Windermere Prep community mourns passing of Joe Sikorski

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  • | 5:20 p.m. May 19, 2015
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WINDERMERE — Melissa Fagan remembers leaving the campus of Windermere Preparatory School, where she is the director of the Lower School, and being stopped by Joe Sikorski just a few weeks ago.

Sikorski, the campus’ security officer, had noticed that the air in the tires of Fagan’s car was a little low. A small thing, perhaps, but still not safe — especially if Fagan was driving her children around.

In his trademark thick, Brooklyn accent, Sikorski offered to help, saying, “Let me take care of that for you.”

That was Joe.

The community at Windermere Prep was rocked to its core last week when it learned that Sikorski died May 11 of a heart attack. He was 53 and is survived by his wife, Karen, a fifth-grade teacher at the school, and son, Christian, who is in kindergarten at Windermere Prep.

“(Sikorski) and his family … they were invested in this school as a family,” Windermere Prep Headmaster Dr. Thomas Marcy said. “Joe, in the time that I was privileged to work with him, he was always a pleasant fellow. He had a sunny disposition; I never saw him have a bad day.”

A retired detective from the New York Police Department, Sikorski was a natural fit for the security officer opening on campus. Throughout his many duties within the position, Sikorski made many a lasting impression and friendship with members of the community — including Fagan.

“He had a gruff exterior, but he was a protector,” Fagan said. “He was ‘Everybody’s Joe.’ … He belonged to all of us, and he took care of every single one of us in a way that was personal and meaningful. Every single person has a story about Joe that nobody else knows.”

A common thread from those reflecting on their exchanges with Sikorski is his sense of humor. The personable New Yorker loved to joke and often teased about wanting to move back to the Big Apple, saying, “Today’s my last day — I’m heading back to New York!”

Where some of the younger students would affectionately call Sikorski “Daddy Joe” or “Uncle Joe,” the school’s varsity athletes knew Sikorski to be one of the program’s most ardent supporters. Sikorski was a staple at sporting events, cheering on the Lakers with a similar enthusiasm to what he displayed when cheering on his beloved New York Jets.

“He was a huge supporter of our athletic programs — you could always hear his voice (from the stands), and you knew it was him,” Windermere Prep head football coach Jacob Doss said.

“He would prop his feet up on my desk on a Wednesday (before a football game on Friday) and ask, ‘What’s the game plan, Coach?’” he said. “When we’d get back from our away games late in the evening, he would often be the only person on campus when we got back, and he’d help us unpack the bus.”

The sorrow that engulfed the Windermere Prep community following the news last week was soon joined by a sense of purpose. Laker students, teachers and parents are resounding in their efforts to aid the Sikorski family in its time of need.

A GoFundMe was set up to raise funds for Karen and Christian and, as of Sunday night, more than $44,000 had been raised — with seemingly each contribution accompanied by a fond recollection of Sikorski.

Of course, the goodwill went beyond monetary contributions to the family, as well.

“The pride we have as a Laker family right now is surreal; I’ve always been very proud to be a Laker, but I don’t think it is possible to be more proud (than I am now),” Fagan said, reflecting on the response she had witnessed from the community last week. “Joe took care of the community, and now, the community is taking care of what’s most important to him. … It’s unbelievable what people are willing to do.”

Fittingly enough, the funeral service for Joe Sikorski was held May 15, in the Lakers’ gymnasium. Although perhaps irregular to someone unfamiliar with Sikorski, for those who knew him and the love he had for the school and its community, it was the most appropriate place to celebrate his life.

“It’s very unique and very different,” Fagan said. “But there really is no better place for him to come home to.”


Donations still are being accepted through a GoFundMe account set up by the Windermere Prep community to help Karen Sikorski and her son navigate the next few months. Visit to make a contribution.

Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].


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