By HARVEY ROSEN While sitting at my computer on Tuesday morning, the 7th of February, and already working on the sports column for the 15th of the month an e-mail popped up on my monitor that was short but not so sweet.
Our Jewish community’s gem, if there ever was one, was no longer with us. My correspondent was our editor, Bernie Bellan, who wrote “I just heard that Ken Kronson died. I wonder if you want to do something special for the next issue.”
Certainly a more than reasonable request and an honour but, at that moment I was so unnerved at the finality of what had just been presented to me that I arose from my chair and began walking nervously and aimlessly about the house pondering how it could it be that I had just been in the deceased’s company at a January 18th meeting at the Rady Centre. (I’m part of a committee that meets from time to time to determine possible additions to the Rady’s Jewish Sports Wall of Fame.)
Also, prior to annual “Y” Sports Dinners,” I’ve often had occasion to draw other members of the committee’s attention to an athlete whom I might recommend as a possible nominee for the “Jewish Athlete of the Year.” award.
Even though Ken and I had known each other from the time we were kids it was, as we both got older, that I became more familiar with Ken Kronson’s vast organizational skills. He was often counted upon to act as the chair person of a variety of groups both in and outside of the Rady JCC. Only three years ago then-Mayor Sam Katz presented Kronson with a Volunteer Service Award.
The former pharmacist of some renown typified that old adage that if you want something done, give it to a busy person to do. I began to marvel more and more at the work load he carried and not grudgingly - if the task at hand was for a charitable cause.
Whenever he chaired one of our meetings I would make a point of arriving at Rady earlier than the appointed time and linger longer so that I could visit and become even more acquainted, though I remembered him well from our days at St. John’s Tech together.
When I was at Luxton School and Ken relatively close by - at our sports rival, Machray, we would meet on the soccer pitch and the baseball diamond and I recall well his being quite a fine athlete not only in junior high, but also later at St. John’s Tech.
We would often reminisce about our days in the North and South ends and would play the “Whatever happened to so-and-so game?” Those exchanges would gradually evolve to more serious conversations.
One time I said to Ken , “Did you know that you are one hell of a guy?
“Why would you say that?” he asked.
“Because,” I explained, “whenever we have our meetings you bring your wife Johanna along (who is extremely ill now and in the Simkin Centre) and when we’re treated to lunch in the board room, you sit patiently beside her and rarely indulge yourself. Your main concern is feeding her throughout the entire difficult process and constantly asking her, with gestures, what kind of sandwich she would prefer and what does she want to drink? And would you like some dessert? You’re a very kind man.”
“Why wouldn’t I?” he responded matter-of-factly. “She’s my wife!”
On the same day that the dreaded news was delivered I reminded myself not to forget that I was committed to attend the Minnesota Wild-Jets game. I was already sufficiently upset and distracted and wondered if I could maintain my focus.
As I peered across from the high-up press box at the MTS Centre towards the players’ benches I was again reminded ofKen Kronson’s love of hockey. He was also one of the directors of a Manitoba Junior Hockey League team known as the Winnipeg Blues.
I had talked in the recent past with Kenny about how I always knew when he and Johanna were there in their same seats for virtually every Jets game. I could see when they arrived and departed, going back to the glory days of the World Hockey Association, and the first version of the NHL Jets’ games at the old Winnipeg Arena.
He related to me that both he and Johanna were always together and considered a hockey game a real night out. “You know, Harv, she and I were a great match! We had so much in common and I can’t ever recall our having a single argument with each other. And what bothers me most (down the road) is that when I am gone nobody at where she is now will look after her as much as I did. I visit her almost every day (in the early evening around supper time.)”
Always an observer of what goes on around me - certainly an asset if you’re a reporter - or perhaps it’s just having been a classroom teacher for decades, I also developed a third useful trait that Kenny and I shared in that we were both interested listeners - something that has enabled me immensely today to attempt to share interactions with my readership.
I learned from my late father, Morris, who told me to listen more than talk, because if you adopt the latter format you’re merely repeating what you already know, but if you listen to others, you’re sure to learn something new. And wasn’t that why Kronson was such a superb chairman and organizer?
In another interesting exchange between Kronson and me I once offered an unsolicited opinion that in the recent past his Sports Dinner Organizing Committee had been over exposing the audience to a superfluous number of Jets’ related personalities, i.e. Paul Maurice, Kevin Cheveldayoff, Mark Chipman and, coming soon on the marquee will be Teemu Selanne as the keynote speaker for the 45th Dinner.
I maintained that in earlier times we dined with the likes of boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, Pete Rose, Cal Ripken, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Mickey Mantle and Joe Montana, to mention only a few.
Kronson, as the chairman of the dinner for more than 40 years, contemplated my not particularly brilliant query and, in a polite voice offered: “Harv, we’re in the business of raising as much money as we can for charitable causes because we have multiple needs in our community and there’s never enough to go around.”
So many will miss Ken Kronson - aside from is immediate family. I know that one of his closest and most loyal friends was Ken Einhorn, who checked up on him multiple times during Ken’s health crises and told me two weeks ago that he was not taking his usual jaunt to warmer climes this year because of the prevailing circumstances.
Another of his closest relationships waswith the tireless and ever reliable Ernie Nairn, who shared the heavy load as Rady JCC “Y” Sports Dinner Publicity & Media Relations Chair and has been there with Kenny on their journey together lo these many years.
Like so many others at the Rady Centre, I too will miss that extraordinary gentleman and I hope I did him justice. His like shall not pass this way again.