Clarence "Koz" Kozminske
Apr 17th 1917 - Nov 20th 2006
Koz's story began on a rainy spring day in 1917, in the bustling city of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Those were such difficult times throughout the globe, as the dark skies of World War I covered our country, affecting so many American families. Yet on April 17, 1917, Joseph and Victoria (Koreleski) Kozminske found a little hope, with the birth of a baby boy, a son they named Clarence.
Clarence was the nineth child born in what would become a large family, growing to include 12 siblings. His father worked for Kalamazoo Stove Pipe, while his mother stayed home and cared for the family in Kalamazoo, located at 1510 Krom Avenue, on the north side of downtown. Being one of the most responsible of the children, his mother made sure he helped around the home, and often was sent to the store for groceries (it was a precursor to having 8 children which gave Daddy Koz the Saturday grocery ritual of thrifty shopping buying in bulk; cases of canned goods, day old bread, powdered milk, & all the Puffed cereal in stock!).
Koz went to St. Augustine Cathedral School as a young boy. Sadly, his mother died when he was just 11, and he helped raise his siblings from then on. Koz eventually attended Kalamazoo Central High School, where he was a great athlete, especially as a baseball pitcher, with a mean knuckle ball. After school he had a paper route to earn extra money, saving enough to someday start his own business. He graduated in 1935, and was lucky enough to find a job at the Sutherland Paper Company, during the peak of the Great Depression. Helping his case was that knuckle ball, and he was the "ringer" for the Sutherland baseball teams!
Soon, with the dark days of World War II thundering overseas, Koz was drafted into the Army, and was sent off to fight in the war. He served his country proudly, and when the war was over he was discharged and returned to the Kalamazoo area, anxious to claim his share of the American Dream. Koz met Carolyn, got married, and soon found himself the proud father of eight wonderful children. He provided for his family by working at Sutherland Paper, while he SAVED $$$ money to someday own his own business. Eventually, he had enough to buy the Rush Inn Bar, at 306 Front Street in Mattawan, Michigan on September 7, 1947. It was a small bar, but Koz was never afraid of hard work, and saw the potential there. Eventually he expanded it to include a spot for entertainment, called the Birch Room, and it was a big hit. Koz also remodeled four apartments above the establishment, renting them out for some extra income over the years. Koz loved doing the work himself, he loved physical labor (and even dug his pool by hand!), and built and remodeled many different things over the years. He was also on the board of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association in 1970s and became the President, traveling around southwest Michigan.
As hard as he worked in his professional life, Koz was equally hardworking when it came to his family. He instilled his own excellent work ethic in his children, thanks to his many "family projects," over the years. He'd get the kids up early, they'd all work hard, and then they could partake in Daddy O's after work recreation i.e. late night with Ed Sullivan, Mutual of Omaha, Laugh-In, Hullaballou, Jackie Gleason, Johnny Carson with some SWEET treats such as ice-milk shakes and popcorn NO BUTTER!!!
He'd have them help him mix up cement to add on to the original Rush Inn Bar or as the locals would say, "Koz is having another baby so he is adding on"...:) (Koz loved to put his initials in there afterward!), or carrying 5-gallon buckets of dirt. He was a disciplinarian, but taught his kids to work hard, and to play hard.
The family played hard together, too. Koz loved taking the kids to Eagle Lake, Maple Isle, or to South Haven, fishing or splashing in the waves all day, the whole family, his kids, brothers, sisters, and cousins too. Koz was also very active in his community, and served as the Village of Mattawan Commissioner for Antwerp Township for eight years, as well as a Trustee. He was a longtime, 4th Degree Member of the Knights of Columbus in Paw Paw, and also helped with the March of Dimes, volunteering in all their fundraisers.
Koz was also a man of great faith, who was a longtime member (from 1947-1980) of the St. John Bosco Catholic Church in Mattawan, where he served as an usher. For the last 20 years, he was a devoted member of St. Augustine Cathedral, where he also ushered and opened up the church for 7:30 a.m. Sunday Mass for many years.
Koz married for the second time to a woman named Marilyn George. The happy couple was married on April 24, 1981, beginning a wonderful, 25-year love affair together. The two enjoyed each other's company, and after Koz got out of his business in 1984, they had plenty of time together. They enjoyed going to Drummond Island, or to Yankee Springs, although Koz didn't like sleeping in a tent, so he'd sleep in the car! He also loved to take Marilyn dancing (he loved to dance), especially to Big Band music, or to the father-daughter dances with his kids.
Most of all, The Koz loved his family. His friends called him Koz, but the kids all called him Daddy-O. Sadly, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 1997, and while the incredibly strong Koz battled the disease valiantly, he lost his ability to walk five years ago, and sadly he died Monday, November 20, 2006.
Koz was an incredible man, a man of such great strength, great character, and charisma. He could be rough, and he was always tough, but to the many, many lives he touched through the years, he was a great man, as well as a good man. He will be greatly missed. WE LOVE YOU DADDY'O...
Learn more about Koz, view his Life Story film and visit with family and friends Friday from 4:00-8:00 PM at the Life Story Funeral Homes, Betzler - Kalamazoo, 6080 Stadium Drive, 375-2900, where a rosary will be recited at 7:30 PM. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Saturday 10:00 AM at St. Augustine Cathedral followed by interment at Maple Grove Cemetery, Mattawan. Food and fellowship will follow his burial at the Cathedral Center. He was preceded in death by a son Thomas Alan Louis (Bert) Kozminske and by 12siblings: Leonard, Steven, Phillip, Irene, Florian, Dorothy, Esther, Clarence, Joseph G, Louis, Margaret and Lawrence. Members of his family include his wife of 25 years Marilyn Kozminske; 7 children: Sharon (Andy) Armstrong of Flint; David (Aura) Kozminske of Kalamazoo; James (Judy) Kozminske of Mattawan; Patricia Kozminske of Kalamazoo; Joseph Kozminske of Kalamazoo; Connie Jo (Rick) Kerley of Cedar Lake, IN; Kathleen Margaret Kozminske of Chicago, IL; 13 grand children and 3 great grand children; daughter-in-law Dwana Kozminske of Kalamazoo and many nieces and nephews. To read Koz's complete Life Story, archive a memory, order flowers, upload photos, or make a memorial contribution to Alzheimer's Association or Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan, please visit his personal web page at www.lifestorynet.com