Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Break out the tissues for this Rick Cleveland column.

My old and good friend Nick Kolinksy, a patriot if ever there was one, died on July 5, a day after his 77th Independence Day.

Nick was an Army veteran, who loved his country and the men and women who fought for it. But he was much more than that, as we will see. He was a football star, a square-jawed, bull-strong linemen on a national championship (1962) team at Southern Miss. A Pennsylvania native, Nick learned about USM when he was in the Army and drinking beer with some other soldiers in a German beer hall. One had attended USM and raved about it. Nick decided right then he was going to go to college in the funny-named town of Hattiesburg. And he did. When he left Pennsylvania, he told his mother he was headed for Mississippi. Her reply: “Son, that's a river, isn't it?”


Jack & Nick
When he got to Hattiesburg, he walked, unannounced into Hall of Fame football coach Pie Vann's office. “My name is Nick Kolinsky, and I want to play football for you,” he told Vann.

Vann gave him a tryout and then quickly a scholarship. Nick flourished at USM. And he never left Hattiesburg. He was an entrepreneur, a tavern owner who also ran a moving business. He was a devout Catholic, a family man, a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He was a Hattiesburg icon, possessing remarkable spirit, energy and work ethic. He was an emotional guy, who laughed and cried often, with no apologies for the latter. He was a doer.

If you were Nick's friend, he would do anything for you. If you were a stranger, he would do anything for you anyway, which brings us to today's story.

In 1981, Jack Lucas was a stranger. One day after work, Nick was watching TV, flipping channels, until he saw a CBS news program with images of the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. He was hooked.

The program told the Jack Lucas story. How Lucas, from North Carolina, had lied about his age at 14 to join the U.S. Marines. How, on Feb. 20, 1945, six days after his 17th birthday, Lucas hurled his body onto two enemy grenades, saving the lives of three fellow marines. How Lucas somehow survived the grenades with shrapnel throughout his body. How Lucas became the youngest ever to win the Congressional Medal of Honor, pinned on him by President Harry S. Truman.

But the program also told how Lucas had fallen on hard times, was living in a meat locker in Maryland on a $200 a month stipend from the government. Because of IRS problems, all other government benefits were garnished.
Nick Kolinsky was horrified. He could not believe his country would let this happen to such a patriot, such a hero. Nick cried himself to sleep that night and awakened in tears the next morning. Said his wife, Carol: “Well, do something about it.”

Nick called the CBS affiliate in Mobile and was told he should call the national network. He did so and was so insistent he was finally given the phone number of the program's producer. Nick convinced the producer that all he wanted to do was help Lucas, and the producer gave Nick a phone number.

It took several tries, but Nick finally got Lucas on the phone. They talked and hit it off. Several more phone calls ensued. Nick also made another call to the late U.S. Rep. Sonny Montgomery, a champion of military veterans. Within weeks, Lucas was restored to full benefits.

That wasn't enough for Nick, who knew Lucas was lonely. So he invited Lucas for a visit and then he offered him a place to live – and a family, his family. Nick and Carol and their four children. Nick and Carol Kolinsky's daughter, Kim Kolinsky, became particularly close to Jack Lucas, like the daughter he had never had.

“I don't have much to offer you, but I can offer you a family,” Nick told him Lucas. And that's the way it went down.
Eventually, Lucas bought his own home in Hattiesburg, and just as Nick Kolinsky, he never left. In the Hub City, Lucas met and married his wife, Ruby. His final years were happy ones. More than 63 years after his act of heroism, Jack Lucas died on June 15, 2008. The section of U.S. 49 between Wiggins and Hattiesburg is known as the Jack Lucas Medal of Honor Memorial Highway.



Eight years and a few days later after Jack Lucas' death, Nick Kolinsky passed away, leaving behind untold numbers of friends and admirers – and also leaving his adopted home, Hattiesburg, a far better place.

Legions of friends attended Nick's funeral last week. Appropriately, there was at least one stranger.

“I never knew this man Nick Kolinsky,” the man from Mobile told the family. “I am here to pay respects because of what he did for Jack Lucas.”

Rick Cleveland is a syndicated columnist and historian for the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. His email address is rcleveland@msfame.com.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I knew Nick over 40 years, he was truly a gentleman and a real man's-man.

RIP

-W said...

If there were more American's like these two, I doubt we would have all the problems we have today. Thanks Kingfish & Mr. Cleveland.

Anonymous said...

When I was in high school we'd take dates to Nick's first establishment in the basement of a building in downtown Hattiesburg. Although we were underage Nick would serve us weak beer from fruit jars and/or pitchers. If the band didn't show Nick would play his banjo and the entire bar would sing along with him. He never met a stranger and he always had a smile.
I lost touch with Nick after leaving south Mississippi but I never forgot his hospitality and friendliness.
Rest in peace Nick.

Anonymous said...

What a decent guy. Nick was a legend in Hattiesburg. RIP

Chris Hansen said...

Love this story. I also miss RC's writing.

Anonymous said...

I was in Nick's Ice House on Hardy Street countless times during my time at USM. He was a great guy. RIP.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).


Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.


In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.


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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS
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