Al Povlovski


Albert K. Povlovski, 104 Blaisdell St., spent more than a half century solving cryptograms until he died suddenly at his home of cardiac arrest. He was 75 and had battled cancer for five years.

A master cryptologist, Mr. Povlovski had just been notified by the American Cryptogram Association that he had broken his 1,000th code, putting him into an elite class of mystery-solvers. He constantly amazed his wife of 52 years. "He'd sit in his room for hours with books piled up and cryptograms by his side," said Nancy Povlovski. "I don't know how he had the patience. He solved them all and languages weren't a barrier. He spoke French and German. For Italian or Japanese, he resorted to dictionaries." She called his room the Black Chamber because it contained enciphering machines, slide rule coding devices and scores of documents, books and private letters which had little meaning to others.

Mr. Povlovski's interest went back to 1943 when he was a lad scanning the pages of comic books and detective magazines for code rings and other inducements to part with a dollar. He became so serious that he acquired a Converter M-209 which the Army relied upon from World War II to Korea: a device used to translate concealed messages. His pen name to other cryptogram hobbyists was Sankt. He corresponded with them in code and the challenge was figuring out the messages.

Mr. Povlovski gave talks on his passion and taught courses at Northern Essex Community College and other institutions. He was recognized as an authority and studied secret messages from lovers and criminals, businessmen and diplomats, the military and even the Vatican. He had little use for crossword puzzles or the word grams often found in newspapers, claiming they were far less complex than trying to solve a word like "BGXKBBX."

He worked full-time as a salesman for Coastal Industries in Haverhill, enjoyed his garden, read incessantly, and was a 41-year fixture in his Mount Washington neighborhood next to Swasey field. Mr. Povlovski was born in Haverhill and attended Haverhill schools. He graduated from Haverhill High in 1945 and the following year from Faurot Fingerprint School in Boston. He was also a member of the Lithuanian Gedymino Club, National Military Intelligence Association and All Saints Church. He was a former member of St. George's Church.

Besides his wife, Nancy A. (DiGuilio) Povlovski, he leaves a daughter and son-in-law Karen and Anthony Zingarelli, Haverhill, nieces and nephews. Arrangements were by the Comeau-Berube Funeral Home, 47 Broadway. Memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society's Memorial Giving Program, 30 Speen St., Framingham, MA 01701 [Published June 14, 2001]

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