FLEMINGTON, NJ – John Kuczynski retired last week as the Chief of Detectives for the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office, capping what Deputy Chief Frank Crisologo called “more than 33 years of service and dedication.”

The ceremony, held last week outside Hunterdon Justice Center here, was marked with prayer, bagpipes, warm words, and a few choked-back tears.

Kuczynski’s record of public service began when he was still a senior at Hunterdon Central High School. That’s when he became a volunteer firefighter at East Whitehouse Fire Department, Crisologo said. Kuczynski would serve 15 years there, and eventually became its chief.

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His professional career began more humbly. First, as a newspaper carrier for the Courier News, then as a dishwasher and busboy at Ryland Inn. Kuczynski became a mechanic by trade but in 1985, he began his law enforcement career as an officer in the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department.

In 1988, Kuczynski joined the Clinton Police Department, then in 1989 began his service with the Clinton Township Police Department. He worked there as a police officer and detective before rising to the ranks of sergeant and then lieutenant, and served until 2011.

Between 1985 and 1997, Kuczynski – often called “Johnny K” by those who knew him well -  worked undercover for the Hunterdon County Narcotics Task Force. In 2011, Hunterdon County Prosecutor Anthony P. Kearns, III appointed him as the county’s Chief of Detectives.

In his remarks Kearns called the occasion bittersweet.

“It’s bitter because I’ll miss his good counsel, his good judgment, his good instincts,” Kearns said of the man whose office was next to his.

But Kearns said the occasion was also sweet because, “I developed a great friendship for the Chief. I have seven sisters. No brothers. And I’ve often thought if I ever had a brother, I would very much like him to be John Kuczynski.”

Kearns described Kuczynski as “a special person. He’s loyal, considerate, kind, and thinks about others constantly.”

Kuczynski  “persevered through a lengthy career, and represented all that law enforcement should be,” Kearns said. “It’s sweet that we have him to look to, as a model and example ... He reminds us what is good about people, what is great about America.”

In his brief remarks, Kuczynski called Kearns a “visionary leader, I appreciate having him believe in me ... for providing me an opportunity that very few in our profession ever reach.”

After a lengthy career in law enforcement before joining the Prosecutor’s Office, “I could have walked out years ago,” Kuczynski said. “But somewhere along the way there was a calling, and I followed my conscience.

“Now I walk out on my terms,” Kuczynski said. “I leave this career not draped in the flag of our country and carried out. I am one of the lucky ones.”   

Kuczynski said the ceremony should not be about him, but about those who were not so lucky. “These are who we should honor today,” he said, “along with their families, that gave their sons and daughters that lost their lives.”