Carl Czajkowski was a brilliant man who knew how to tell a joke, his wife Donna said. And he seemed to know them all.
While overseeing welding during construction at the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant, Mr. Czajkowski made his workers a bet, she recalled: if he knew the joke, they’d buy him a beer. If he didn’t, he’d buy drinks.
He only bought drinks a handful of times in five years.
“He had an excellent, fun sense of humor,” she said. “He was very outgoing and personable.”
Mr. Czajkowski, an award-winning researcher who lived in South Jamesport, died while spearfishing in Long Island Sound off Cutchogue Tuesday night, Southold Town police said. He was 66.
Police received a report of a scuba diver who hadn’t returned and launched a search with the assistance of the Cutchogue Fire Department and Southold Bay Constables, police said.
Mr. Czajkowski was found in the water around 7 p.m. and pronounced dead at the scene, police said. The death remains under investigation, but is not believed to be suspicious, police said.
The Suffolk County Medical Examiners Office responded to assist in the investigation, police said.
Mr. Czajkowski — who had a doctorate in material sciences — worked closely with homeland security teams and nuclear regulators, his wife said. He logged more than a million frequent flier miles traveling the world to places like Russia and Alaska, she said.
He worked at Brookhaven National Lab from 1980 until his retirement last year.
In 2003, Mr. Czajkowski had been given an award from Brookhaven National Lab for his work on “ThraxVac,” a patented device to mitigate the effects of Anthrax spreading.
In recent years, Mr. Czajkowski worked to create radiation detectors for bridges and tunnels. It was time consuming and stressful work, but Mr. Czajkowski dedicated himself to it, his wife said.
“He always joked, and it was true, that he was away more than he was home,” she said. “No matter how much work you do in that, it’s never completely done.”
Still, Mr. Czajkowski was devoted to his family: his two daughters, their husbands and all the family’s nieces and nephews, she said. The couple had met when they were 15-year-olds at a doughnut shop in Brooklyn, Ms. Czajkowski said. They were married for 43 years.
He loved to play bridge, a pastime he shared with his wife the day he died. He was also an avid scuba diver, Ms. Czajkowski said.
“He went exactly how he would have wanted to,” she said.