Our Neighbors... Pat Kiminski

Almost as far back as she can remember, Pat Kiminski has felt comfortable with a pool cue in her hand. "When I was a kid, a friend of mine had a pool table in the basement and that's where it started," she recalled. That wasn't all. Living in Gar...

Almost as far back as she can remember, Pat Kiminski has felt comfortable with a pool cue in her hand.

"When I was a kid, a friend of mine had a pool table in the basement and that's where it started," she recalled.

That wasn't all. Living in Gary New Duluth, Kiminski's father worked for U.S. Steel and their family had access to the Good Fellowship Club, a company recreation center in Morgan Park with a host of activities - including pool.

"We'd walk to that club from our house in Gary and that's just what we would do all day," she said. "We learned [to play] by trial and error, figuring out how to aim and use chalk. If we were lucky, we'd run into people who would teach and coach us."

Since then, the importance of pool has fluctuated in Kiminski's life - she didn't play too much throughout high school, but easily took it up again while dating her husband, Randy Kiminski, in the early 1970s.


"It was entertainment at first," she said. "When we'd go out to a bar setting, there wasn't much else to do besides darts and I was never any good at [that]."

Eventually, both played in leagues and began winning numerous trophies in mixed doubles contention.

Randy Kiminski has seen his share of success playing pool and he's also a good coach, according to Pat, and she continues to learn from him, even today.

"He's always been better than me, although I can hold my own," she laughed. "Randy's also good at giving advice even though his game is entirely different than mine. He can tell me what went wrong and encourages me to [reach for] consistency."

The couple got married in 1975 and continued to play, although playing time evaporated little by little as they had their four children, Dan, Shelly and twins, Randy and Adam.

"We definitely took a break from it in those days," she said.

Kiminski began working in food service at Nopeming nursing home, which has since closed, and she later became a cook at the St. Louis County jail. That led her to become a corrections officer and then a sargeant at the facility. She's currently a captain.

"It's been an interesting journey," she said.


Although she didn't play pool while at work, the former corrections facility had a pool table for inmates.

"We had an incident once where an inmate picked up a ball and threw it at a staff member," she remembered. "We don't have that any more."

Because the Kiminskis weren't going out to play pool with four kids at home, as soon as she had saved enough money, Kiminski bought a pool table as a present to her husband.

Pool became a family activity and all the kids played.

"It gave us a good activity to do together," she said. "We're a game-playing family."

As they got older, the kids have played in pool leagues and at one point Randy and two of their sons played on a league together. All the kids still live in the area, from Brookston to Cloquet to Esko, and two of their sons work with Randy in the family business, Kiminski Paving.

The billiard tradition has continued into the next generation too, with Kiminski's 12-year-old granddaughter, Kailee Jo. Not only does she play at the Kiminski house, but her other set of grandparents also have a pool table.

"She even has her own stick," Kiminski said.


With five other grandchildren and one more on the way, pool playing in the Kiminski family will likely live on for a long time.

With their kids busy having their own families, the Kiminskis have become more involved in pool.

"It's very much a social sport and especially for people our age with grown kids, it's great," she said. "It keeps us from sitting in front of the TV."

In the past five years, she and her husband, Randy, have gotten a new pool table at home and have become active league players. They even bring their own pool cues and play in tournaments while vacationing in Florida.

"For some reason, pool seems to be very popular there," Pat said.

Between them, the Kiminskis have nine pool cues, although they aren't over the top with their equipment, according to Kiminski.

"Some people think the cue makes the player, and mine are good, but I'm still a pretty basic player," she said. "I've seen an amazing evolution of equipment in the past 30-some years and, like many other sports, it can be very expensive if you want it to be."

Kiminski currently plays three times a week in different leagues, one of which, she, her husband and nephew, Lance Kiminski, helped form last fall.

Called the Cloquet Area Valley League, it brings a pool game with different rules than played in the area in the past.

"The rules are great, although we bucked them when we first saw the game in Duluth," said Kiminski. "It takes a lot of skill. A good thing is the use of handicaps, like bowling, so no one gets totally blown away."

Once the Kiminskis tried it, they warmed up to the game.

"It's not that hard to learn," she said.

While Randy played in the state tournament last year in Rochester, they thought about getting a league started in the Cloquet area. First they asked if the Duluth league if they would just include Cloquet in their group, but they declined.

So they took the idea to the Minnesota Operators of Music and Amusement, who sponsor pool leagues in the state. Last September, they got the go-ahead and a new league in Cloquet was born.

Six teams were formed in Carlton and Scanlon and through active participation, next week, Kiminski will play in her first state tournament in Duluth. Randy will also play.

"I'm excited for next week and just want to be happy with my results," she said. "I don't plan to win anything, I just want to do my best."

What keeps Kiminiski interested after all these years is the people and the ongoing learning.

"We've met so many great people," she said. "Plus, the game is such a challenge and this new league is more fair and more fun for everybody. It's always a competition and everyone can learn a lot that way."

Kiminski encourages anyone interested in playing pool to check out the Rendezvous in Scanlon on Friday nights when they hold impromptu tournaments starting at 7 p.m.

"Anyone there by 7 p.m. can play and we're always especially encouraging women to give it a try."

Pine Journal Editor Lisa Baumann can be contacted at: .

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