Obituary: John J. Szantyr

John J. Szantyr
John J. Szantyr

WATERBURY — In the loss of our dear, beloved brother, uncle, and friend, Rev. John J. Szantyr, we offer this prayer from the Diary of St. Faustina: “All you souls, praise the Lord’s mercy by trusting in His mercy all your life and especially at the hour of your death… (598).”

Rev. John J. Szantyr, 83, son of the late Casimir and Mary (Zolkiewicz) Szantyr of Waterbury, died Friday, May 16, 2014 at Paradigm Health Care on Whitewood Road, Waterbury.

Fr. John was born in Waterbury on March 20, 1931. He was baptized and confirmed at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, Waterbury. He attended the former Woodrow Wilson School and graduated in 1949 from Sacred Heart High School. He studied for two years at the Catholic University in Washington D.C., and continued his studies in philosophy for two years in Rome, Italy, at the Angelicum Dominicum School of Theology. He finished his courses in theology at the Discalced Carmelite Theological School, Washington, D.C. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 8, 1957 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. and celebrated his first Mass on June 16, 1957, at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Waterbury.

Fr. John leaves his loving caregiver and sister, Terri Gratton of Waterbury; his dear brother, Frank Szantyr of Prospect; several nieces and nephews, including the Rev. Eugene Szantyr, pastor of St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Bridgeport; and a prayer circle of longtime close friends.

Fr. John was predeceased by his parents; his brothers, Peter, Robert, Stanley, Paul, Anthony; and his sisters, Sr. Mary Patricia of the Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Mary Yezierski, and Josepha “Sandy Jo” Russ; his sisters-in-law, Ezia Szantyr, Jeanne Szantyr, Juliette Szantyr; his brothers-in-law, Henry Yezierski and Richard Gratton; his nephews, Frankie Szantyr, Jackie Russ, Craig Szantyr, Randy Griffin, Paul Szantyr, Raymond Szantyr; and nieces, Henrietta and Mary Jane Yezierski.

Fr. John’s family and friends remember him, not only for his great love for the Blessed Mother, but also for his talents. A gifted artist, pianist, composer and lyricist/poet, Fr. John began composing in the sixth grade, appearing in minstrel shows directed by his 15-year-old sister Sandy Jo. These shows were broadcast over radio station WBRY for the benefit of local charitable organizations. Fr. John, also, composed more than a 100 songs, some for the musical stage and others to express his love for his Catholic faith. Though he had no formal musical training, at 24 years of age, Fr. John gave the first live performance ever offered by a pianist on the radio program “Music in the Air” on WGAY, Silver Spring, Md. He played his symphonic composition “Calm and Storm,” a religious poem in four movements, dedicated to the Blessed Mother. This composition and others were also recorded by Radio Free Europe and broadcast into Poland and other European countries, at that time, behind the Iron Curtain. Other works, included two musicals, “Hobo Gentlemen” and “Ten on a Shoestring,” in which Fr. John composed the music and the libretti. Both musicals were produced on stage locally and in Massachusetts. Among Fr. John’s compositions are two melodic Christmas songs “An Old Fashioned Christmas” and “I Waited for Santa Claus,” also a novelty song “The Russian Song” and the beautiful hymn “A Seed Fell Down from Heaven” dedicated to Little Rose of Rhode Island.

Fr. John, together with his brother Paul Szantyr, directed and produced the “Follies” productions and minstrels at Sacred Heart High School, contributing art work, costumes, set designs and original compositions, most notably “Happy Birthday, Uncle Sam.” His choral work “Laetamini in Domino” was featured at several Sacred Heart graduations.

As an artist, Fr. John is also noted for his beautiful 8-foot high oil paintings of Our Lady of Lourdes and for his 8-foot oil painting of the Immaculate Conception, for his portraits in charcoal, and for his numerous pencil sketches.

In the last several years, Fr. John has endured the ravages of Parkinson’s disease. With a luminous smile and humble resignation to God’s will, he has remained to all a charismatic, steadfast friend, a tireless listener and a man of great faith in God’s unfathomable mercy. Always ready to warm the smiles of friends and family, Fr. John will be remembered for his infectious laugh, his lively sense of humor and for his gentle and generous heart.

Fr. John’s family most gratefully thanks the staff of Vitas and Paradigm Healthcare of Waterbury for the gentleness of their support and kindness.

A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated by his nephew, Rev. Eugene Szantyr, on Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 10 a.m. at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, 100 East Farm St., Waterbury. Please meet directly at the church at 9:45 a.m. Burial will follow in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Platt Road, Watertown. Calling hours will be held at the Naugatuck Valley Memorial/Fitzgerald-Zembruski Funeral Home, 240 North Main St., Naugatuck on Monday from 4 to 7 p.m.

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