John T. Breen, 82, Lake Luzerne, passed away peacefully at home on November 13 in the loving care of his wife and four children.
Born in Flushing, Queens, on February 5, 1938, John was the long-awaited only child of Thomas and Edith Lunn Breen. After graduating from St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset and SUNY Oswego with a degree in Industrial Arts, he began a distinguished career in education, starting as a shop and science teacher in Scarsdale, NY. John then earned an M.A. from NYU and moved into the fields of Counseling and Administration, first as a guidance counselor and summer camp director in the Ossining Schools and then as a much loved and respected counselor, evening school principal and Director of Guidance and Student Services in the Yorktown Central School District. He concluded his professional life as Director of Guidance and Pupil Personnel Services in Ardsley and, after retirement, as an educational consultant in several Westchester County districts. John had a special interest in the college admissions process. He found great satisfaction in guiding families to find the school that best suited their child, and he was instrumental in the development and ongoing success, to this day, of the Northern and Southern Westchester College Fairs. At the same time, he often said that working with the at-risk evening school kids and in many cases getting them on a better path was the most rewarding aspect of his nearly 40-year career. John had a profound impact on the lives of countless students and colleagues who benefited from his patient, kind and calm style, his gift for helping others talk things through, his willingness to listen to different points of view and find a common meeting ground, and his commonsense yet wise advice. As a school administrator and officer of local and state guidance associations, his leadership was marked by intelligence, good judgment, integrity, and a positive and supportive approach coupled with an engaging sense of humor.
Though born and brought up in the city, John started coming to Lake Luzerne with his mother when he was 6 years old and fell in love with the area. His children spent their summers and vacations at the family cabin on Lake Vanare, where their dad taught them the pleasures of snowmobiling, fishing, boating and other outdoor pursuits. Upon his retirement in 1995, John put his industrial arts background to good use when he coordinated the design and construction of the “dream” post and beam house to which he and Barbara moved full-time in 2004 after many happy and productive years in Yorktown Heights. In 2005, they began spending winters at their condo in Bradenton, FL, savoring the best of both worlds. As much as John himself appreciated his northern and southern homes and all that those regions offer, it brought him even greater delight to share the Adirondack and Florida experience with visiting friends and family.
John’s passion for golf, which began in his early teens, was well-known to all. The game suited his temperament perfectly, and he excelled at it. While living downstate, he was a formidable player who won many tournaments and club championships. He also imparted his love of the sport and his skill to a younger generation through his coaching at Yorktown High School and Mercy College. On vacations around the US, he relished trying out famous and challenging courses, including Pebble Beach. In later years, he continued to play regularly with his pals at Kingswood, Bend of the River, and the Gulf Coast Seniors in Florida. While John loved the mental and physical aspects of golf, it was the beauty of the surroundings and the camaraderie with his partners which made a good round even more special—especially when those partners were friends, sons and grandsons.
A man with many interests and a wide range of knowledge, John also enjoyed travel, reading, following current events and sports of all kinds, attending concerts and other cultural activities, trying new restaurants, and tending to yardwork and home projects. After moving to Luzerne, he found a spiritual home at St. Mary’s Church, where he served as a vestry member, warden, buildings and grounds expert and involved participant in every fundraiser. John’s church family was a valued addition to this stage of his life.
In addition to his parents, John was predeceased by his close friends, Arthur Lienick, Philip Schwartz and Donald Slater, who were like brothers to him.
A strong anchor for his family, John cherished them and was beloved in return. He is survived by his wife of thirty years, Barbara; his children, Timothy Breen (Elaine) of North Greenbush, Tracy Bitner of North Syracuse, Terence Breen (Beth) of Halfmoon, and Taryn (Adam) Armour of Schenectady; his grandchildren, Kyle (Rachael), Kevin and Melissa Breen and Gretchen and Jonathan Bitner; and his in-laws Ann and William Lewicki and James Yourno. Also surviving are his first wife and mother of his children, Margaret; his goddaughter Jennifer Risley; his sweet cat, Maizy; and a devoted group of longtime, deeply treasured friends in the Luzerne area, Westchester, Florida and Colorado.
A Requiem Mass for John will be celebrated at St. Mary’s Church in Lake Luzerne by the Very Reverend David Beaulac on Saturday, December 5, at 11 am. Committal in St. Mary’s Columbarium will follow immediately.
Donations in memory of John may be made to the C.R. Wood Cancer Center of Glens Falls Hospital, 100 Park Street, Glens Falls, NY 12801 or to St. Mary’s Church, P.O. Box 211, Lake Luzerne, NY 12846.
Barbara and the family would like to express their eternal gratitude to Dr. Christopher Mason and the Cancer Center staff for the skilled treatment and encouragement which they gave over the past 2½ years; to the amazing nurses and staff of the GFH Infusion Center—“angels on earth” who provided John with the most superb and loving care and became like family; to the staff of Tower 2 for their attentiveness and compassion during his times there; to Father Dave Beaulac and Bishop Bill Love for their faithful pastoral care; and to the friends, neighbors and family who brought great joy to our lives, shared in our happy and sad times through the years, and sustained us in so many ways, large and small, over the course of John’s illness. We have been truly blessed by all of you.
Though our “crazy Irishman,” as John often called himself, is missed beyond measure, we will always remember and rejoice in the difference he made in this world.
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