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Thousands raised for MND charity in memory of former Aberdeen Highland League player Frank Krukowski

The popular Peterhead and Huntly player died aged 68 following cancer and motor neurone disease.

Former Highland league footballer Frank Krukowski.
Former Highland league footballer Frank Krukowski.

Almost £4000 has been raised in memory of former Highland League and Scotland Under-18 footballer Frank Krukowski, 68.

Hundreds of mourners turned out to pay their last respects to the retired Peterhead player and Aberdeen health and safety operative who died following a battle with cancer and motor neurone disease (MND).

“It says a lot about my husband that so many people came to say goodbye,” said Debbie Krukowski, Frank’s wife.

Football focus

Francis Jan Krukowski was born in Bridge of Don on December 11 1954. He was the youngest of five children to engineer Zygmunt Krukowski, who had moved to Scotland from Poland during the war, and his wife Patricia who hailed from Torry.

Frank – as he was known to friends – attended St Nicholas Primary School on Balgownie Road then moved on to Bridge of Don Academy.

A talented and passionate football player from his youth Frank left school around the age of 15 and split his time between Aberdeen Technical College where he studied telecommunications and engineering, and football.

Highland League

The Highland League became Frank’s playground where his skills saw him earn places with Peterhead FC, Huntly and Banks o’ Dee. He also received a cap as a Scotland Under-18.

Peterhead FC players, in August 1980. Frank Krukowski is centre with Taylor on his right and Barbour on his left. </p> <p>

Frank had hoped to begin working life with British Telecom, however, despite passing the relevant exams he failed an eye test. The discovery that he was colour blind meant a change in direction so instead he started an apprenticeship with Bridge of Dee Electrical as an electrical engineer.

He worked out his own colour code so successfully that he was tasked with winding the coils for the worlds first MRI scanner in ARI.

After three years he qualified and remained with that firm. Work was second to his main passion – football – however.

Family man

In 1977 Frank married his sweetheart Deborah Smith from Northfield. Introduced to one another by friends while they were still teenagers, the young couple tied the knot in St Machar’s Cathedral and moved to Hutcheon Street.

Frank moved on to Belgrave Electrical in Berryden, just across the road from their home.

Frank Krukowski, centre, with granddaughter Elizabeth and son-in-law Tosh.

Around 1980 the family moved to Jesmond Road, Bridge of Don. Their first child, Joanne, was born in 1982. Son Paul came along in 1991.

Frank’s next career move was to take on a more office-based role at MI Swaco, though he “wore a number of hats” for the company.

‘On the ball’

Deborah, always known as Debbie, said her husband “never stopped.”

“He was at work all week, and playing football at the weekend. Then training a couple of times a week too. It was actually a cup game the day we got married.”

Still playing for Peterhead, Frank had asked Willie Lawson to be his best man but the team couldn’t afford to lose two good players, so Jim Hamilton – who was injured – stood in for Willie.

Peterhead FC 1975 squad who lined up against Aberdeen A at Pittodrie. Frank is back row, far right of the image.

“Francis said to me, ‘After the wedding ceremony would you mind if I played the game and then came back to the reception?’ That was a firm no,” added Debbie.

Frank continued working in health and safety for Swaco almost reaching the 25-year mark. He then had a brief stint for another firm before returning to Swaco, then owned by Schlumberger.

Difficult diagnoses

In 2016 Frank retired. He worked in the same field on a freelance contractor basis until 2017 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Though he was responding well to his treatment a new diagnosis dealt a devastating blow to Frank.

Father and son Frank and Paul Krukowski.

“Francis had been having some difficulty with his hand and arm. Our consultant suspected it, but we had to wait until test results came back to confirm… However, at the beginning of 2020 we found out he had MND.

“He just couldn’t get his head around it. It really pulled the carpet from under him. He had been so fit and healthy all his life. He finished with the Highland League in the 90s but was still playing seven-a-side football every week. ”

Motor Neurone Disease

MND – short for Motor Neurone Disease – is a life-shortening condition with no cure. It affects the nerves known as motor neurones found in the brain and spinal cord. It’s a progressive disease though symptoms can be managed.

Frank Krukowski with his daughter Joanne.

For Frank, a combination of absolute determination and his positive, “look on the bright side” mentality, which he had throughout his life, meant he defied the odds.

“His brother could never understand how managed to keep walking. He was just absolutely determined,” said Debbie. “Francis would tell himself that he would play football again one day. He said time after time that he would beat this [MND] and did everything that was asked of him and more.”

Final rest

On March 23, after a three-year battle, Frank passed away in Roxburgh House, where he had resided for less than 24-hours. It was just weeks before what would have been his and Debbie’s 46th wedding anniversary.

Frank and Debbie Krukowski.

“It’s been a really difficult time. Francis was always up for a laugh. He was just one of those people who could always crack a joke no matter what was happening. And was never happier than when he was surrounded by family and friends.

“It was hard to see some of that light go out.” said Debbie.

Frank leaves behind his wife, son, daughter, their partners and his two grandchildren.

Fitting farewell

More than 500 people attended his funeral – which filled the east and west chapels of Aberdeen Crematorium, and many more watching it via livestream.

Mourners have raised almost £4000 for MND charity, the Doddie Weir Foundation, and contributions are still welcome.

“He had a big send off – one of the biggest many people had ever seen. Which was fitting really. Francis was a big personality, someone who filled every room.”