Jack Rice had been an outstanding teacher in the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District for more than 30 years, and a Manhattan enthusiast who introduced many of his students to the city.
Rice died of multiple organ failure Aug. 24 at Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre, his family said. He was 67 and lived in Massapequa Park.
“Many of his students found out about it on Facebook,” his wife of 29 years, Jeanine Brogan, said of his death. “The amount of support from people I didn’t even know was extraordinary.”
He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2001, for which he received treatment, “but there were no symptoms,” she said. He later learned he had lung cancer and was told last year he had liver cancer.
A 1970 graduate of upstate Niagara University, he taught in both junior high and high schools in Bellmore-Merrick from 1971 to 2003 — except for 1990, which he took off without pay, his wife said. He earned a master’s in liberal studies from SUNY Stony Brook in 1992.
“I met Jack when I was 12, my first year of junior high, which was also his first teaching,” said Lauren H. Brener of San Francisco. “He started an after-school drama club that year [at Jerusalem Avenue Junior High], which I joined. One of the great joys of my life is that our relationship evolved into one of my most rewarding adult friendships.”
Rice thought Manhattan was a fabulous place, his wife said. “He introduced so many of his kids to the city, and he wrote letters of recommendation for them to the colleges there. About half of those students are still our friends.”
Mario Tesoriero of Wantagh, a former student who spoke at Rice’s memorial celebration at the Wantagh Inn on Sept. 4, said: “Jack always found the beauty in simple things — the burger at a local bar, reading a book under the shade of a tree [or] a stroll through a museum. He enjoyed life, the good and the bad.”
Rice had many other jobs, including reporter and editor for a weekly newspaper in Merrick, Life Publications, and, in 2014-2015, as a tour guide in Manhattan. He had been a cabdriver and a barista in the borough, as well as a counterman in a coffee shop in Massapequa during his year off from teaching.
In addition to his wife, survivors are stepson Christopher Brogan of Babylon; sisters Christine Poska of Holtsville, Catherine Caputo of Massapequa Park, Regina Chesterton of Wantagh and Deborah Triquet of Ridge; and two grandchildren.
Brogan said her husband’s body was donated to the Weill Cornell Medical College Gross Anatomy Program in Manhattan.
The family asked that donations in his name be given to the Friends of Niagara University Theatre, P.O. Box 1913, Niagara University, NY 14109-1913.