Last week we celebrated the life and passing of Yaroslaw “Jerry” Kozak. His solemn funeral mass at Annunciation BVM Ukrainian Catholic Church brought together so many people from Tryzub’s gloried past and present. It is the bittersweet thing about funerals. For those who attended from the Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals, it was such a privilege to be there. The Tryzub family came to honor an Extraordinary Man—a man who earned your respect and admiration every day of his life in the example he set.
The pictures below tell part of the story: Jerry Kozak as a player here; Jerry Kozak as a coach here; Jerry Kozak building, planting, moving earth, operating equipment, etc.; Jerry Kozak leading us and representing us at all times with dignity. The fuller story is how one dedicated, hard-working volunteer with a heart of gold and unexcelled passion for this Club could shape it for seven (7) decades. For perspective, most people who come through our soccer organization will be involved here for five, maybe ten years. We know Jerry Kozak was not alone in making this place. But for those of us in the soccer leadership for the past couple decades, he was the most visible example of Tryzub’s core values: integrity, loyalty, dedication and service. Jerry Kozak possessed an iron-will to get things done.
As soon as you joined the soccer organization, you discovered Jerry Kozak’s stature here. It was never in anything Mr. Kozak said. He possessed that rare gift of great leaders—humility. But you knew he carried weight when you heard a teenage girl named Larissa or her brothers greet him as “Pon Kozak.” While the term was unfamiliar to us, you could hear the respect in it. Jerry Kozak earned respect, and not because he was Tryzub’s President at the time. The pictures testify. He was a man of action along with his friend, Ted Kulp. Pon Kozak recognized a problem, analyzed it, and solved it. Tryzub was always improving on his watch.
We joined this Club after the turn of this century. By then, Pon Kozak had been here for fifty (50) years. Through his life of service, he had a keen sense of who he could depend upon. But he never asked of anyone what he was not prepared to do himself. Today, we talk about the unfortunate sense of entitlement people have. This was never Pon Kozak. You would never see him take as much as a free draft. It was frankly the opposite. After a long day of spring clean-up, trenching, or getting ready for a Club event, Pon Kozak would buy his crew a round of “Old Kiev.” You fondly remember the day you were in that special community of volunteers and toasted “Na zdrovya.”
The details of Pon Kozak’s extraordinary life and wonderful family are in his obituary posted on our Facebook page. Pon Kozak was a WWII survivor. He was intelligent, educated and successful. Winston Churchill said: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Pon Kozak gave us everything. Some might think it cliché to say Pon Kozak was Tryzub. He was.