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‘Polish Eagle’ Flies High in ‘Nordeast’

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May 8, 2017


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Dick Jonckowski’s dad told him to enjoy life–because no one gets out alive. Maybe that’s why he’s gone through life telling jokes and making so many Minnesotans laugh.

Nicknamed the “The Polish Eagle” long ago because of his fondness for the NFL’s Eagles, Jonckowski had the crowd roaring last Friday at Jax Café in northeast Minneapolis when he was honored by the Minnesota Minute Men. “You never have a bad day when you fly with ‘The Polish Eagle,’ ” sportscaster Mike Max told the audience.

Max was the emcee for a Jonckowski roast organized by the Minute Men to present him with the Courage Award given annually to individuals for outstanding service to the community. Jonckowski completed 31 years as the public address announcer for Gophers basketball games this winter. During his career he has also been the P.A. man for 29 years of Gophers baseball, worked in local radio, and emceed and entertained for decades at countless events in Minnesota and other parts of the country.

Past winners of the Courage Award include golf legend Patty Berg, former vice president of the United States Hubert Humphrey, ex-Gopher football coach Jerry Kill and wife Rebecca Kill, and NBA Hall of Famer Vern Mikkelsen. The award has been presented every year since 1979.

While the jokes came fast and furious from Max and the celebrity roasters, there were serious moments too. “You are a class act,” said former Gopher football player Jim Carter. “I am proud to be your friend.”

Jonckowski, 73, became emotional when recalling his recovery from cancer a few years ago. He talked about crying at the hospital and his gratitude for the many cards and phone calls of support he received. “Almost two and one-half years of being cancer free,” he told the crowd.

Arlene and Dick Jonckowski in their sports memorabilia-filled basement.

Jonckowski is planning to tell his story in a book with local author Jim Bruton. No doubt it will be a fun read from a man who has literally laughed his way through life and knows he has much to celebrate, including 51 years of marriage with wife Arlene.

Worth Noting

Jonckowski will entertain with his comedy routine on Saturday night at O’Gara’s Bar & Grill in St. Paul as part of a fundraiser for Mendota Heights youth baseball. More information is available at Mendotaheightsathletics.com

Marion Barber II, who was the Gophers leading rusher in 1978 with 1,210 yards, will receive his degree in youth studies from the University of Minnesota Thursday night during graduation ceremonies at Mariucci Arena. Marion wanted to earn his degree before son Thomas Barber, who will be a sophomore linebacker for the Gophers next season, graduates from college.

Former Gophers assistant football coach Dan O’Brien has accepted a position with Sun Country Airlines as director of airport customer experience. Mike Sherels, another member of last season’s staff, is on medical leave from the University and is undecided about future plans but will meet with Gophers athletic director Mark Coyle to discuss a position in the athletic department.

Former Washburn head football coach Giovan Jenkins is now a volunteer assistant at Hamline working with the cornerbacks.

Vikings radio play-by-play man Paul Allen admires coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman. Allen believes that after last season’s disappointing 8-8 record, the Vikings will have a comeback year in 2017, perhaps winning the NFC North. “Spielman and Zimmer like for the team to fly under the radar, and that’s exactly where we are right now,” Allen told Sports Headliners. “That’s what we’ll do, and I think Vikings fans will be very, very pleased with the 2017 team.”

The Vikings announced today that Tina Holmes is the organization’s new chief of staff & strategic advisor. Holmes has been chief of staff at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota. Holmes will work “closely with the team’s executive vice presidents and vice presidents, acting as an executive liaison, surfacing issues and facilitating solutions,” according to a team news release.

Former Timberwolves forward Anthony Bennett was cut by his Turkish team last Tuesday, according to a May 2 online story by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Bennett, who was a star player at UNLV, was the NBA’s overall No. 1 draft choice in 2013 when he was selected by the Cavs. He came to the Wolves from the Cavs in a 2014 deal that also brought Andrew Wiggins to Minneapolis and sent Kevin Love to Cleveland.

Bad timing for the Twins yesterday drawing one of their largest crowds of the early season (31,763) but losing 17-6 to the Red Sox in a game that lasted three hours and 46 minutes.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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