Joseph J. Kwak, 79, of Wilkes-Barre, died on April 13 after a long illness.
Born in Wilkes-Barre, on June 9, 1933, he was the son of the late Joseph J. Kwak, Sr., and Lottie Rogus Kwak. He and his wife, the former Joan Pesavento, would have celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary in August.
Joseph graduated from Coughlin High School in 1951 where he lettered in football, wrestling and track. He attended Rider College in Trenton, N.J., and lettered in football as a freshman. In 1952, Joe transferred to Bloomsburg State Teachers College, now known as Bloomsburg University. During his years at Bloomsburg, Joe played on the 1955 Championship team, and was named to the Associated Press 3rd Team All Pennsylvania.
Upon graduation from Bloomsburg, Joe entered the field of education, and taught science at Westmoreland High School in Kingston Township, and Morris Hills Regional High School in Rockaway, N.J., where he was also an assistant football coach. In September 1960, Joe returned to Coughlin as a science teacher, and as an assistant football and basketball coach.
In 1960, Joe earned a master of acience in educational administration from Seton Hall University, South Orange, N.J. He earned additional graduate credits throughout his career at the University of Buffalo, Rutgers University, Montclair University, University of Arizona, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University.
He was an active member of the National Education Association, the Pennsylvania Education Association, the Wilkes-Barre Education Association and the Wilkes-Barre Administrators' Association. He served as president of the WBEA, where he worked on behalf of the district teachers. As president of the WBEA, he led 433 teachers and supervisors to Harrisburg, joining 20,000 other educators to fight for higher teacher salaries.
In 1965, Joe was named director of adult education and he was instrumental in establishing the General Education Development and Adult Basic Education programs. Also, he initiated a basic education program for the Luzerne County prison, and assisted in a Title I Special Education program that later became the Head Start Program. He established the educational component of the Concentrated Employment Program, or CEP, which is now known as the Luzerne County Human Resources Department.
In 1968, he was appointed assistant superintendent for federal and state programs in the Wilkes-Barre Area School District, and later he assumed the additional duties of director of public accounting.
Joe held these positions until he retired in 2001, after devoting a total of 45 years to education.
Joe was a member of St. Nicholas R.C. Church, its Holy Name Society, and a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus. He was a member of Common Cause and served as a volunteer for numerous political campaigns.
Joe was preceded in death by his son, atty. Joseph J. Kwak III, who died in December 2007.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his children, atty. Karl J. Kwak and his wife, Karen G.; atty. Kurt J. Kwak; atty. Teri Kwak Fitzgerald and her husband, atty. Eric A. Fitzgerald. He is also survived by his eight grandchildren, atty. Megan M. Kwak, Joseph J. Kwak IV, Nicole M. Kwak, Angelo J. Kwak, Jillian M. Kwak, Teresa M. Kwak, Eric Carl Fitzgerald and Katharine Maria Isabella Fitzgerald; his brother, Col. John J. Kwak (retired), Mesa, Ariz.; numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.
Funeral will be held Wednesday at 10 a.m. from the Nat & Gawlas Funeral Home, 89 Park Ave., Wilkes-Barre, with a Mass of Christian Burial at 10:30 a.m. at St. Nicholas Church, 226 S. Washington St., Wilkes-Barre. Interment will be in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Carverton. Friends may call on Tuesday from 5 to 8 p.m. at the funeral home.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the retirement fund of the Sisters of Christian Charity, c/o St. Nicholas Convent, 254 S. Washington St., Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701.
Online condolences may be sent by visiting Joseph's obituary at www.natandgawlasfuneralhome.com.
Published in Times Leader on Apr. 15, 2013