Karl J. Recktenwald III, “Big Reck”, 74, of Bordentown, passed away peacefully on Thursday, November 12, 2020 at Greenwood House in Ewing.
Karl grew up in Hamilton Township and attended Kuser School through 8th grade then graduated from Steinert High School. During those years, he started his musical career with his love of the trumpet. Between Steinert and the Kiefer Band, Karl was known for his musicianship and leadership. Following high school Karl matriculated to Trenton State College as a performance major. His senior recital was herald as one of the finest in the school’s history. His next step was to Graduate School and a performance career, but the Viet Nam war intervened. Karl was in the process of auditioning to Temple University and Julliard when his number came up. He was able to enlist in the NJ National Guard. Following basic training he spent time as a bugler at Arlington Cemetery before being assigned to the Band at Seagirt, NJ. In the middle of all this, Karl took a teaching position at Hamilton High West. At the time, the band consisted of only 15 players. A Master’s degree in performance from Trenton State College and a postgraduate degree in Supervision soon followed. Over the years, Karl built this program up to be one of the finest in NJ with numerous State Honors Band performances. As the Hornet Band grew, his brother Thom joined him and together they took the band to a wide array of performance sites. From creating the Mercer County Cavalcade of Bands to the multiple performances in Hamilton, Bermuda, Walt Disney World, The Orange Bowl and Peach Bowl Parades, Nassau in the Bahamas and Niagara Falls, Canada.
During this same time, Karl was an active musician playing in everything from symphonic to Latin ensembles to big band to brass quintet. During the Chicago band craze, Karl directed and created an LP of his own arrangements of their music with the Hornet students. He often spoke of the great memories that he had of his students and hoped he was instrumental in the lives of the thousands of students that his career touched. Karl and his wife, Carmela met at Hamilton High West where they worked together on the school musicals. His love of music was surpassed only by his devotion to his wife. He loved to travel. After his retirement, he and his wife travelled throughout Europe and Africa, took many Caribbean Cruises, looked forward to quiet time in Indian Shores, Florida and enjoyed their magical trips to Walt Disney World with family. He also began taking old instruments and giving them a new life as lamps and tables and created “Karl’s Musical Novelties”. In addition, he used his woodworking skills to design and construct wooden toys that he donated each year to Toys for Tots. His love of education continued and he spent years as an adjunct professor at the College of New Jersey helping others to become music teachers. However, his greatest joy was getting his granddaughter Sammie started on playing the trumpet. Today the music stopped for Karl, but the legacy he left with countless Hornet Band members will live on in the Pride of Mercer County.
Son of the late Karl J. Recktenwald Jr. and Margaret Logan Recktenwald, he is survived by his wife, Carmela Recktenwald; his daughter, Christen Karolkiewicz and her husband Michael; his granddaughter, Samantha Paige Karolkiewicz; his brother, Thomas Recktenwald and his wife Ursula; his nephew, Adam Recktenwald, his wife Leighanne, and great-niece Mila; and his nephew, Kurt Recktenwald and his wife Anna.