John Leaycraft Howard laid down his working tools on Nov. 1, 2021 at 71 years of age. Born on July 28, 1950 in Passaic, NJ John grew up in Clifton, NJ and was a resident of Woodland Park for over 37 years. He attended William Paterson University and received his Bachelor of Arts in General Biology in 1972. He later received his Master’s of Science in Virology from Seton Hall University in 1975 where he was a member of Sigma Xi and a proud student of Dr. Ernest V. Orsi PhD. He worked in the pathology lab at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey with regard to cancer research and virology during the height of the AIDS pandemic. He attended seminars concerning various viruses including notable scientists such as Dr. Jonas Salk and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci. He also served in the National Guard and received an honorable discharge at the rank of sergeant.
He worked as a pathology supervisor in numerous medical settings for well over 37 years including Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, Saint Joseph’s Medical Center of Paterson and Wayne, Ideal Labs, Wayne Pathology, Mountainside Hospital, Valley Hospital and Chilton Hospital. John also performed more than 1,000 autopsies at various hospitals and was quite proud to be able to serve his community in this way at a moment’s notice.
John’s love of science and medical background was a natural progression into a career in teaching. In addition to working as a pathologist assistant and histotechnician, John taught anatomy and physiology at Bergen Community College and later taught basic science at The Craig School, , a private coeducational day school for students with special needs.
Most recently, John worked as a science teacher at Passaic Valley Regional High School where he taught for the last 16 years. Here he was also deeply rooted in the PV community serving as Chess Club Advisor, and was a head varsity fencing coach for well over a decade. He was honored as Coach of the Year two times.
John was a true renaissance man with varied interests stretching across magic, historical mystery, the outdoors, hiking, fishing, hunting, American heritage, horses, fencing, classic cars, classical music, and big band numbers - with a deep passion for and dedication to each. He was an accomplished horseman with a love of equitation and all things saddlebreds. He was quick to sign up as a volunteer special mounted deputy with the mounted police unit on Garret Mountain.
John’s love of American history led him to be a tour historian with the Surratt Society for over 21 years. As a tour guide, John provided historical narration and commentary on the escape of John Wilkes Booth following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
At home, John was passionate about providing for his family and is survived by his devoted wife Elsa of 37 years and their two children, Kerstin and John Gordon. He is predeceased by his mother Elizabeth Ann (Nee Leaycraft) and father Charles Harry Howard. In life, John was a devout Episcopalian, proud father and husband, fiercely compassionate and unapologetically himself.
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