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Tribute to Andrew Zakanych, Jr

Written by Michael E. McMahon, Esquire

Andrew Zakanych, Jr. was my wife and father-in-law’s science teacher; and he was my client. He died from pleural Mesothelioma yesterday. Andy’s (or “Mr. Z” as his hundreds of students fondly knew him) disease was caused by exposure to asbestos while doing what he loved over the course of nearly forty years-enthusiastically sharing his love and wonderment of math and science with school kids. Andy had the appearance of a no nonsense seafarer and a heart and disposition of pure sunshine. This man, confronted with the face of death, chose only to glow brighter and smile wider – it was his only way.

Andy touched the lives of hundreds of school children. He had a tremendous and lasting impact on kids who grew up to be scientists, teachers, builders, lawyers, doctors, athletes and more. Not only a teacher, he was a coach; proudly served his country in the Korean War; world traveler; one-time owner of the famous Clam Hut in Highlands, New Jersey; expert tennis player, birder, cook, and fixer of all things mechanical or otherwise. He built two gorgeous homes from the basement up and wrote a manual on solar engineering – completely incorporating the concept into his home.

Andy will be remembered always, for his brilliance, kindness and sense of humor. He was always there for his loving daughter for anything, and everything, including the most difficult times during her childhood illness. He was madly in love with his wife Joan who cared for him so deeply and cherished him throughout his life on this earth. He will be missed greatly by his family and the countless souls he touched.

I will never forget his smile – and the way his eyes lit up ferociously with joy when he told me tales of his past exploits. Once, at a late stage in his disease, Joan left the two of us together one evening to go off and run some errands. Andy – mischievous to the end – fetched a bottle of bourbon. No bourbon man I, I protested, but it was hopeless. I sipped bourbon with my friend as he regaled me with stories of trips to the Galapagos, Easter Island and far-flung European cities.

Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace friend.

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