A steadfast polo supporter and mentor who never wavered in his love of the sport, Paul Kant passed away on Wednesday, September 7 at the age of 83. Paul was born in Kaunas, Lithuania, and spent his early years living in a displaced persons camp in Germany. At the age of 12, he immigrated to America by boat with his immediate family. Landing at Ellis Island, New York, they began their new lives as indentured farm workers in New Jersey. Within a year, relatives assisted them in moving to Albany, New York. Part of the reason Paul would ultimately gravitate towards horses and polo had to do with this upbringing. Growing up in a refugee camp, horses represented freedom and power. As his daughter Wendy noted, “Polo encapsulated everything for him.”
While attending Niskayuna High School, he played Olympic level soccer, sculpted, painted, played the trumpet and accordion and was involved in various civic minded groups. Paul put himself through college at Buffalo State University by working and selling his artwork. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in art, followed by a Masters in art education from The State University of New York (SUNY) Albany. He returned to Niskayuna High School where he worked for 32 years as an eccentric art teacher, soccer coach and mentor.
Paul had a love for horses and all things equine since childhood, but his entrance into polo was anything but ordinary. One day, as he was driving by Siena College in New York, he saw a group of people playing polo. He stopped and asked how he could starting playing. He ended up meeting Hal Eldredge who took Paul under his wing, taught him how to play, and sold him his first polo pony. From there, Paul never looked back.
Kant was instrumental in creating the Skidmore College intercollegiate polo team in Saratoga, New York and the Saratoga Polo Association, which is located in Greenwich, New York.
The majority of Paul’s resources and energy in his adult life focused on the formation of Owl Creek Polo Club and the proliferation of low-goal polo in New York. Wendy shared, “There was no field there, so he made one by himself with his tractor out of a corn field. He put an ad in the paper saying ‘If you can ride a horse, come play polo.’ He would put notes on people’s cars, and he would go to places and see if you ride horses and ask, ‘Don’t you want to come play polo?’” Truly invested in offering opportunities to anyone interested in picking up a mallet, Paul was thrilled to invite regular, everyday people into the sport. Wendy added, “Our club never had a pro. We were just people. There were dentists, there were teachers, and regular people who had horses they bought for a few thousand dollars. We were just really a ragtag bunch.”
As enamored with the after party of polo as the actual game, Paul loved to spend time with players after practices and matches. Wendy shared, “He had a big, colored tent. People would bring up coolers, and we would sit on the ground, or on these dilapidated chairs, and we would all just tell stories. We’d let our horses graze or stay in the trailers, and we would have fun and reminisce and be together. He loved every part of it.”
Outside of his own club, Paul was instrumental in creating the Skidmore College intercollegiate polo team (Saratoga Springs, New York), lending the school all of the horses they used to jumpstart the program and acting as their coach for several years. Paul and his horses would make the 25-mile trek to and from twice weekly through all weather and bitter winters. Skidmore alum Marcia Burnett recalls, “He owned most of the polo ponies and taught us how to play. He would truck the horses over to Skidmore from his farm for games and practices. We had some wonderful times together.” Another Skidmore alum, Lisa Beamish, regarded Paul as an amazingly dedicated and determined coach. USPA Northeastern Circuit Governor and one of the founders of the Skidmore intercollegiate polo team Leighton Jordan admired his love of the sport and willingness to help Skidmore, adding, “[He was] dedicated, tough, he loved to play and [he] loved get[ting] Skidmore started as a new club.”
Paul (C) with his children Wendy Carroll (L) and Wayne Kant (R).
Continuing to make great strides for the polo community, Paul also helped create what is now known as the Saratoga Polo Association, which is located in Greenwich, New York. Bloomfield Polo Club (Saratoga Springs, New York) owner William Orthwein remarked, “Paul was most instrumental in the resurgence of the Saratoga Polo Club on the site of the historic Whitney fields back in the 1970s. It was Paul, his son Wayne Kant and Leighton Jordan who found the fields and convinced Peter Brant to invest in the revitalization of them.” Additionally, Paul helped clear out the land that would later become Bloomfield Polo Club. Orthwein shared, “I bought my farm, which is adjacent to the Whitney fields, in 1999. The land was overgrown and in rough shape. Paul offered to help and bought an old Ford Model 9N tractor to do it. He spent weeks clearing the land.” Members of Bloomfield Polo Club paid tribute to Paul on social media, and many other friends and family members flocked to the comment section to pay their respects, calling him a polo legend and remembering the many people he helped find their footing on the field. The club hopes to hold a memorial game to honor Paul’s legacy and his contributions to the sport in the near future.
Paul lived his life with enthusiasm, verve, drama and controversy. Anyone who spent time with Paul experienced a wild ride of chaos, creativity and excitement. A consummate storyteller, Paul did not let facts interfere with the telling of a tale, often reinventing his own reality. Paul was very popular and lived life large. Gifted with natural adaptability and communication skills, he made friends in all social circles, from many countries and various viewpoints. His children are planning an event to celebrate his life in early Summer 2023. Donations can be made in Paul Kant’s name to Lewy Body Dementia Research or North Country Wild Care.
Paul was preceded in death by his two older sisters, Irene Pogge and Edith (Ditha) Norton. He is survived by his two children: Wayne Kant and Wendy Carroll. Wayne is a professional engineer and still owns four horses and plays polo. He was named after Paul’s idol, John Wayne. Wendy followed in the footsteps of her father and recently entered her thirtieth year as a high school art teacher.