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Smiling John Kluchnick

You may not know John Kluchnick’s name.

But you know his smiling face:

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.

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