John Kaszuba lived to build the southern regional community and everyone in it
Minutes before leaving his office in the middle of the Southern New Network studio to head to the auditorium on June 17, 2021, for the final staff appreciation ceremony he is expected to attend, John Kaszuba Sr. spoke about some of the students he had taught while at Southern Regional High School and how proud he was of them.
“The most rewarding part of teaching here at Southern has been seeing our kids go out into the field,” said Kaszuba, who two weeks later retired from the district after 10 years of service as an instructor. television production, filmmaking and broadcasting. . “It’s really nice to hear a former student say, ‘I wouldn’t have taken this career path if it wasn’t for you.’ The industry is tough, and we have kids who are only scratching the surface, but if they stick with it, some of them are going to do great things. Having participated in their development is something that I cherish.
Jimmy Ward was one of the students Kaszuba was talking about.
“No matter what your dream was, he was your cheerleader, someone who always encouraged you to dream big, and he was easy to trust,” said Ward, a 2015 Southern grad who now works in Los Angeles. Angeles as a television producer for Warner Bros., who took the time on Friday, Nov. 4, to talk about Kaszuba, who died Thursday.
“When I wanted to go to Hollywood to pursue a career in television, a lot of people thought I was crazy because it’s a very difficult field to break into. But Kaszuba was one of the few people who said that I could do it. He always believed in me. He was a rock star and had such a big impact on so many students. He knew what to say and how to propel each of us to pursue our dreams.
Ward wasn’t the only one. During Kaszuba’s 10 years in the Southern District, he was instrumental in leading and building the confidence of hundreds of students through his classes and supervision of SNN, alongside Leaha Lukas.
“He gave us the confidence to do what we wanted to do, and that was a huge plus for me,” said Sean Gerhard, a 2017 grad who worked last summer for the MLB Network and now works as a production assistant and editor for Dutch Productions. “My freshman year of college, I walked into the ESPN studio at 18 to do technical direction, because of his influence and the extra push he always gave me. I wouldn’t be not where I am or what I do now if he hadn’t played such a big part in my life at Southern.
Connor Morgan, another 2017 graduate, called himself “Kaszuba’s little sidekick for four years.” While still a senior at Southern, he launched his own production company, 18 Mile Media, which this year expanded beyond Beach Haven West to Los Angeles.
Kaszuba “didn’t just teach television,” said Morgan, who since graduation has provided a Southern Regional Scholarship through his company, based largely on the fact that the Kaszuba’s family has its own purse. He wanted to replicate giving back to the Southern community, as Kaszuba had done for decades. “He was so selfless and taught me, in particular, how to never forget where you come from and how to give back to the community as much as possible. Everything he stood for and did for his students was based on this principle. You work hard, pursue the things you want to do, don’t give up on them, and maintain that courage through tough times, while giving back to the community that has given you so much.
Throughout Thursday, social media posts on Kaszuba’s Facebook page poured in by the dozens, not only from colleagues and family members, but also from students. Another 2017 graduate, Michelle Edmond, who works in client and production management, said Kaszuba “cared about all of her students.”
“He was a teacher and a mentor, but more of a friend,” said Edmond, who took Television I at Southern as an elective in his freshman year and immediately connected with Kaszuba. “I lost my dad when I was young and he knew it, so he always watched over me to make sure I stayed out of trouble. He was a second dad to me, always there for me when I needed to talk to someone. He was the highlight of every day when I was at Southern. He was involved with his students, but also extremely involved in the community.
Unsurprisingly, that’s where most people saw Kaszuba – among the community, doing something to help in some way. While heavily involved with SNN, leading it to further success, he had heart, mind and hands in a lot of things at Southern. Not only was he the “voice of the rams” for football and basketball games, but Kaszuba was, among other things, the director of football operations and media liaison for the South and across the region.
Chuck Donohue Sr., the Rams’ head football coach for the past several decades, said Kaszuba “had many positive traits that he passed on to everyone he met.”
“He was a wonderful worker and helped everyone. The word ‘no’ almost never came out of his mouth,” said Donahue, who had worked closely with Kaszuba regarding the many off-field elements of the football program. “Footballically, he was as staunch a supporter of our program as I had seen in over 50 years of coaching. If he could help improve something, he did. And he was a forerunner on a lot of things here.
As Donohue said, perhaps no one has done as much behind the scenes to help as many programs within the school district as he has. Many Southern colleagues expressed similar sentiments on their social media spaces on Thursday.
“He never lost that deep love for the Southern community, and he repaid it as much as he could,” Donohue said. “Even after he retired and moved to Florida, he called every week to see if there was anything he could do from there to help us. He was 1,000 miles away, but it felt like he was still close by. He put his actions where his heart was, and losing John is a huge loss for everyone and everyone in the South.
District Superintendent Craig Henry, who called Kaszuba “one of a kind,” has endless memories to hold on to, given he’s known Kaszuba, a 1977 Southern graduate, for decades.
“To know John was to love John, and the Southern family has lost one of its founding fathers,” he said. “The voice of the Rams will forever resonate in the stadium John helped build.”
Edmond “will remember him forever”.
“Kaszuba made the communities of the South and Stafford special,” she said. “He’s not someone you forget. He will live with me for life. But I’m not the only one feeling this. He touched many lives and inspired so many.