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Obituary: John Broza

John Broza, born in Rutland, VT, July 31, 1939, passed away July 26, 2011 on Long Island. Survived by wife Michaline, Glen Cove; sons, David, Rhode Island; Daniel, Virginia; and Michael and wife Lydia, North Carolina; grandchildren, Nicholas (9) and Rachel (6); sister Patricia Wener, Vermont.

Having attended the University of Vermont as an undergraduate, John never forgot his alma mater, serving as a representative to the college and an active interviewer for years to come. John attended Brown University for his graduate studies before being recruited to work in the English Department at Paul D. Schreiber High School in Port Washington in 1961. Upon his return to Schreiber High School from a sabbatical in 1972-73, when he studied Shakespeare at Cambridge University in England, he acquired notoriety as a Scholar of Shakespeare, teaching a popular elective course focused solely on the Bard. Renowned for his knowledge of the Bard, John Broza gave talks about Shakespeare’s plays in several public libraries, in particular the Port Washington Library. John did justice to his mission of bringing Shakespeare’s life and works to as many people as possible, endeavoring to take groups of high school students to England for 15 years. The public at large recognized his license plate, “SHAKESPR” on his red Mustang convertible, which further evidenced his passion for the Bard. In fact, John instituted “Shakespeare Day,” an annual homage to the Bard at Schreiber High School in 1993. The tradition of Shakespeare Day is alive and well and John continued to play an active role in it as a performer since his retirement in 2000.

Truly a Renaissance Man, John more than dabbled in other occupations and activities: he taught ESL to adults in the evenings; he prepared countless students for the SAT exams, both as a private tutor and as a summer instructor at a Korean school; he served as yearbook advisor; he emceed a multitude of events and fundraisers at the high school and in Port Washington; he brought performances of The Commedia Dell’Arte to the students of Schreiber; he served as the chair of the Schreiber English Department for 18 years where everybody knew his name and his nicknames: “Mustang Johnny and Papa John.” One time John played Taps on a trumpet for a class to encourage the students to raise their quiz scores.

John had a way of making people feel good about themselves, making people feel like they could do anything, particularly his students. “Papa John” had many students who would fondly call him that in their minds and hearts; likewise, John referred to his “grand-students” with admiration. He had a mind like a steel trap, recalling stories of his student “progeny” for years. He also had a mind for math, with an ability to compute the odds of countless contests he was able to win over the years, winning two cars, multiple trips and multiple other prizes. John was on three TV game shows, Concentration, Three On A Match and Trump Card, winning on all three shows.

John was born a Leo, just like Shakespeare’s Juliet. Like a Leo, John was a true lion, embodying and portraying loyalty to all who knew him. Shakespeare’s play, King John, is rumored to be his least read, but this “King” John was among the most well known of Schreiber’s teachers. There is one last role that John fulfilled as the “Voice of the (Schreiber) Vikings,” announcing for various sporting events, such as basketball, football and gymnastics – to name a few. A former Schreiber gymnast from more than 20 years ago affectionately reminisced about the way her name would roll or reverberate off his tongue, and the hug that would follow a meet. John’s own granddaughter, Rachel, recently proclaimed to her grandmother, that without Papa their house was now “a lonely house” whereas before she called it a “joyful house.”

His grandchildren fondly called him “Papa John” or “Papa Noodle.” John wrote and spoke Polish and enjoyed visiting Poland three times. John was a lifelong fan of the New York Yankees. John also greatly enjoyed visiting the casinos of Atlantic City, Connecticut and Las Vegas to play his favorite game “Pai Gow Poker,” but his greatest love was his family.

Arrangements were made by the Whitting Funeral Home, Glen Head. Funeral Mass was held at St. Hyacinth’s Catholic Church. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The John J. Broza Memorial Scholarship; checks should be made out to “Port Washington Public Schools,” with “Donation to The John J. Broza Memorial Scholarship” written on the memo line. As the Port Washington School District requested that contributions be delivered in bulk, the checks should be mailed to The John Broza Memorial Scholarship, c/o Elaine Labrocca, 2 Edi Ave., Plainview, NY 11803; the district will hold the funds and administer the award based on the criteria designated by the family.