Capt. Harry Gregory Kosky, a retired Coast Guard captain who collected jars of ocean water and sea shells, died of heart failure Saturday at his Severna Park home. He was 87.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Curtis Bay, Captain Kosky was a 1938 graduate of Polytechnic Institute and earned a bachelor's degree from Loyola College.
He enlisted in the Coast Guard during World War II and studied electronics and marine engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
After the war, he attended Johns Hopkins University, where he earned a degree in electrical engineering. He then accepted a Coast Guard commission and served at duty stations in Hawaii, Michigan, and New Orleans.
He served as executive officer aboard the USCG Mackinaw and later was captain of the USCG Westwind.
Mr. Kosky, who retired in 1974, voyaged to the Arctic Circle three times and to the Antarctic during his 31 year career. In addition to shells and samples from the world's oceans, his souvenir collection included other items reflecting his love for the sea.
"He even brought back a rib from a whale," said a son, Michael S. Kosky of Panama City, Fla.
Mr. Kosky, the son of a tailor and a homemaker mother who headed bingo at the local parish church, was raised in a very religious family.
"We lived near the bus line and my mother was always inviting priests and nuns in to eat," he told the Severna Park Voice in a 2005 interview. "I helped out so much at bingo when I was a kid that I won't go near bingo anymore."
A longtime communicant of St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Severna Park, Mr. Kosky was a certified catechist and had taught religious education for nearly 50 years.
His students ranged from three-year-olds to high school seniors, and in addition to teaching two sessions on Sundays or filling in where needed, he returned on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings to teach older students.
Captain Kosky was a regular at the parish's Youth Ministry, where he assisted with junior high dances and chaperoned the Holy Grounds coffeehouse.
Other duties included ushering at Masses, attending weekly Bible study and visiting new residents who moved to the community to let them know about St. John's. He also headed the library for the Adult Education Committee.
As a member of the pastoral home visit and health ministries, he regularly brought Holy Communion to the elderly and sick who were unable to attend church and led prayer meetings in nursing homes and hospitals.
"He was involved in a lot of different things. He was very active in the St. Vincent de Paul Society helping the poor. He worked with senior citizens, visited the homebound, brought them Communion, and helped wherever he could," said John F. Poland, director of religious education at the church.
"However, his first love was religious education. He always wanted to be in the classroom teaching kids. He loved talking about faith and how God had helped him during his time in the Coast Guard," Mr. Poland said, adding: "He always had a pocketful of Tootsie Rolls, which he gave the kids. He was always there to help them."
Mr. Poland said that Mr. Kosky often attended religious workshops. "He felt he never knew enough," he said. "He had a great outlook about church and the importance of God in his life."
Last year, in recognition of his long service, the congregants gave Mr. Kosky a dinner where he was presented an award that was signed by Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal William Keeler and Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski.
"He was so taken aback that he cried like a baby. He had no idea we were going to honor him," Mr. Poland said.
In 1991, he had been presented the Archdiocesan Medal for Outstanding Service.
A funeral Mass was offered yesterday at his church.
Also surviving are another son, Gregory D. Kosky of Honolulu; a daughter, Marcie C. Stephenson of Severna Park; a sister, Helen Griber of Catonsville; and five grandchildren. His wife of 62 years, the former Aldean Barnette, died in February. Another daughter, Susie Albert, died in 2002.