'A punch to the gut:' Stanley Kudej remembered for dedication to Shelton

SHELTON — Stanley Kudej, a decades-long fixture in the city’s youth baseball community and former Alderman, died Monday.

Kudej, 82, was known for his work with the Shelton National Little League where he was board president for some 35 years. He lived most of his life in Shelton, and was an alderman representing the Second Ward for nearly two decades before stepping down last month.

“It feels like a punch to the gut,” Alderman Eric McPherson, who served alongside Kudej in the Second Ward for the past 12 years, said Tuesday. “Stanley, to me, was always a gentleman, a terrific person. He enjoyed helping people.

“Whether it was his years with the Shelton Little League, or on the Parks and Recreation Commission or his nearly 20 years on the Board of Aldermen, Stanley’s contributions to the city were tremendous. He helped make this city a better place for all of us,” McPherson added. “He set out to make a difference, and he leaves an incredible legacy.”

Shelton National Little League posted a tribute to Kudej on its website on Monday night.

Darrin Besescheck, present Shelton Little League president, said Kudej will always be remembered for putting the needs of the children and league ahead of his own. In all, Besescheck said Kudej impacted the lives of some 15,000 city youth during his decades with the league.

“I will say that the values, morals and leadership skills he exhibited during his tenure has had a great impact on me personally and has helped me to carry on his great work,” Besescheck told Hearst Connecticut Media.

“He always put the needs of the children and the league ahead of his own, even when he wasn't feeling good,” Besescheck added. “I remember one time a few years ago I was visiting him in the hospital, and the first thing you said to me was, ‘Did you put baseballs out for tonight's games?’ That's just how he was … and he will be terribly missed.”

Kudej was a fixture at Sunnyside School starting from his time as a coach and manager and culminating with his time as league president, people recalled.

The Little League social media post stated that Kudej’s accomplishments are “too many to list, but know that without any shadow of a doubt that the Little League program in Shelton would not be the same today without all his hard work and dedication throughout the years.”

During his time, Kudej played an essential role starting the Challenger Little League for handicapped children.

“His tremendous impact on the league and the youth of Shelton will surely endure,” the post read.

Jason Perillo, a lifelong Shelton resident and current state representative, credited Kudej for helping thousands of the city’s youth. Perillo played baseball from the mid- to late 1980s and was part of a District championship team of 12-year-olds in his time on the city diamonds.

“Stan was a vital fixture for decades in Shelton,” Perillo said. “He fought for boys and girls who just wanted to get out there and play and his years of service taught Shelton’s young people teamwork and leadership.”

Kudej’s youth baseball acknowledgments included the facility off River Road — the Stanley and Patricia Kudej Athletic Complex — named for he and his wife.

“Stan and Shelton Little League made me and thousands of other kids just like me better people,” Perillo added.

Kudej, an alderman for two decades, announced he was stepping down last month.

At the time, Mayor Mark Lauretti said Kudej, a Republican reelected in 2019, said the longtime alderman had “not been in good health,” which was why he stepped down.

Republican Town Committee Chair and fellow Alderman Anthony Simonetti said Kudej was “always a person who listened to everyone.

“He respected your ideas, thoughts and stand on an issue,” Simonetti said. “It drew people to him that respected him for his understanding and appreciation of their thoughts. He had a knack for finding the solution to a problem and could easily prove and explain it.”

Kudej has served on both the aldermen’s street committee and was a finance committee member and former chairman.

McPherson said both he and Kudej took pride in supporting Lauretti’s vision to revitalize downtown, which he recalls had some 30 empty storefronts back in 1991.

“Stanley will be remembered for his dedication to the people in the Second Ward and especially the kids in the Little League program. He was so committed to those kids ... to that program,” Board of Aldermen President John Anglace, Jr., said. “He was a magnificent person.”

Third Ward Alderman Cris Balamaci said that Kudej was a valued member of the board and the city.

“He will be sincerely missed by all,” Balamaci said.

A nearly lifelong resident of Shelton, Kudej was an Army veteran and a member of American Legion Post 16, where he has served as treasurer of its baseball team. He was a longtime member of Shelton’s Czech Club and a lifetime member of the Boys and Girls Club of the Lower Naugatuck Valley.

Kudej retired from Allied Signal after 37 years and was a local 1010 UAW official in charge of workmens compensation.

A staunch supporter of recreational opportunities for residents, Kudej was a Shelton Parks and Recreation Commission member for more than 25 years.