Mystic hunter remembered by brother as 'all around good guy'

Josef Kosztala, who died on Wednesday, called his brother-in-law earlier that evening to ask for a favor.

The 71-year-old retired Electric Boat employee from Mystic was an avid hunter and on this evening had been out on private land in Ledyard, dressed in camouflaged clothing with bow in hand. He excitedly explained over the phone to his sister’s brother, Peter McLoughlin, that he had bagged a four-point buck, according to an account by Josef’s younger brother, Edward Kosztala of North Stonington.

“It was a big one,” Edward Kosztala said.

In a phone interview on Friday, Kosztala was emotional while explaining what he thought were his brother's final hours of life.

Kosztala said his brother would have needed help dragging the deer from the hilly terrain in the forest off Long Cove Road. Josef’s brother-in-law, McLoughlin, drove to where Josef’s vehicle was parked. He did not find Josef. And when it seemed too much time had passed without a sign of Josef, he spoke to Josef’s wife, Eileen. The two joined with Josef’s daughter, one of his three children, at the Ledyard property and made the trek to Josef’s tree stand, from which he would have shot the deer.

He wasn’t there.

That’s when the family called police. The response was immediate and within minutes Edward Kosztala said a mix of police and firefighters were searching the woods with help from a state police K-9 team and infrared drone from the Waterford Police Department.

Josef was discovered unresponsive at 8:05 p.m. First responders used an automated external defibrillator to revive him and carried him out of the woods on a Stokes basket stretcher. He died later that night at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital.

Edward Kosztala credits first responders with giving his brother a fighting chance to live.

“I just want to say thank you to them. That was an effort for them. It was dark. If it wasn’t for them, he’d be out there still,” Edward said.

Edward Kosztala said family is still in the early stages of mourning and awaiting autopsy results on the cause of his brother’s death. Edward thinks it likely that, after shooting the deer, his brother had to track him at least for a short distance to the spot where the deer died.

“I guess something happened during that time,” he said.

Josef Kosztala grew up in New London, one of eight children, served in the Air Force and worked for years at Electric Boat, and later a private company, before his retirement less than two years ago.

Edward Kosztala remembers his brother as “an all-around good guy” who “would do anything for anybody.”

“There was not a bad bone in his system,” Edward said.

In addition to hunting and fishing, the two met just about every weekend to play golf, usually in Richmond, R.I.

Edward Kosztala said it’s the second blow to himself and family. His 68-year-old brother Marion “Michael” Kosztala died suddenly on Nov. 26, 2017, after suffering from a heart attack while driving.

Edward, who lives in North Stonington and works in the environmental services division at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, said his other two brothers live out of state.

Josef Kosztala's obituary appears in Sunday's edition of The Day.

g.smith@theday.com

Editor's Note: This version corrects the spelling of Josef Paul Kosztala's first name.

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