Stephen Lysak & Stephen Macknowski
Stephen Lysak, born August 7, 1912 in Newark, New Jersey, learned the rudiments of canoeing in 1924 while he was a Graham School Boy Scout at Camp Ripowam. By 1927 he had built his first canoe and ranged the Hudson River from New York Bay to its headwaters. In 1932 he joined the Yonkers Canoe Club and under the expert tutelage of the late William H. Burns and the inspiring leadership of Harold Bruns and Washington. In the ensuing years Lysak played a major role in bringing nine national championships to the City of Yonkers. He enjoyed a span of competitive to the City of Yonkers. He enjoyed a span of 21 years of competitive racing, interrupted only by wartime service with the U.S. Marine Corps.
Stephen A. Macknowski was born in Yonkers on February 16, 1922 and his first canoe experience was when he made a canoe from wood strips and discarded awning canvas which got him half way across the Hudson before it sank. In Saunders Trades and Technical High School he was awarded the first varsity letter ever given a Yonkers high school student for canoeing when he won the Westchester and Passaic County Championships. In1933 he won the N.Y. State 168 pound wrestling championship while representing the Yonkers YMCA. The same year he joined the Yonkers Canoe Club, played a role in three national team championships, and embarked on a competitive career of 10 years, interrupted by wartime service with the Seabees.
In 1948 Lysak and Macknoski made careful plans to win a berth on the U.S. Olympic Canoe Team and by spring had designed and built their own canoe. They commended an arduous training ordeal which continues until they won our country’s first gold medal in history in canoeing on a rain-swept River Thames at Henley, England-the two men singled blade 10,000 meter race. The following day they captured the silver medal in the 100 meter race, missing a second gold medal by four inches.
A week after returning home they won the national title in the two-men singled senior races and they joined with Yonkers Canoe teammates to win the national four man singled blade senior crew title for the third time.
Macknowski still retains his interest in canoeing, having been elected Commodore of the Yonkers Canoe Club for five terms, coaching the club’s youth program, and had been a local leader in raising funds for the U.S. Olympic Teams. Lysak has never hung up his paddle. In 1953 he moved into canoe sailing and has won six national championships in the Open Cruising Canoe Class. Since 1963 he has been sailing the international 10 Square Meter Canoe, the 100 year old class in which the founding fathers of the Yonkers Canoe Club achieved national recognition in the 1880’s and on through the turn of the century.