Steve Krar, a man of many titles, turns page to 90 years

With a warm smile, Steve Krar awaits guests at his 90th birthday party on Sunday. (All photos by Joe Barkovich)

With a warm smile, Steve Krar awaits guests at his 90th birthday party on Sunday. (All photos by Joe Barkovich)

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler- at- large

Some of us are legends in their own minds. Others are legends in their own time. Count Steve Krar amongst the latter.

Steve asked me to write a book about his life so he could give it to friends as a gift at his 90th birthday celebration. This was back in early spring, late April I believe. I started researching this man’s life. Eventually I came to realize he had asked me too late, I wouldn’t be able to have a book done in time – just too much here to be researched! I agreed to a two-page story in its place. Soon enough I realized I faced another problem. Two pages just wouldn’t do it justice. Too much here to share!

With a huff and a puff, Steve blows out a single candle symbolizing his 90 years, at the celebration Sunday.

With a huff and a puff, Steve blows out a single candle symbolizing his 90 years.

I’m sure everyone in this room knows the kernels and nuggets that are part of amazing Steve’s amazing life. So I’m not going to be repetitive about his long lists of achievements, awards and amigos. There are many, many of each. And besides, a lot of this info is sure to come out during testimonials at today’s 90th birthday celebration.

But I do want to excerpt from one of his writings, An Interesting & Rewarding Life, Learning and Teaching Others. This takes us back to the beginning and my purpose for so doing is to make it clear that our Steve, our friend and yes, our hero – wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Things didn’t come easy. Things didn’t come without hard work. Things didn’t come without struggle and sacrifice.

Daughter Judy, who organized the celebration, with her dad.

Daughter Judy, who organized the celebration, with her dad.

“Coming to Canada from Hungary in the late 1920s was quite an experience since we did not know the language nor did we know our neighbours. There was a period of adjustment but most neighbours were very kind since we moved into a section of Crowland (now Welland) where most people were of European descent and had gone through the same adjustment many years before. We learned English fairly quickly from the children in the area we were fortunate to play with. My early recollection of informal schooling from children in the immediate neighbourhood and the first formal education I can clearly recall was at First Street School in Welland.”

Son Allan, left, at head table beside his dad.

Son Allan, left, at head table beside his dad.

What this is leading up to should be obvious: our Steve, our friend, our hero is what often is called a self-made man. His challenge was how to make use of the gifts he had been blessed with, and yes, Steve was blessed, in many ways. He knew from an early age that education would be the key to his future and he applied himself at whatever it was he was doing and the rest, as they say, is history.

I remember interviewing Steve way back when he had his textbook resource centre off Webber Road, probably around the mid-1970s. I was amazed by what he had to say about machines, about technology, about how work and the way we lived would be influenced by them in years ahead. Little did I know then that was talking with a bona fide futurist because, as things turned out, that’s what this gentleman and gentle man with the soft-spoken voice actually was.

Leanne, left and Basia, right, Steve's at-home caregivers.

Leanne, left and Basia, right, Steve’s at-home caregivers.

Memorabilia board on display at the birthday party.

Memorabilia board on display at the birthday party.

As his career went on, more interviews followed. I’m proud to say that I can take credit for a complimentary appellation that has stuck with him over the years: Steve being “the Stephen King of technology textbook writing” – so prolific was his writing. He is a man of many titles, as I like to call him – a co-author or author of many textbooks. The best seller (of which he is a co-author), is Technology of Machine Tools, now in its seventh edition, with sales of close to one million copies. It is used in schools in several countries besides Canada, some of them are: the Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, the U.S. and Spain.

But Steve is more than an academic and a man of letters. I see him as the cornerstone of preserving neighbourhood culture in the Welland community – including, of course, the still revered by many Crowland area to which Steve can trace his roots and routes while growing up off King Street.

This is no small accomplishment, nothing to be given short shrift and shrugged off.

In meeting after meeting with like-minded neighbourhood preservationists, it became increasingly clear that two trends posed threats to their long-term future: assimilation and attrition.

Steve and others in their King Street Boys neighbourhood group along with representatives of other neighbourhood associations knew there was little if anything they could do to stem the tide of attrition and assimilation. But each of the participants recognized that an annual celebration of their roots and routes was a must – if memories, mementoes and musings were to continue.

They brought in “new blood” as the saying goes, successor generations to these pioneers who gave blood, sweat and tears in making and shaping Welland into the community it is today. And again, credit Steve – our friend, our hero – as a visionary in playing the key role in development of the Welland Boys group and reunion, now held annually in early October.

I was at the most recent reunion, last October at Riverstone Event Centre, and so of course was Steve, 89 at the time. Wouldn’t have missed it for all the money in the world, he told me a few days before the event. A lot of old friends to meet up with, he said, some new friendships to make, memories to be shared and re-lived.

Life has always been like that for the guy who says he didn’t know what he was getting himself into when he started writing technology text books. You see: life, for Steve, has been a learning experience. A lifetime learning experience.

And what is so fruitful about this?

Why, that Steve – our friend, our hero, our Welland boy – was able to teach, to share with so many others by written word and spoken word, what he had learned.

Happy 90th, Steve my friend.

Steve was presented with this t-shirt, designating him as founder of the Advanced Technology Think Tank more than 50 years ago. He hasn't missed one in all those years.

Steve was presented this t-shirt, designating him as founder of the Advanced Technology Think Tank more than 50 years ago. He hasn’t missed one in all those years.

(A former reporter and city editor, Joe Barkovich  lives in his hometown of Welland, Ontario, Canada’s Rose City. This column was written as a tribute to long-time friend Steve Krar. )

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