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Remembering John Kalkowski

Our former Editorial Director has died from brain cancer, and we remember his love of travel and great food, as well as his dedication to packaging journalism.

If you knew John Wolfgang Kalkowski personally, you probably shared food with him at some point. His holiday treats were legendary. Rarely did his gifts to me make it home intact from the office (in my defense, it was a long commute). After feeding the staff at a company event, he shared his slow-cooker recipe for White Chicken Chili with me, which I have made and enjoyed countless times since. Whenever I can, I share his recipe so others can savor it too — including you (see below).

John was a big man, and not just because of his height. He was a big thinker, strong leader, and enthusiastic questioner — all necessary traits for a successful journalism career.

We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife Diane, son Andrew, other family, friends, and colleagues around the world. John lived about 17 months after he was diagnosed with incurable brain cancer in May 2021, traveling, as he loved to do, with his family in his final months. He died October 12, 2022.

His friends at PTIS posted John’s obituary on LinkedIn on Friday, October 14, which you can READ HERE, along with an outpouring of sympathy from the packaging community. So many comments and sadness at this news.

If you are so inclined … from the obit: “For those wishing to make donations, the family is requesting that donations go to The Barrow Neurological Foundation where he received his treatment. Donations can be made through the following link: Or mailed to: Barrow Neurological Foundation, 2910 N 3rd Ave, Ste 450, Phoenix, AZ 85013.”


My personal memories.

I met John sometime in the early 2000s, when he was working in marketing for Sun Chemical and I was chief editor for Food & Drug Packaging magazine. He gave me a tour of the company’s local facility, and then took me to lunch (our first of many food experiences together). I learned a lot and laughed a lot that day.

John hired me as editor of Packaging Digest. I literally hit the ground running, because my first official day with the magazine was day 1 of Pack Expo 2010. We only worked together for two years, but it was enough time for me to appreciate John’s zest for life and his dedication to packaging journalism.

I’m comforted with the thought of all the new places his soul can travel now. Adventures for sure!


John Kalkowski’s yummy Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili with Hominy recipe:

Prep Time: 5 min
Total Time: 10 hrs 5 min
Makes: 6 servings (1-1/3 cups each) (LP note: Double the recipe to enjoy with more people)

1-1/4 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (LP note: I substitute with chicken breasts)
2 cans (15.8 ounces each) great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15.5 ounces) white hominy, drained
1 envelope (1.25 ounces) Old El Paso 40% less sodium taco seasoning mix
1 can (4.5 ounces) Old El Paso chopped green chiles
1 can (10-3/4 ounces) condensed reduced-sodium cream of mushroom soup
Sour cream, if desired (LP note: I recommend!)
Chopped green onions, if desired
(LP note: I also sprinkle shredded cheese on top, either Mexican Blend or Cheddar)

Place chicken in 3- to 4-quart slow cooker. Top with remaining ingredients except sour cream and onions (LP note: And cheese).
Cover and cook on low heat setting 8-10 hours.
Before serving, stir gently to break up chicken pieces. Serve topped with sour cream and onions. (LP note: And shredded cheese, if desired.)


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