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KIRK GRYBOWSKI DIES SUDDENLY IN CHICAGO

Oct. 10, 2002 – The island was shocked and saddened Wednesday morning as word spread that well-known island personality Kirk Grybowski, 64, had died suddenly Tuesday in Chicago.
Grybowski and his wife, Judith, were in the midst of a three-week train trip and had stopped over in Chicago when he had a heart attack.
Friends were stunned as they heard the news. "It's a great shock," said John Foster, one of Grybowski's yachting pals. "He was a good, strong spirit … his liveliness his enthusiasm, and, indeed, he was very amusing. We are very saddened."
Although Grybowski had a long career in public health, his life affected all parts of the community, whether tramping with the Gypsy Troupe, crewing on a sailboat, enjoying a cold beer afterwards, managing disaster relief after Hurricane Marilyn, or, as close friend Jan Meyer said, "sitting on his gallery watching the ferry boats go back and forth to St. John."
Grybowski retired a few years ago, and he and Judy have been intrepid travelers since. Meyer said, "With all his traveling, I think his favorite place in the world was that gallery."
Grybowski wrote tales of his travels for the Source, entertaining, wonderful wordy tales of how the world looked to him and to his favorite traveling companions, his three grandchildren. He saw the world through their eyes and savored every adventure whether in England, on a U.S. train trip, or at an Atlanta dude ranch. His views on cruise ship cuisine, and the hours dedicated to eating it (5 a day), are faithfully recorded from a recent South American journey he and Judy took, where unknown elements kept stealing his macadamia nut cookies. (His travel stories can still be read on the Source Lifestyles/Other stuff pages.)
Food — ethnic, exotic, Caribbean, whatever — was important to him, perhaps more than to some less-adventurous types. And he loved to write about it. Judy allowed the Source to reveal that Kirk was, in fact, this newspaper's Tottering Taster, the author of amusing — sometimes, some would say, wide-of-the-mark — restaurant reviews. (Heaven help any establishment whose restrooms weren't up to snuff.)
Grybowski was a Source stalwart from the paper's beginnings. Publisher Shaun Pennington, a personal friend, said, "He was the biggest supporter of the Source, even before we started the paper, when it was in its incubation stages. He offered commentary, travel pieces; he did everything he could to support us. He even went to the Senate a few times in the early days, but stopped. He told me he was embarrassed because he kept falling asleep."
She added, "I think we all are in shock."
Sailboat racer and marine radio show host Wally Bostwick, who had sailed with Grybowski since the 1980s, was also stunned at the news of his death. "He was on the Alligator team, on Ernesto Marzano's boat with us," Bostwick recalled. "We sailed in all the regattas, even to St. Croix. Kirk was a mentor to lots of young kids then. Ben Beer, who's sailed in the America's Cup, and Anthony Kotoun, who became a collegiate All America sailor, were both on those races."
Bostwick said Grybowski defied the rule that says "Don't get on a boat smaller than your age." "Our boat was 29 feet long," he explained.
"Kirk was never shy about giving his opinions on anything," Bostwick said. "He didn't care if they were popular or not … He was a good sailor, and he was the only one who snored louder than I did."
Artist and photographer Ray Miles, who learned of Grybowski's death at the St. Thomas Yacht Club Wednesday, said he "was a good friend and a good sailor. He loved to joke, and he was very outspoken about things he felt strongly about. He used to make himself very unpopular sometimes, a lone voice … In retrospect, he was a very strong character who stood up for what he thought."
Miles added, "It's hard to believe he would just keel over. It's sort of like I don't really believe it. He was a stalwart member of the club for years, a big family man."
Another longtime friend, John Stout, said, "We have known Kirk and Judy for years." He said he and his wife, Jeyan, "had dinner together in Boston a week or so ago with the Meyers and Judy and Kirk, and Kirk looked hale and hearty. He was the kind of guy who would do things, but didn't want recognition. He always gave of his time; he was a wonderful man. He was such a devoted husband and father."
Stout remembered how Grybowski reacted to the death of longtime St. Thomas Yacht Club boatman Wingrove Fleming of St. Kitts: "When Kirk heard about that, he got a bunch of members together and they went to St. Kitts to the man's funeral. Kirk was so loyal."
Jan Meyers said, "He had such a big, hearty laugh and a laid-back kind of energy." When asked if she had a photograph the Source could publish, Meyers paused. "We had a running joke," she said. "I used to tell him eventually I would make an album of his pictures; they're all asleep. I would always take pictures of him sleeping on the couch, on his gallery, on a sail bag. Or he would fall asleep on the boat between tacks. I don't think you want those."
Lynn Falkenthal, executive director of the Victim Advocate Program, of which Judy Grybowski has been president for the last 18 years, commented: "Other people die, but not Kirk. He was always here, always in the background helping Judy, selling raffle tickets, or helping at a golf tournament. It's so hard to believe."
Donald Meyers said Grybowski's accomplishments speak for themselves. "He was the moving force behind the EMT's, [emergency medical technicians]. He was the director of the emergency medical program for FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Agency]. He was always pleasantly involved in the island, willing to help everybody."
Both Grybowskis are well known in the health field. Kirk was the director of the V.I. Emergency Medical Service for years, where he fought for new equipment, wrote grants and did anything else necessary to keep the agency moving. Judy is professor emeritus of nursing at the University of the Virgin Islands, recently retired after a 25-year career.
Clayton Sutton, deputy director of the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency, worked with Grybowski just prior to and after Hurricane Marilyn in 1995. Grybowski served there for about two years until 1996. Sutton said, "I was just thinking this week, as if he had been here. "He was a very strong individual. He managed the agency through the worst disaster. You can begin to appreciate what it would take to get us over those times. He was always ready to listen to ideas.
"Oh," he added, "and he had a great sense of humor, too."
Almost all of the friends contacted for comment immediately thought of Grybowski's grandchildren. "He was so close to them — he loved taking them places; it was his joy — he always had a new trip awaiting," Jan Meyer said. "He put everything into those stories he wrote about them. They went to London, to a dude ranch, and he and Stephen went to Equador this summer. He was so devoted to them."
Grybowski is survived by his wife, Judith; son Paul and his wife, Michelle; son Keith and his wife, Nancy; grandchildren, Stephen, 12, Kevin, 9, and Maximillion, 7; many other relatives and a worldwide company of friends. The Grybowskis were married 34 years — all of them lived on St. Thomas except for a sabbatical in the '70s to Africa, where they set up regional healthcare centers in Swaziland. Both are graduates of Duke University.
Judy Grybowski said she would be establishing a Kirk Grybowski Fellowship Fund for scholarships to the University of the Virgin Islands and wo
uld eventually welcome donations. Plans for a memorial service on St. Thomas are pending.

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Oct. 10, 2002 – The island was shocked and saddened Wednesday morning as word spread that well-known island personality Kirk Grybowski, 64, had died suddenly Tuesday in Chicago.
Grybowski and his wife, Judith, were in the midst of a three-week train trip and had stopped over in Chicago when he had a heart attack.
Friends were stunned as they heard the news. "It's a great shock," said John Foster, one of Grybowski's yachting pals. "He was a good, strong spirit ... his liveliness his enthusiasm, and, indeed, he was very amusing. We are very saddened."
Although Grybowski had a long career in public health, his life affected all parts of the community, whether tramping with the Gypsy Troupe, crewing on a sailboat, enjoying a cold beer afterwards, managing disaster relief after Hurricane Marilyn, or, as close friend Jan Meyer said, "sitting on his gallery watching the ferry boats go back and forth to St. John."
Grybowski retired a few years ago, and he and Judy have been intrepid travelers since. Meyer said, "With all his traveling, I think his favorite place in the world was that gallery."
Grybowski wrote tales of his travels for the Source, entertaining, wonderful wordy tales of how the world looked to him and to his favorite traveling companions, his three grandchildren. He saw the world through their eyes and savored every adventure whether in England, on a U.S. train trip, or at an Atlanta dude ranch. His views on cruise ship cuisine, and the hours dedicated to eating it (5 a day), are faithfully recorded from a recent South American journey he and Judy took, where unknown elements kept stealing his macadamia nut cookies. (His travel stories can still be read on the Source Lifestyles/Other stuff pages.)
Food -- ethnic, exotic, Caribbean, whatever -- was important to him, perhaps more than to some less-adventurous types. And he loved to write about it. Judy allowed the Source to reveal that Kirk was, in fact, this newspaper's Tottering Taster, the author of amusing -- sometimes, some would say, wide-of-the-mark -- restaurant reviews. (Heaven help any establishment whose restrooms weren't up to snuff.)
Grybowski was a Source stalwart from the paper's beginnings. Publisher Shaun Pennington, a personal friend, said, "He was the biggest supporter of the Source, even before we started the paper, when it was in its incubation stages. He offered commentary, travel pieces; he did everything he could to support us. He even went to the Senate a few times in the early days, but stopped. He told me he was embarrassed because he kept falling asleep."
She added, "I think we all are in shock."
Sailboat racer and marine radio show host Wally Bostwick, who had sailed with Grybowski since the 1980s, was also stunned at the news of his death. "He was on the Alligator team, on Ernesto Marzano's boat with us," Bostwick recalled. "We sailed in all the regattas, even to St. Croix. Kirk was a mentor to lots of young kids then. Ben Beer, who's sailed in the America's Cup, and Anthony Kotoun, who became a collegiate All America sailor, were both on those races."
Bostwick said Grybowski defied the rule that says "Don't get on a boat smaller than your age." "Our boat was 29 feet long," he explained.
"Kirk was never shy about giving his opinions on anything," Bostwick said. "He didn't care if they were popular or not ... He was a good sailor, and he was the only one who snored louder than I did."
Artist and photographer Ray Miles, who learned of Grybowski's death at the St. Thomas Yacht Club Wednesday, said he "was a good friend and a good sailor. He loved to joke, and he was very outspoken about things he felt strongly about. He used to make himself very unpopular sometimes, a lone voice ... In retrospect, he was a very strong character who stood up for what he thought."
Miles added, "It's hard to believe he would just keel over. It's sort of like I don't really believe it. He was a stalwart member of the club for years, a big family man."
Another longtime friend, John Stout, said, "We have known Kirk and Judy for years." He said he and his wife, Jeyan, "had dinner together in Boston a week or so ago with the Meyers and Judy and Kirk, and Kirk looked hale and hearty. He was the kind of guy who would do things, but didn't want recognition. He always gave of his time; he was a wonderful man. He was such a devoted husband and father."
Stout remembered how Grybowski reacted to the death of longtime St. Thomas Yacht Club boatman Wingrove Fleming of St. Kitts: "When Kirk heard about that, he got a bunch of members together and they went to St. Kitts to the man's funeral. Kirk was so loyal."
Jan Meyers said, "He had such a big, hearty laugh and a laid-back kind of energy." When asked if she had a photograph the Source could publish, Meyers paused. "We had a running joke," she said. "I used to tell him eventually I would make an album of his pictures; they're all asleep. I would always take pictures of him sleeping on the couch, on his gallery, on a sail bag. Or he would fall asleep on the boat between tacks. I don't think you want those."
Lynn Falkenthal, executive director of the Victim Advocate Program, of which Judy Grybowski has been president for the last 18 years, commented: "Other people die, but not Kirk. He was always here, always in the background helping Judy, selling raffle tickets, or helping at a golf tournament. It's so hard to believe."
Donald Meyers said Grybowski's accomplishments speak for themselves. "He was the moving force behind the EMT's, [emergency medical technicians]. He was the director of the emergency medical program for FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Agency]. He was always pleasantly involved in the island, willing to help everybody."
Both Grybowskis are well known in the health field. Kirk was the director of the V.I. Emergency Medical Service for years, where he fought for new equipment, wrote grants and did anything else necessary to keep the agency moving. Judy is professor emeritus of nursing at the University of the Virgin Islands, recently retired after a 25-year career.
Clayton Sutton, deputy director of the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency, worked with Grybowski just prior to and after Hurricane Marilyn in 1995. Grybowski served there for about two years until 1996. Sutton said, "I was just thinking this week, as if he had been here. "He was a very strong individual. He managed the agency through the worst disaster. You can begin to appreciate what it would take to get us over those times. He was always ready to listen to ideas.
"Oh," he added, "and he had a great sense of humor, too."
Almost all of the friends contacted for comment immediately thought of Grybowski's grandchildren. "He was so close to them -- he loved taking them places; it was his joy -- he always had a new trip awaiting," Jan Meyer said. "He put everything into those stories he wrote about them. They went to London, to a dude ranch, and he and Stephen went to Equador this summer. He was so devoted to them."
Grybowski is survived by his wife, Judith; son Paul and his wife, Michelle; son Keith and his wife, Nancy; grandchildren, Stephen, 12, Kevin, 9, and Maximillion, 7; many other relatives and a worldwide company of friends. The Grybowskis were married 34 years -- all of them lived on St. Thomas except for a sabbatical in the '70s to Africa, where they set up regional healthcare centers in Swaziland. Both are graduates of Duke University.
Judy Grybowski said she would be establishing a Kirk Grybowski Fellowship Fund for scholarships to the University of the Virgin Islands and wo uld eventually welcome donations. Plans for a memorial service on St. Thomas are pending.