Smiling John Kluchnick

You may not know John Kluchnick’s name.

But you know his smiling face:

John Kluchnick

For 21 years, John has worked for Westport Parks & Rec.  These days he’s a roving custodian, caring for Compo Beach, Burying Hill and Longshore.  Before that, he was on a garbage truck.  He spent his first 13 years full-time at Compo — trimming hedges, clearing brush, cleaning the facilities.

He started out in Westport doing electrical, carpentry and maintenance work for the Board of Education.

It’s been an enjoyable life.  “I’m happy whatever I do,” John says.  “I’ve been blessed to wake up every morning happy to go to work.  I’ve had a variety of tasks, and they’ve always been pleasurable.”

The best part of his jobs — by far — has been the people.

“Whether it’s the golf course, the beach, wherever, I like saying ‘good morning’ to everyone,” John explains.  “I really like people.”

He’s enjoyed working for bosses like Carl Eaton and Tim Burke, and with “top shelf” head lifeguards like Megan Tiley.

As for the public:  “The majority of them, I don’t know their names,” John says.  “But young, old — 95 percent of them, I’ve enjoyed their company.  I hope they enjoyed mine.”

In his entire career, John has only 1 regret.  One day he reprimanded a young boy, maybe 12 years old.  “He was right, and I was wrong,” John says.  “But I never saw him again.  I never got a chance to make amends, and say I was sorry.”

John’s roots in Westport are unshakable.  A Westport native, he played on the Staples basketball team.  The only time he’s spent away came  after graduation in 1961:  He served on a diesel sub in Groton.

Twice, John ran for 1st selectman.  “I wanted to say what was in my heart about our town,” he explains.

“I came in 3rd both times,” he laughs.  That’s his way of putting a positive spin on finishing last.

Next Tuesday is John’s last day on the job.  He’s retiring — but he’s not leaving the town where he was born and raised.

Among his many plans:  serving lunch at the Senior Center.  “It’s time to give back to Westport,” he says, oblivious to the fact that all his life,  he’s done just that.

His impending retirement has been kept fairly quiet.  John notes:  “It’s been rainy, so I haven’t seen a lot of people.”

Yeah, it’s rained for weeks on end.

But in John Kluchnick’s world, the sun always shines.

5 responses to “Smiling John Kluchnick

  1. John is proof that happiness is DYI project. I have known him for over 30 years and his friendly attitude has never wavered, from his rescue of my kitten stuck in a front yard tree many years ago to his latest visit to the Library. Thanks for all the smiles, John. Enjoy your retirement.

  2. Jim Honeycutt

    Before becoming a Westport teacher in 1977, I worked my way through graduate school and paid the bills working as a waiter in several Westport restaurants. I worked with “Little John,” as we knew him, at the Peppermill. John was a blast to work with and a genuine friend to the waiters at the “Mill.” Working in Westport allows me to run into John periodically and we catch up on the past, “Steaks, Drinks, and Good Times.” And you are right in your blog, Dan, John is a role model for people. He knows life is a blessing. He lives each day content with the skills he possesses and goes about sharing his joy and thankfulness with every person he meets.

  3. Linda Gramatky Smith

    I actually recognized John Kluchnick’s name before seeing his photo! When we moved back to my family home on Roseville Road 16 years + 2 days ago, wasn’t I surprised when John recognized me in town and said hello and greeted me so warmly. He was a year younger at Staples, and his welcome really made me feel as though I were “home again”.

    His upbeat attitude reminds me of the Abraham Lincoln quote: “Most people in this world are as happy as they make up their mind to be.” And John has made that decision to see the glass half full.

    And my optimism says that someone will read the story of his one regret about the boy he chastized and will tell the now-grown man, and they will reconnect. The glass is half full for me, too.

    Happy Retirement, John, and I’ll see you at the Senior Center.

  4. As Central Park’s Reservoir Has It’s Own Mayor, In John Kluchnick, Westport’s Long Shore Has Had It’s Own Good Will Ambassador…John, Thank You So Much For Always Sharing Your Appreciation Of Westport & Compo Over The Years…Your Enthusiasm For The Area Is Contagious!

  5. John congradulations on your retirement…I remember when you and your sister moved to Wspt and lived (I think on Bower Place)..I was one of your sister’s friends that tormented you and help make you the man you are today…many happy days ahead..Linda