John D. Modica
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Age 81, passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his family on March 1, 2013 after a period of declining health.
He was born to the late James and Celia Modica of Erie, Pennsylvania. He was a proud graduate of Cathedral Prep High School in Erie. Following high school he served in the United States Navy during the Korean War, stationed on aircraft carriers performing submarine search missions. He was a middleweight boxer on the Pensacola Navy team and reached the finals in the Southeastern Golden Gloves Tournament. After completing his military service he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Edinboro State College where he met his future bride, Grace Hines. He received a Masters degree in Fine Arts from Temple University.
He was a beloved art teacher and football coach at Brandywine High School beginning when the school opened in 1957. He treasured his years at Brandywine and often referred to his career at BHS as "golden years." He was an outstanding teacher, coach, and mentor, loved his students and players, and they returned that affection. He is fondly remembered by his former students for his amiable manner and ability to talk to you in a way that made you feel special and respected. He maintained contact with many of his students and players, who often referred to him as "Coach." Years later, it was not uncommon for former students and players to approach him and tell him what an influence he had on their lives.
He established the BHS football program in 1958 and began a winning tradition starting with a Blue Hen Conference Co-Championship in 1960. He was the head coach for the Blue team in the 1961 Blue-Gold game. In 1964 he coached the only undefeated team in Brandywine's history and another Blue Hen Conference Championship. He was named State of Delaware Coach of the Year in 1964. He was a Chairman of the Delaware Football Coaches Association. With the contributions of many outstanding players and assistant coaches he is the BHS all-time winningest football coach. In 1997, in honor of his contributions to BHS, the football field was named "John D. Modica Field."
He was involved in politics and government service. He served as the Democratic County Chairman for New Castle County and also served on its executive committee for many years. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention on two separate occasions. He was a former State Director of Parks and Recreation and during his tenure Bellevue State Park was acquired and Cape Henlopen Beach was designated as a State Park. He retired as State Director of Employment and Training with the Department of Labor. He served as the Legislative Co-Chair for the Delaware Retired School Personnel Association. He served as campaign manager and adviser for several political candidates, including three successful elections of Charles M. Oberly, III (a BHS graduate) to Attorney General for the State of Delaware. He was Vice President and cofounder of Delaware Professional Lobbyists, LLC, a company employed by various entities, such a Happy Harry's, Walgreens and the Delaware Funeral Directors Association, to assist with legislative matters.
He served on many boards and committees benefitting his community. He was a devout member of the Church of the Holy Child Roman Catholic Church. He took joy in helping others. He was proud of his Italian-American heritage, was a member of Italo Americans United, and in 2003, he was named Man of the Year by the Christopher Columbus Monument Committee.
He was a beloved and devoted husband, father and grandfather. His family was his priority. He leaves with us memories that make us smile, and a legacy of respect and making a difference in the lives of others that makes us proud. He will be deeply missed.
In addition to his wife, Grace, of 56 years, he is survived by his three children, Michael Modica and his wife, Debbie, of Wilmington, Delaware; Mark Modica and his wife, Denise, of Leesburg, Virginia; Joan Leach and her husband, John, of Austin, Texas; and grandchildren whom he adored; John Michael, Lauren, Matthew, Stephanie, Laura, John-Luis and Connor. He is also survived by his sister, Gerri Trucilla, of Erie, Pennsylvania, and was predeceased by his brother, James Modica. He is also survived by many nieces, nephew and cousins.
Our family would like to express our heartfelt appreciation for the outpouring of care and support during John's illness. A special thanks to Sandra Thorton of Visiting Angels, Sister Ann Hughes from the Church of the Holy Child, Delaware Hospice, and Dr. Jeffrey Cramer.
Friends may call on Tuesday, March 5, from 4-8 pm at the MCCRERY & HARRA FUNERAL HOME, 3924 Concord Pike (Rt. 202 South of Silverside Road), Wilmington, DE 19803 (additional parking available in the rear parking lot of the Brandywine YMCA, 3 Mt. Lebanon Road). A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Wednesday, March 6, at 11 am at the Church of the Holy Child, 2500 Naamans Road, Wilmington, DE 19810. Burial will be at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made to the Erin Giles Scholarship Foundation, St. Elizabeth High School, P.O. Box 10766, Wilmington, Delaware 19805 or Delaware Hospice, 3515 Silverside Road, Wilmington, DE 19810.
Messages of condolence may be sent to:
Published in The News Journal from Mar. 2 to Mar. 4, 2013