John Kozak

This story was written for and republished with the permission of “The Tattler,” Ithaca High School’s student newspaper.


Ithaca, N.Y. — Ithaca High School student John Kozak died at the age of 17 on September 9, 2014, in Southwest Golisano Children’s Hospital, just one month after being diagnosed with leukemia. He was about to begin his senior year at IHS.

John Kozak

John attended South Hill Elementary School, where he played tag at recess every day for many years, built Lego battleships, and sat at the peanut-free table. It was amazing how many of his South Hill teachers and classmates attended his calling hours.

Many of his high-school teachers attended as well. Many described him as the perfect student. He was always on time, always had his work done, and always understood what was going on; he was determined to do well despite being out sick a great deal.

Chemistry in particular really clicked with him—according to his friend Alex Sisouphone, John wanted to be a chemist someday. In all of his classes, John would help whomever was sitting near him if he could.

John loved video games, Batman, Superman, and Star Wars. He was good at imitating his favorite characters, Yoda and Batman, and had a great sense of humor. He could even imitate characters from movies he had never seen, exemplified by when he imitated the classic line from Crocodile Dundee, “That’s not a knife; this is a knife.” According to his friend Talia Turk, John’s favorite band was Imagine Dragons. His favorite song was “Already Home” by A Great Big World.

John was the loving son of George and Mary Ann and brother to Genevieve, Wendy, Scott, Jeremiah, and Isaiah. Well-grounded and spiritual, John loved to spend time with his family. According to his childhood friend Kevin Smith, one of John’s favorite activities growing up was wrestling with his older brother, Jeremiah. He enjoyed cooking and watching the Cooking Channel with his sister Wendy as well as helping his little brother Isaiah unlock all of the characters in his favorite video game.

John was a quiet individual, often shy, but even those who did not know him saw that he was always helping others, always smiling, always kind. Those lucky enough to have considered him a friend were truly touched by him.

John was one of the kindest human beings to have ever walked the halls of IHS. A wonderful person, he will be sorely missed. Ithaca High School is much emptier without his smile.


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Jeff Stein

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