A beloved Deering High School educator and community fixture is in serious condition at a Portland hospital after he suffered a massive heart attack on Christmas Eve.

Ted Kaczowka of South Portland, who has worked as a substitute teacher at the school for years and operates the scoreboards for the basketball and baseball teams, may owe his life to a passer-by who saw him collapse on Exchange Street and called 911.

Frank Chowdry, 52, was walking to his office about 10 a.m. Tuesday when he spotted Kaczowka lying on the sidewalk near Middle Street, bleeding from his head. Chowdry didn’t know what happened, only that the man needed help.

“It was not a pretty scene,” said Chowdry, a lawyer. “He was not breathing. I took my coat off and put it under his head.”

A few minutes later, after rescue workers arrived, Chowdry walked away without giving anyone his name.

The Portland Fire Department, which operates ambulance services in the city, located Chowdry on Friday after a request by the Portland Press Herald to review its records of the emergency call.

Chowdry said that as a dispatcher walked him through the first steps of CPR, two other people quickly came to the scene.

Kaczowka began turning blue. “I thought he had died, frankly,” Chowdry said. “I tried to find a pulse, and nothing.”

A few minutes later, paramedics arrived and took over, rushing Kaczowka to Maine Medical Center, where he remained Friday in serious condition.

Chowdry briefly acknowledged the other two passers-by before continuing down Middle Street.

“I shook their hands, wished them a Merry Christmas, and went on my way,” he said.

Since then, Kaczowka’s three children have wondered about the identity of the stranger who gave their father a chance at survival.

“Maine is a small town,” wrote Rachel Mulligan Beauliue in a Facebook message Thursday. “Someone knows this hero.”

But Chowdry is dismissive about his part in the rescue, giving credit to the emergency medical technicians who rushed into action on the scene.

“They reacted very quickly,” said Chowdry, of Yarmouth. “It would be an overstatement to say that we did anything material. Luckily, rescue came in time.”

One of the paramedics who responded was Dan Svenson, a seven-year veteran of the department, who said he immediately went to work trying to revive Kaczowka.

He, too, didn’t know the name of the citizen who came to Kaczowka’s aid.

“There were three people surrounding him when we got there,” Svenson said in a phone interview Friday. “I just focused on treating the patient that we had.”

Gloria Miller, an administrative assistant at Deering High, said that Kaczowka is a constant presence at the high school, and has been a substitute teacher for more than a decade.

Known among teachers and students as a versatile educator, he is intelligent and outgoing, Miller said. Through Miller, Kaczowka’s children declined to be interviewed.

“Anybody who went to Deering High School knows, as they call him, Mr. K,” Miller said.

A widower, Kaczowka often helps students at the school in his spare time, tutoring after school and proctoring standardized exams, according to Miller and Melanie Craig, the school’s athletic director.

“He could strike up a conversation with a stranger that lasts an hour,” Craig said. “Kids know him. He’s a part of Deering.”

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

mbyrne@pressherald.com

 

This story was updated at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 28 to correct the name of the passer-by.