Despite a life marked by pain and health problems, John Eugene Batkiewicz never lost his brilliant smile and was so moved by the suffering of others that he founded a charity to help hospitalized children.
“He was just so full of love and happiness,” said his mother, Kathleen Batkiewicz of Deer Park. “It was a privilege to be his parent.”
John Batkiewicz died April 3 at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip of suspected heart failure. He had turned 26 on March 30.
Batkiewicz was born with multiple congenital heart defects. While growing up in Deer Park, he underwent a number of open-heart surgeries, including one in 1997 in which his aorta ruptured and he slipped into a coma for three months. He emerged a quadriplegic who had to learn to speak again.
“All his bodily functions he couldn’t control, but his mind was still there,” said his mother, an insurance underwriter.
After spending so much time in and out of hospitals, Batkiewicz and his father, John Sr., founded the nonprofit Teens for Tots Teen Angel Program to raise money for toys, computers and video games for critically ill children.
“John wanted to do something for other kids who had been in the hospital,” said his father. “It’s just such a foreign environment, and there’s just so much going on. You’re looking forward to taking your mind off of things.”
The program also recruited teen volunteers from lower-income neighborhoods to fundraise. “He wanted to build their self-esteem by showing them they could make a difference,” said his father, head custodian for North Babylon schools.
Batkiewicz received a diploma from the Henry Viscardi School for seriously disabled students in Albertson, and was enrolled in programs at United Cerebral Palsy of Long Island in Hauppauge.
His passion was police work, and he had many fans at the Suffolk County Police Department, where Officer Claudia Delgado and other officers showered him with gifts.
“When the police department gave him a scanner he would lay in his bed and just have the radio on, and you could see he was part of the group and listening in on the calls and the back and forth,” his father said. “He was an inquisitive young man. He lived through others.”
Delgado said Batkiewicz was cherished by the officers who met him when he toured police headquarters two years ago.
“His smile, his sense of humor, how delighted he was to be there — we all fell in love with him,” said Delgado, a Second Precinct community liaison officer. “He loved everything police. I’m very sad he’s not around, but now he’s an angel that every police officer has up in heaven.”
Batkiewicz’s funeral was Friday at The Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Deer Park. He was buried at North Babylon Cemetery. In addition to his parents, he is survived by his brother David, 18, and grandparents Barbara and Eugene Batkiewicz of Dix Hills.