Remembering Chuck Puskarz, Observer’s Distribution Guru

Chuck Puskarz was an enormous man who brought intense passion to cooking, his family, UConn sports and delivering newspapers. For the past seven years if you picked up a copy of The Waterbury Observer in the city’s East End, Wolcott, Prospect or Naugatuck, Chuck Puskarz is the man who delivered it to you.
Shockingly, Chuck, 57, died suddenly in his Bristol home on October 30th.

I was introduced to Chuck by Andy Michaud, who at the time was publishing a monthly newspaper called the Sports Page. Chuck was helping Andy deliver the Sports Page throughout greater Waterbury, and suggested I hire Chuck to deliver the Observer.

Meeting Chuck was a hoot. He was wound up like a top and overwhelmed me with ideas about delivering the Observer and why I should merge with the Sports Page. Chuck had opinions and wasn’t shy about sharing them. I was stunned by the man’s intensity. Our first talk was more of a mugging than a conversation.

Chuck worked seven days a week delivering the Hartford Courant, the Hartford Advocate, the Bargain News, the Observer, and the Republican-American on Sundays. While most of us were snuggled warmly in our beds, Chuck was out plowing through the darkness getting newspapers delivered throughout central Connecticut. He would begin at 2 am and finish about the time the sun began peeking over the horizon. Chuck witnessed thousands of sunrises.

Once a month Chuck would come to my home in Morris and wait for the Observer to be delivered by a white freight truck from Trumbull Printing. Often Chuck would come straight to Morris after he’d finished his Courant route, and I’d look out the window and see Chuck snoozing in his van at 7:30 am waiting for the Observer. The paper wouldn’t come until 9 or 10 am and I would eventually go outside and visit with Chuck.

He was a volcano of information. Delivering newspapers was serious business to Chuck and he would give me the latest news from his route. He’d tell me what stop we’d lost, where the papers were moving well, and what I should put on the cover of the next Observer. Chuck had sold ads for a time at the Bristol Press and he’d give me suggestions about selling ads, and eventually how to run my business.That was Chuck. Intense, and always trying to improve a situation.

He took the East End route in 2000 and within two months Chuck had picked up an additional 75 stops and doubled the Observer’s penetration on his run. Chuck also helped the Observer purchase obsolete metal racks from the Hartford Courant. Chuck had noticed a pile of racks languishing in a corner of the Courant’s warehouse and asked if they might be for sale. They were, and the next week Chuck delivered 50 racks to my home. Chuck assisted me in picking up and refurbishing 40 plastic yellow distribution boxes that now dot downtown Waterbury, and month after month Chuck implored me to get more racks, more boxes, and to try and get the Observer delivered to my garage by 7 am every month.

Publishing a newspaper is a daunting task. After conceptualizing stories, conducting interviews, selling ads, making ads and laying the newspaper out; what’s left is distribution. And you can throw out all the work leading up to publication if the newspaper isn’t properly delivered. By the time the Observer is delivered to my house I’m usually exhausted from all the work that went into the maddening production process. Sometimes I’m fried. And it was into that void that Chuck Puskarz would swoop in and energize the rest of distribution team – me.

Encountering Chuck was better than two espressos. After going through our distribution report our conversation almost always veered to his family. Chuck talked about his wife C.J. becoming a deacon in the Episcopal church, and about his two daughters Cathryn and Colleen. Then it was on to UConn football and UConn basketball. Chuck graduated from UConn in the early 70s and had played the sousaphone in the marching band. Chuck was the only person I ever met who knew the words to the UConn fight song and he wasn’t shy about belting it out at Rentschler Field during a Husky’s game.

Last year Chuck invited me to go to the UConn – Pittsburgh football game and it was one of the most enjoyable sporting events I ever attended. We arrived at the stadium five hours before kick-off so Chuck and his friend Gary could set up a deluxe tailgate scene. We drank wine and beer and scarfed down the most delicious beef stew I have ever tasted. We had already logged a full day of social activity by the time the game started, and the ensuing UConn 46-45 triple overtime victory was the best football game either Chuck or I had ever seen.

Chuck was thrilled with UConn football this year and the last game he saw was when UConn whipped South Florida 22-15 to gain the school’s first national ranking.

Chuck’s family is devastated at his sudden departure, but they take solace with the intensity and passion in which he lived his life. Whatever Chuck Puskarz did, he did it full bore.