WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — John J. Kucich Sr., of Williamstown, Mass., and Rancho Mirage, Calif., died peacefully on December 2, 2017, in the company of his wife and children after a long illness. He was 83.
He had a long and successful career in the beverage industry. He was a loving husband, father and grandfather, an avid golfer and dear friend to many who cherished his mentorship, his storytelling and his open-hearted generosity.
John was born in Tarrytown, New York, in 1934, the second child of Dominick and Elena Kucich, who emigrated from Croatia. His father worked for many years at the General Motors plant in North Tarrytown. After graduating from North Tarrytown High School, John briefly pursued a career as a professional accordionist, at one point performing in Carnegie Hall as part of a hundred-accordion orchestra. While working at a clothing store in Tarrytown, he met Estelle Woisard, who became his wife of over fifty years.
John took courses in business at New York University before starting a career in the beverage industry. His work took him across the country and around the world as he filled positions in a number of companies, moving from a sales representative for Blue Crest Wine and Spirits to regional manager and marketing director for Fleishman Distilling to senior vice president of Julius Wiles and Sons. Under RJR Nabisco, he became president and then CEO of All Brand Importers, representing brands such as Moosehead, Pilsner Urquell, Dos Equis, and Fosters. In 1989, he became president and CEO of Dribeck Importing, distributing and marketing Beck’s Beer. In 1993, he retired from Dribeck and founded International Beverage Consultants, where he worked with a wide variety of domestic and international clients until his last illness.
John and Estelle raised two children while living in Chappaqua, New York, Lake Forest, Illinois, and Ridgefield, Connecticut. After retiring from Dribeck, he and Estelle divided their time between Williamstown and Rancho Mirage before her death 2013. He married Sheila Ruble, of Palm Springs, in 2015; they were together for just over two joyful years.
While he was a lifelong musician, car enthusiast and fisherman, his favorite pastime was golf. He was a member of the Connecticut Golf Club in Easton, the Taconic Golf Club in Williamstown and Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage. He was a long-time member of the New York Athletic Club. A devout Roman Catholic, he was also a member of the Knights of Columbus.
John is remembered as a loving husband and a devoted father and grandfather eager to provide for his family. He loved nothing better than gathering with family and friends around the dinner table. He was an incredibly loyal and generous friend, eager to help along a business career or give a tip on a golf swing; he was always ready to give to a good cause. He was a firm believer that hard work and honesty would lead to success. He fought tenaciously against his illness for more than a decade, relishing the time he gained to see his grandchildren grow, to continue his work, and to be with family and friends.
John is survived by his wife, Sheila; his sister, Mary Byrnes, of New City, New York; his children, Marguerite Lancia, of Bedford, New York, and John Kucich, Jr., of Maynard, Massachusetts; and his grandchildren, Nicholas, Alexander, Christopher and Michael.
Funeral notice: A memorial mass will be held at St. Patrick and St. Raphael Church in Williamstown, Mass., at 11 a.m. on January 13, 2018.