Photos by Richard Podlesney
Stories flowed with love and lots of laughter as family, friends and the greater Killington community gathered to celebrate the life of Ken “KB” Budzyna on Sunday, July 20.
Many old friends, shared hugs and greetings of “I don’t believe it … Look at you! This is awesome,” as they came together for a truly happy “happy hour” in honor of their late friend.
That was as his wife January Meyer Budzyna wished it to be.
Noting their life was “full of love and laughter every day,” she chose the Grist Mill (now the Foundry) as the site for the celebration and story telling — fitting homage to the man who dreamed and built the popular lounge and restaurant on Summit Pond.
As folks shared stories over cocktails and listened to the band Blue Jaye Way and Friends, January Budzyna boated across Summit Pond in the Bass Tracker, the boat Ken left to his fishing buddies Tom Rabeck, Charlie Demarest, and Carl Lorenzo.
Folks came from as far away as Texas, many of whom took the microphone to share stories that filled the room with laughter.
Charlie Demarest spoke of being close friends “even though I don’t fish…” It was a friendship of 25 years and ended too soon, he said, noting their friendship was “philosophic in nature. Ken shared his business knowledge drinking free coffee while sitting on my porch … he was frugal with money,” an observation that brought gales of laughter.
But Demarest also noted he was generous in other ways, recalling the gourmet meals prepared for friends.
He also thanked his friend for the many lessons he learned, including, “You use 15 percent less toilet paper when you roll it over the front. I’ll invest my $1.50 saved in my pension plan,” Demarest joked.
And as others did, he ended on a note of emotion, saying, “I enjoyed hours with him at my store and will miss him a great deal.”
Andy McKane, another old friend, recalled meeting Budzyna just before a Halloween Party at the Wobbly Barn. “Greg Ashe and I got Ken a Little Lord Fauntleroy costume, and he wore it and carried a sucker [lollipop] all evening,” he said of Budzyna being a good sport.
Billy Bauer, who purchased Budzyna’s interest in the Summit Lodge and Grist Mill when his friend and mentor retired in 2005, recalled a relationship being “closer than to our own brothers.”
Noting “he was also my teacher,” Bauer recalled advice from “never catch a falling knife” to “work with the crew.”
Christmas week 1980 there was no snow, so “we drove to Newburgh, N.Y., and bought 50 pair of ice skates and that’s how skating began on the pond,” Bauer noted of Budzyna’s not wanting to lose guests that week.
The two also ran a sub-four hour marathon in Montreal after a trip that entailed “stopping at every bar on the way” and a night of partying with “no sleep,” Bauer said, a story that resonated and drew gales of laughter.
Bauer added that he ‘most admired Ken for his vision,” noting his contribution to the community in the early days when a sewer system was needed. That vision extended to the Grist Mill, where “his spirit lives on,” Bauer added.
College fraternity brother and longtime friend Greg Ashe, continued to see Ken daily in Port Charlotte, Florida, where they both made winter homes and fished together in recent years. He recalled their going to Gators, a biker bar for cocktails.
“Two ladies came up and asked us if we wanted to dance. Ken said we needed a drink first… The two women were like 85 years old and dressed in leather.”
“We still got it,” Ashe recalled Budzyna saying.
Abbey Cardenas came from Texas to honor the friend he made when they were neighbors in Costa Rica.
When Ken sold his house there, he gave Cardenas a $20 bill, saying he would no longer have use for Costa Rican money.
“I thought, wow, he has turned over a new leaf,” Cardenas said, noting his dilemma to retain it as a keepsake of this unusual occurrence or to use it. Having decided to use it, he learned the currency was no longer valid, noting Ken had the last laugh in the joke he pulled on him.
As with other “frugality” stories, this one drew howls of laughter.
Nancy Richie, who said she learned the business from Ken, told how she brought her best friend January up to Killington in 1998. “She met Ken and it’s one of the best love stories,” she noted.
Later in the evening, guests adjourned to the decks to view another fitting tribute as a bagpiper across the pond played Danny Boy. January Budzyna scattered Budzyna’s ashes over the pond and, as fireworks went up and “Amazing Grace” played, raised a glass in a fond farewell.
By Karen D. Lorentz