fire District Rescue Squad, 504 Freedom Plains Rd. Poughkeepsie, NY 12603. For directions or to send a condolence, please visit http://www.hufcutfuneralhome.com
So, “Grandpa ZZ,” for a life well-lived and loved, “Stolat!”