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In Memoriam
Goshen Fondly Remembers Longtime Friend, Kobylenski

By Dawn Caminiti (Litchfield County Times 4/20/06)

  APRIL 20, 2006 --

Under a blue sky in Goshen Tuesday, friends and family members said goodbye to one of the town's most respected and honored individuals as Richard Kobylenski was laid to rest.

A longtime selectman and community volunteer, Mr. Kobylenski died April 13 at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington at the age of 93.

Known to all as either "Poppy" or "Mayor," the lifelong Goshen resident spent years working to improve, restore and preserve the small Litchfield County town.

"There's not much that we see today that Richard didn't have a hand in and didn't do something to make it happen," said First Selectman Robert Valentine, a fellow Republican.

Mr. Kobylenski served on the town's Board of Selectmen for nearly 30 years, spending 20 of those years as the town's first selectman. During his tenure, the town went through a series of ups and downs, from the fire at town hall to the acquisition of Camp Cochipianee. The town's leader was part of the renovation following the fire and a key component in the acquisition of the camp from the Bristol Boy Scouts Council.

He was also behind the development of a playground near the town's tennis courts. While no longer around today, the lot was affectionately known as "Poppy's Tot Lot."

He served as president of the Goshen Fair and oversaw construction of the main gate at the Goshen Fairgrounds as part of the town's 250th anniversary celebration.

Mr. Kobylenski also stayed involved with the Goshen Agricultural Society, the Goshen Grange, the town's volunteer fire department, the Lions Club and the Goshen Land Trust, for which he served as president for many years.

"Most of what I know, I learned from him," said Chris Craig, the current president of the land trust.

Mr. Kobylenski continued to serve on the land trust's board of directors, even after an accident with a tractor last fall in which he almost lost a leg. Six months later, he was walking and Mr. Craig said he doesn't think he ever missed a meeting as he remained involved in the progress of the land trust.

"I think he just had a conservation ethic from his days as a farmer and he wanted to see Goshen preserved and he was the biggest part of any success we had at preserving it," Mr. Craig said.

At 89, Mr. Kobylenski was largely responsible for helping to convert an old shed into the land trust's new office. He worked up on the roof, adding shingles to the old shack.

"I was sure he'd live to be 100; he's going to be missed," Mr. Craig said.

Growing up, Mr. Valentine has fond memories of his time in the Boy Scouts when Mr. Kobylenski let the young adventurers build a cabin on his land bordering Mohawk State Forest.

"I knew him, having grown up in town. Everybody knew who Richard was. I got to know him a little now and again on particular issues," Mr. Valentine said, adding that it was Mr. Kobylenski who helped him get his start in town politics with an appointment to the Zoning Board of Appeals.

"He did the same thing I would do today, which is if you have volunteers willing to participate, you try to find a spot for them because there are so many positions, and quite frankly everybody is so busy there is often not enough people to fill the spots," Mr. Valentine added.

Even in his final days, Mr. Kobylenski kept working for the town. Just a few months ago, Mr. Craig and another member of the land trust went out to drop a tree across a brook to make a bridge. When he heard of this, Mr. Kobylenski made a point to walk out into the forest and inspect the men's work to make sure it was done right.

"I think it was all right, but he had some advice for us," Mr. Craig remembers.

In addition to his work on town organizations, Mr. Kobylenski also enjoyed running an antique saw mill, restoring old buildings and preserving and creating animal habitats. Also, he had served as an air warden for the Civil Defense during World War II.

Mr. Kobylenski is survived by his two sons, Richard Kobylenski of Coventry and Francis Kobylenski of Trumbull, a daughter, Anne Gustafson of Goshen, a sister, Julia Fenn of Winsted, two sisters-in-law, Frances Kobylenski and Mary Grusauskas of Goshen, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Church Maintenance Fund at St. Thomas Church in Goshen, P.O. Box 177, the Goshen Historical Society at 21 Old Middle St. in Goshen or the Goshen Land Trust at 16 Mill St. in Goshen.



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