When Dennis Krysiak needed a laugh he knew who to call.
The champion tennis player would ring Dave Conway, lure him down to the tennis courts at Shedd Park and torture him for a while.
“I certainly think of him when I pick up these crutches,” said Conway, who recently underwent a knee replacement. “The majority of the knee replacement was because of Dennis moving me up and down the court.”
Conway wouldn’t give up those days of being tortured on the court for anything. It was on those days, between matches, when he and Krysiak, colleagues at Lowell High School, became best friends.
“Once you met him, you never forgot him,” Conway said of his fun-loving, but competitive friend and frequent doubles partner.
In 2010, two years after Krysiak had been diagnosed with cancer, the duo won a bronze medal at the Senior Games in Springfield. Conway was proud; Krysiak disappointed.
“Third place isn’t bad?!” asked the incredulous Krysiak. “You’ve got to be kidding me, next year there needs to be improvement.”
“Yes, Coach,” responded Conway.
But, next year never came. Krysiak, a long-time LHS tennis coach, teacher and member of the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame, died of cancer on June 7, 2011. He was 61-years-old.
On Saturday morning, Krysiak’s family, friends, colleagues and students joined city and state officials in dedicating the tennis courts at Shedd Park in his honor.
The idea was Conway’s. He brought it to City Councilor Rita Mercier, who chairs the City Council’s Parks and Recreation subcommittee.
Mercier said although she did not know Dennis Krysiak, she needed only to hear about him from those who did to know naming the tennis courts in his honor was the right thing to do. In a show of city government teamwork, she presented the motion to her colleagues, who approved it and sent it along to the Board of Parks for final approval.
Krysiak’s wife, Sharon, said the monument unveiled at Shedd Park on Saturday by herself and Dennis’ mother Alice, is perfect because it gives family and friends a place to go to remember him. His ashes were scattered at sea, in the place where he caught his biggest lobsters.
“Dennis would have absolutely loved this,” Sharon Krysiak said of her husband who, in addition to playing tennis, was a member of the undefeated LHS 1967 football team, played hockey and ran track. “It all started here at Shedd Park. Although he played a lot of sports, tennis is the one that took him from Shedd Park throughout the United States.”
In 2007, Krysiak competed in the Senior Olympics in Kentucky and again in 2009 in San Francisco.
But, wherever he went, Krysiak never forgot from where he came.
“He always introduced himself as ‘Dennis Krys — Lowell, Mass.,” smiled Sharon Krysiak.
City Manager Bernie Lynch served as the Master of Ceremonies for Saturday morning’s ceremony. State Sen. Eileen Donoghue, State Rep. Dave Nangle, and Mayor Patrick Murphy presented citations in Dennis Krysiak’s honor.
Others in attendance included: City Councilor Marty Lorrey, Lowell School Committee members Jim Leary and Robert Gignac, Superintendent of Schools Jean Franco, LHS Headmaster Ed Rozmiarek, President of the United Teachers of Lowell Paul Georges, former LHS wresting coach George Bossi, former LHS Athletic Director and Krysiak classmate Brian Martin, former LHS basketball coach and Krysiak teammate Dennis Canney, Daley School Principal Liam Skinner, Lowell School Administrators Association President Susan Smith, Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee member George O’Hare, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Tom Bellegarde, and Assistant to the City Manager Henri Marchand.