John Kozak

Ithaca, N.Y. — John Kozak, an Ithaca High School student who loved video games and his family, died on Tuesday after a brief struggle with leukemia. He was 17.

Kozak was brought to the doctor on Aug. 14 after vomiting and developing red spots on his body. He was quickly diagnosed with an acute form of the blood cancer and taken to the hospital for treatment.

John Kozak. (Courtesy of the family)

“It’s supposed to have a 90 percent cure rate,” said Kozak’s mother, Mary Ann, about leukemia. “He was one of the 10 percent, I guess.”

Kozak was supposed to have a three-year outpatient treatment program. After 10 days of chemo therapy, Kozak was allowed to go home for several days.

But he soon grew sick again. Doctors realized he’d gotten an infection, but because of the chemo therapy didn’t have the white blood cells to fight it, according to his mother.

Kozak went back to the hospital in Syracuse on Labor Day. He was there until his death this week.

“The nursing staff and doctors were wonderful,” Mary Anne Kozak said in an interview. “They really tried to keep him alive.”

Mary Ann Kozak said her son — one of six children — was a funny, smart, loving boy with much to give the world.

John Kozak was starting to look at colleges and thinking of applying to go to Tompkins Cortland Community College. His father George is a computer programmer and an Ithaca native. George and Mary Ann Kozak have lived in Danby since the 1980s.

“He was a very kind, funny, gentle, good person. Strong,” Mary Ann Kozak said of her son.

“It’s just tragedy for me and my family. We’ll miss him.”

Calling hours will be held at Bangs Funeral Home from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday. A funeral will be held on Saturday.

The family has also asked for blood donations to the Red Cross for those who are able to do so.


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.