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After death of his father, 11-year-old takes over Mummers string band

"He would've never wanted us to stop," the Duffy's String Band's musical director said. "It's moving forward from here, and it's all for him."

Teddy Kudrick and his son, Jake, perform as Marlin and Nemo from "Finding Nemo" in the Duffy String Band's 2017 New Year's presentation, "Tune-A-Fish."
Teddy Kudrick and his son, Jake, perform as Marlin and Nemo from "Finding Nemo" in the Duffy String Band's 2017 New Year's presentation, "Tune-A-Fish."Read moreProvided by Duffy String Band

When Megan Flaherty joined the Duffy String Band at age 10, she was too small to carry her bass drum. So Teddy Kudrick retreated from leading the band to march alongside her, holding the drum as she played.

"He was just the type of guy that would do anything for anyone," Flaherty, now 17, said last week at the band's practice in its Fishtown clubhouse. It was one of the first rehearsals without Kudrick as captain.

Kudrick, 52, died Oct. 19. He had served as captain of Duffy for 32 years and had been inducted into the Philadelphia Mummers String Band Association Hall of Fame. Kudrick succeeded his father, Henry, who led the band from 1959 until he died in 1994.

On New Year's Day, a third generation of Kudricks will produce the next captain: Teddy's 11-year-old son, Jake.

He will be the youngest captain in the history of string bands, according to Duffy president Charles Kochensky.

Kochensky joined Duffy in 1965, when Henry Kudrick was captain. He said Jake had inherited the "smile and moxie" his father and grandfather were known for.

The band members are completely confident in their new captain, he added.

"It's a terrible thing to lose our captain unexpectedly like this," Kochensky said. "I'm going to miss [Teddy] a lot, but I'm also going to have the honor and privilege of following the third generation of the Kudrick family down Broad Street on New Year's Day."

Founded in 1945, the band has about 80 members, most from Philadelphia or South Jersey. It was one of the first string bands to become coed and welcomes anyone interested in joining regardless of race, sexual orientation, or past Mummers experience, Kochensky said. 

The Kudricks were always involved in the band growing up, said Cheryl Crowe, Teddy Kudrick's sister. His wife, Colleen, and daughter, Kathryn, also march in the band.

More than 1,000 people attended Kudrick's funeral Oct. 25 in Wallingford, where he lived, and other string bands played in his honor.

The day after he died, the band gathered at the club for toasts honoring Kudrick and sang "Friends in Low Places" by Garth Brooks while standing in a circle, holding one another and dancing — a longtime tradition of the band. They played the song again at Kudrick's funeral before heading to practice together because that's what "Teddy would've wanted," said Tony Ovecka, who has been the band's musical director for 30 years.

"He would've never wanted us to stop," Ovecka added. "It's moving forward from here, and it's all for him."

"They're all family no matter what," Crowe said. "Some come and go; some have been following my brother for 40 years. Some people have been here since my father. It's just all family. We support each other no matter what."

Band member Kait McCann, 30, said she loved choreographing for Kudrick and his son, who acted as a cocaptain and helped lead the band during parades.

When the band's theme for the 2017 Mummers Parade on New Year's Day was "Tune-a-Fish," Kudrick and Jake played Marlin and Nemo from the film Finding Nemo. Jake got "lost" in the crowd, and Kudrick searched for him until they reunited at the parade's end.

"It was just the coolest thing to work with those two and watch them interact," McCann said. "It was so sweet, so loving."

Jake started marching when he was 18 months old — the same age Kudrick did his first parade. Jake has loved it since he took his first step as a Mummer, Crowe said, and will lead as captain not only because of his dedication but to remember his father. She said the immediate family was grieving and not available for comment.

Days after Kudrick's passing, Jake visited the club for condolences and a practice.

"He's a Mummer," Crowe said. "Mummers are a different breed of people. It's a known fact that if someone drops dead during a march, you step over them. And that's what we're going to do. Keep marching."