From 1935 to 1939, the Town of Branford and its athletic teams shared in the enjoyment of its success. With 1998 Branford Sports Hall of Fame inductee Stan Gumkowski participating as a two-sport athlete in basketball and baseball, pride, distinction, and honor were main components to the teams as well as to the individual.
Born on June 16, 1921, Stan attended Branford High School and quickly inserted into arguably Branford’s best line-up of athletic teams ever assembled. Playing basketball ( as a guard) and baseball ( as a first baseman) under 1988 Hall of Fame inductee Johnny Knecht, Jr., Stan achieved championship status on the basketball court during his junior year. In the 1937-38 season, the Branford High School team turned in the most successful record of any team in the history of the school. The Hornets brought home an undefeated record, the only one of its kind in the state of Connecticut. This team won the Housatonic League conference title in addition to the Connecticut Class “B” State Championship. Branford was the first team to go through the season undefeated, winning twenty-one straight games, and the first team in the Housatonic League to win the title without a loss. In tournament competition, Branford scored the greatest total of points of any team in either Class “A” or Class “B” play. In the Class “B” tournament, Branford defeated East Haven, Plainville, and Windsor to capture the state title. Stan played with inductees Stan Petela ( inducted in 1989) Steven Hylinski (1993), Joe “Butch” Naimo ( 1993), James Barba (1995) Paul Ward (1996), and Albert Torino (1997).
In his senior year, Stan led the Hornets to a 13-3 win/loss record, good for second place in the Housatonic League. Branford went on to the Class “B” State Tournament and defeated Wethersfield by the score of 24-17 but fell in the semi-finals to Manchester Trade, 44-40.
Following graduation in 1940, he joined the M.I.F. championship baseball team in the New Haven Industrial League. Stan spent four and a half years with the Branford Battery along with fellow inductees Steven Hylinski, Joe “Butch” Naimo, and Vincent Raiola ( inducted in 1997) mostly in the Southwest Pacific Island during World War II. He is also the recipient of the Purple Heart during action in the liberation of the Philippine Island. After the war, Stan also showcased his talents on the volleyball court. He teamed with previous, Vic Lukawsky (1995), on the championship “Peerless” team.
As an employee of the United States Post Office for 37 years and an honored member of the Branford Elks, Stan enters tonight’s growing list of Hall of Fame inductees. Married for 43 years to the former Marion Padzinski Kelsey, Stan is the father to Bob Kelsey, Paul, John and Carol Ann Gumkowski. “ It’s a great honor to be selected to the Branford Sports Hall of Fame from a town that is an All-American town like Branford. I am very grateful to the committee for inducting me this year,” said Gumkowski.