That’s what I thought when I saw Alex Koslow’s simple obituary last Wednesday. He had been living in suburban Columbus the past few years, but he has deep Norwalk connections. In 2006, I wrote a series of columns about him and his family. Learning all that I did while researching those stories made Alex’s obituary seem even more inadequate than most.
I thought that the least I could do would be to reprint the first of my four stories from 2006. Here it is.
How many high school athletes do you suppose Don Hohler has watched play in his 40-some years writing for the Reflector? Certainly 1000 or so each year (many more, of course, if you count the second teamers and lower).
So let’s call it 1000 athletes — baseball, football, basketball, wrestling, track, cross country, golf participants — for 40-some years.
Thus we have a man who has spent most of his life observing more than 40,000 local athletes.
That, in my opinion, would make him an expert on the subject.
All this came to mind after I had a conversation with Mr. Hohler the other day.
I started by asking, “What comes to mind when I say the name Alex Koslow?”
He did not hesitate with his answer: “One of the all-time best. Top five for sure on my list.”
I should have known that Don would think of Alex Koslow primarily in a sporting context. But even I was stunned to hear how great he was: Top 5 out of 40,000. Wow.
Then he wondered why I was asking. It started with a note in my Reflector mailbox, I told him. Alex Koslow wanted to talk with me. So I called.
“My mother (Anna Koslow Jarvis) died a couple of months ago,” Alex said. “And I was hoping you could tell her story.”
I was flattered and touched by that simple request. It’s not that I haven’t had such requests before. I have, but unfortunately there is seldom a real story to accompany the caller’s desire. And when it comes to the passing of a loved one, well, everybody thinks their mom is the greatest.
But this time I had a feeling there really was going to be more than nostalgia and pain of loss to talk about.
Maybe it was that I had heard what an interesting guy Alex is: fun, easy to talk to, engaging.
Or maybe it was my memories of his sister, Lydia — one of the most beautiful women this county ever produced; Miss Huron County back in the 1960s. I once spent four captivating hours with her and her fiancé. A remarkably tragic traffic accident claimed her life some years ago.
Or maybe it was recalling what I knew of Anna Koslow, herself, Alex’s mother who worked at Norwalk Furniture. Her warmth and work ethic were widely known and inspirational. And she had called me once with a sweet thank you for simply mentioning Lydia’s name in a column.
But overall I think it was just the superstar athlete — top 5 around here plus college football and basketball in the 1960s — showing his sensitive side that made me want to tell Anna Koslow’s story.
“When I could see mom starting to slip, I thought, ‘I have to capture this amazing life of hers.’ So, starting a few months before she died, every time I came to visit from Columbus I taped an interview with her,” Alex told me.
Who among us doesn’t wish he’d done the same thing?
So I asked Alex to send me some of what he would like me to share.
And what I received was more than I can ever put in a single column
A Russian husband and father killed in the World War II battle with Germany.
Months in the Russian winter with no food or heat.
Fleeing the German invasion; protecting children in a German work camp; surviving allied bombings; it reads like a thrilling novel.
Alex was born in the covered wagon the family had used in the escape from Russia.
Lydia was born in a ditch during a bombing raid; five minutes later mother Anna was running with her baby from the bombs and bullets.
And that is just the start of Anna’s remarkable story. The family’s arrival and survival in the U.S. and eventually in Norwalk are equally compelling.
It took me four columns, more than 3,000 words, to explain it all — way too much for an obituary. But now that I think of it, just one more sentence in that obituary might have spoken volumes about the man who passed last week: “He loved his mom and wanted to be sure the world knew her story.” Rest in peace, Alex Koslow.
Jim Busek is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] hotmail.com.