By Steven J. Smith
OCEAN RIDGE — Pierce Koslosky Sr. was the very model of a tenacious businessman, a loving husband and a dedicated family patriarch, who emerged from humble beginnings in a coal town to embrace lasting success in the business world.
According to his son, Pierce Jr., Mr. Koslosky Sr. was born in Shenandoah, Penn., on May 12, 1920, the son of a local politician.
“His dad lost a leg in a coal colliery when he was 12 years old,” Pierce Koslosky, Jr. said. “And he became something of a wheeler-dealer in the area. I’m still in touch with the people of Shenandoah, who hold an annual kielbasa festival that draws visitors from around the country. It’s a vibrant, colorful place.”
After Mr. Koslosky Sr.’s father died, his mother remarried and the family moved to the Newark, N.J., area, where he grew up and secured an accounting degree from what is now Rutgers University. He served as a master sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II and was known as “Two-Gun Koslosky,” because of the two .45 caliber pistols he would strap on for protection during his excursions to the U.S. Mint, where he would extract up to $500,000 at a time in cash to meet his payrolls.
“He had an armed jeep in front of him and an armed jeep behind him,” Koslosky Jr. laughed. “He was stationed in Fort Meade, Md., at the time. ‘Two-Gun Koslosky.’ What a hoot!”
After the war, he worked several years for Magnolia Metal Corp. — a foundry and machine shop that started in 1886 and still manufactures precision bearings that are shipped all over the world. He would eventually become chairman and president of the company, but early on a certain official prevented him from buying stock in it, so he quit.
He next started a printing business with a friend called Color Reproductions, in Union, N.J. Koslosky Jr. remembered working there during summer vacations while in high school.
“Most of their accounts were grocery stores and companies like Exxon,” he said. “Then in the early 1960s, managers from Magnolia Metal approached him and asked if he wanted to invest in the company. He and several investors actually bought out the official who had earlier forced him to quit! He went on to become the company’s president. He remained in that position until 2000.”
Betty Koslosky, who started out as Mr. Koslosky’s secretary, became his second wife in 1969. The two moved to Ocean Ridge in 1978.
“He was a brilliant man and he knew a lot about business,” she said. “He didn’t have a lot of hobbies. We went on a lot of cruises, because he found them restful. But business was a very big part of his life. He didn’t really retire until he was 80.”
Koslosky Jr. agreed his father enjoyed traveling.
“At one point we owned a third of a company in Dundee, Scotland, and he would travel over there quite a bit,” he said.
Mr. Koslosky died on Feb. 25 from complications of congestive heart failure. He was 94 years old. His wife, two sisters, seven children, 16 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren survive him.
Koslosky Jr. said his father would be most remembered for his sense of humor and his tenacity.
“He did not give up,” he said. “For his 70th birthday, I bought him a plaque featuring a famous quote by Winston Churchill: ‘Never, never, never give up.’ And he really lived that out for us.”