A tribute to the Kozmas: recollections of a Wadhams kid

Recently my brother, Mike, called to say that he was going to Joe Kozma's estate auction when it dawned on me - with first Ethel and then Joe's passing, a remarkable era had finally come to an end.

We moved to Wadhams in the spring of 1946 and beyond my immediate family, Ethel Kozma was the first person I can recall. It was summer Bible school at the Congregational Church, and the children were singing hymns. This youngster must have looked puzzled (or scared) because Ethel quickly came to my side and showed me how to follow the music to "This is my Father's world" - it is still my favorite hymn!

It would take me years to fully realize how closely linked the Kozmas were with the village of Wadhams and what an impact they had on the community. They were part of the glue that held the Congregational Church together and never sought any recognition. For several summers Ethel drove a carload of us to the Church Camp at Medusa, always making sure that we had time enough to stop at Stewart's Ice Cream where you could 'make your own sundaes' - what a treat for a kid from the farm that didn't even know what a 'sundae' was. Christmas pageants at church were always special with Ethel arranging suitable programs and making sure everyone knew their lines. But, I am getting ahead of myself.

One of the most memorable events for me occurred in the late 1940s when my parents had the opportunity to take an out-of-town trip. My brothers and I were sent to stay with family and friends and it was my good fortune to stay with the Kozmas. By the time I awoke the first morning Ethel had already taken Joe to meet his ride to work at the Republic Steel mines and packed her car with lunch and fishing tackle. It was a warm spring day - Lake Champlain was high from winter runoff, and Ethel knew exactly where to set up our fishing spot as the swollen lake came up to meet the Crown Point bridge road. She showed me how to bait a hook and set the plastic bobber at just the right height. Together we proceeded to catch was seemed like a hundred "Pumpkin Seeds" and I wondered what we would do with all these fish. The answer was soon obvious - a short drive to Joe's parents home in Witherbee where we cleaned and prepared fish for their extended family. At shift change Ethel took me to pick Joe up, and I watched in awe at the head of the mine shaft as the skip brought the men back up above ground. Joe said when I was older, he would take me down in the mine - but, the occasion never arose. How I wish I could have done that! We stayed at the Kozma parents until evening and I marveled at how the older generation still spoke in their native language.

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