Former Commercial Web Offset Printing Industry Leader Stan Kukla Passes at Age 83
Fondly known in Chicago printing circles as the “Polish Prints,” Stanley (Stan) J. Kukla Jr. passed away Dec. 27, 2020, at age 83. Along with his father, Stan Sr., and brothers Fred and Robert, the native Chicagoan founded Kukla Press in 1964, a commercial web offset printing business then-located in Schiller Park, Ill.
Kukla Press, which played a role in the development of "scratch and sniff" sensory printing and in-line web finishing advancements, continued to expand its business and relocated to Elk Grove Village, Ill., in the mid-1970s. Stan Jr. was responsible for the sales side of the business and was named CEO of Kukla Press following the death of his father in 1975.
He was passionate about the printing business, which — combined with a great wit and humor — helped him excel in sales. Stan was a people person and natural entertainer who loved to tell jokes and meet new people. His motto throughout his life was “Work hard, play hard."
Always ready with a joke, a funny story, or an anecdote from his past, Stan, in true character, showed up one evening at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago for an annual gathering of the PIA Web Offset Association carrying his own fishing pole. Stan, nonetheless, was serious about the success of Kukla Press, and cared deeply about his employees and his family.
Stan’s own three sons, Joe, Steve, and Greg Kukla, continued in his footsteps by contributing to the printing industry throughout their own careers. Stan was also married to his wife Geraldine "Gerrie" for 58 years.
Just as Chicago became the hub of the Midwest printing industry, personified by the concentration of printing establishments up and down Printers Row, Stan's professional life was dedicated to the future of printing and to promoting its contribution to society. He served as a president of the PIA Web Offset Association managed for many years by Tom Basore, president of the Printing Industries of Illinois & Indiana (PII), and a member of the Chicago Litho Club. Outside of the industry, Stan also served as a board member of the Boy Scouts of America, a board member of the City of Hope, and a member of the Knights of Columbus.
A 1992 inductee into the Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame, he was honored that year alongside fellow printing industry leaders Tom Brinkman of Metroweb, Mark C. Pope III of Graphic Industries, and Michael Voss of Meehan Tooker.
Proud of his Polish heritage, Stan was a member of the Polish Alliance of Chicago and proudly flew the Polish flag side-by-side with the American flag in front of Kukla Press. He even had the company's semi-tractor trailer trucks painted with the Polish Eagle in honor of his ancestry.
Kukla Press was eventually sold in the late 1990s to A.O. Smith/Berlin Industries.
Outside of work, Stan enjoyed playing golf, where he was a member at River Forest Country Club in Elmhurst, Ill. As his obituary noted, Stan was never a pro golfer, but if you ever played a round with him, you probably thought you were playing with Rodney Dangerfield. In the mid-'80s, he joined Big Foot Country Club in Fontana Wis., where his family had a second home in nearby Lake Geneva.
Stan and his wife eventually discovered a place in Islamorada in the Florida Keys, where he and his three sons spent many hours fishing on his boat named “Southern Comfort.” Stan enjoyed most outdoor activities, including duck, deer, and pheasant hunting, or just taking a long walk in the woods.
As Stan retired, he reestablished his childhood talent with the paint brush. He loved to paint on canvas and took classes to improve his skills. Over the years, Stan painted many pictures for family and friends.
A visitation is scheduled for Friday Jan. 8, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Smith Corcoran Funeral Home, 185 E. Northwest Hwy., Palatine, IL 60067. Funeral mass is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 9, at Holy Family Catholic Church. Registration for mass attendance is http://bit.ly/KuklaSFuneral. The mass will also to be live streamed at: www.holyfamilyparish.org
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made in Stan's name to Misericordia Heart of Mercy, Attn: Sister Rosemary Connelly, 6300 N. Ridge Ave., Chicago, IL 60660.
The passing of Stanley J. Kukla Jr. marks another milestone of a former well-known and liked printing industry leader who in many ways was larger than life and who excelled during the heydays of web offset printing.