“Harry Kulkowitz made friends wherever he went and demonstrated there was alway room for one more at the dinner table,” said Harry’s daughter Sigrid at his graveside service last Thursday. Approximately 100 of Harry’s friends and family gathered under the afternoon sun at the Cape May County Veterans cemetery to pay their respect to one of the greatest generation.
Bartenders stood next to chefs and musicians in the afternoon breeze for the funeral of the former operator of Cape May’s Mad Batter Restaurant and Carroll Villa Hotel. Uniformed policemen, bankers and state Senator Jeff Van Drew all gathered as a sign of respect. “He loved humanity and was a real person,” said his daughter Susan. The composition of the audience supported her claim.
Harry Kulkowitz the son of Russian Immigrants, who were Jewish, was born in New York 1924. His father was a tailor in New York City. His mother Sophia died while Harry was fighting in Europe. To join up in 1941, when the Americans came into the war, Harry had to lie on his enlistment papers, he was not yet 18, to fight alongside his friends.
Harry originally signed up to be a photographer and then became radio intercept operator. As a radio operator, he was trained to listen to Nazi codes and messages. Under Patton, Harry intercepted the first German message that presaged by hours the Battle of the Bulge.
Harry landed on Utah Beach, Normandy on June 6, 1944 as a 20-year-old with the 114th Signal Company, sea sick and frightened and as he says not knowing what the hell was going on! After landing, Harry went on through the whole European campaign eventually finishing in Germany.
Photography was Harry’s passion. He was never without his camera. After his discharge from the army, Harry set up a portrait studio in New York. Harry worked as a picture framer which led to his creating the Kenmore Art Gallery. He did this without the usual pedigrees. Rather, trusting his inner intelligence and unquenchable passion, he built one of the most prestigious fine art galleries in Philadelphia.
Harry’s love of photography developed into a friendship with Denis Finley. “This guy, who really didn’t know me from Adam, believed in me” said Finley. “That gave me a boost of self-confidence that I had never experienced before. Many, many years later, when I was a working photojournalist, thanks in no small part to Harry’s influence, I gave Harry a photo on which I inscribed “Harry, many years ago you gave me the greatest gift of my life, the ability to believe in myself.”
Long after the war, in 1978, Harry started the Mad Batter restaurant and the Carroll Villa Hotel on historic Jackson Street in Cape May New Jersey. The opening of the business helped to facilitate the renaissance of great restaurants in Cape May.