Peter Jurzynsky 7/06/1951-29/012023
It’s with much sadness that ‘Folkestone’s American Cousin’ and prolific Channel swimmer, Peter Jurzynski has passed away in a Connecticut hospital on Sunday 29 January 2023, he was 71.
Peter had been suffering a serious illness after returning to his home town of Naugatuck following a Spring vacation spent in Folkestone.
The former US record holding Channel swimmer and frequent visitor to Folkestone was receiving treatment after being diagnosed with cancer. Writing to the Gazette shortly after his diagnosis, Peter, who had been our unofficial US correspondent for many years, has asked that readers pray for him as he undergoes chemotherapy at his home in Connecticut.
Speaking from his hospital bed in August 2022, Peter said that the whole situation was all rather unbelievable. He added: “I was in Folkestone only two months ago. “I ask folks in Folkestone, Hawkinge, Canterbury and Dover to pray for me. “I hope to visit you all again some time.”
Peter first started visiting the area back in 1985 and was frequently seen in the sea at Folkestone and Sandgate training for his annual channel swim attempt. All together he made 14 successful crossings earning a place in the record books as the most number of crossings by an American.
He underwent heart bypass surgery in 2008 and retired from competitive swimming shortly afterwards, but continued to visit the area regularly.
Former KM reporter, Sue Potter, said: “I still recall the day when Peter first walked into the Kentish Express office in Folkestone and asked if I was interested in writing a story about his Channel swim attempt. “Every year after that we would renew our acquaintance as he returned every summer to these shores. “Although I left the newspaper many years ago we stayed in touch and when my husband set up the Hawkinge Gazette, Peter became our unofficial US correspondent.”
Fellow contributor to the Hawkinge Gazette, Ray Duff who had been his friend for many years said: “I’m sure he will be very much missed by all, a sentiment echoed by the Hawkinge Gazette.”
Peter, age 71, passed away on Sunday January 29, 2022 at Smilow Cancer Center at Yale New Haven Hospital.
He was born in Waterbury, CT on June 7, 1951, and grew up in Naugatuck and was a graduate of St. Hedwig School and Naugatuck High School. During his college years he worked as a lifeguard for CT State Parks. He went on to receive his bachelor's and master's degrees from Springfield College. He lived many years in Springfield and Boston, MA where he made his home in "Southie" and swam at the LST Swim Club where he made many great friendships.
Peter worked for the Town of Stoneham in public relations and as a director of the Senior Center and at the Boston City Hall and also at the Boston School system as an educator. After returning to Naugatuck, Peter enjoyed substitute teaching at Kennedy and Crosby High Schools in Waterbury.
His true passion in life was swimming. Peter swam the English Channel with the Channel Swimming Association eight times seven England/France crossings from 1987-2000 and one France/England crossing in 1988 and was inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 2005 for his many accomplishments. He enjoyed his many trips to England where he made lifelong friends, especially in the town of Folkestone. He considered it his second home. He also loved politics and ran for mayor in his hometown of Naugatuck.
Peter also swam nearly every day at the Waterbury YMCA, up until his illness.
He had a great time and met and made many wonderful friends who encouraged him constantly throughout his illness.
Peter is survived by his loving sister Barbara Podlisny and her husband Stephen of Prospect; and several cousins and close friends.
Published by The New Haven Register on Feb. 3, 2023.
Our thoughts are with Peter's family.
Peter Jurzynski pictured in Folkestone town centre