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John Paul ”Jan” Thoreck, 70

Dan McClelland

John Paul Thoreck died in the sole presence of his daughter, Kelly Lynn Thoreck, Saturday, July, 27 2019, 15:03 EST.. Jan died at Westchester County Medical Center in Valhalla, New York, 18 days after being transported by helicopter from Adirondack Medical Center - Saranac Lake, where he lost a traumatic battle with late-onset stage-IV liver cancer.

John was born in Syracuse, New York, formally named by his beloved mother and baptized as John Paul Thoreck, in honor of his father, and the first appointed Polish Pope – the Great Peacemaker, his Holiness, Saint John Paul II.

In childhood, called Jas, pronounced Y-ah-sh, short for Jashua, a derivative of the Abrahamic name of God, Yahweh; in adulthood, by his chosen name, Jan - the Slavic translation of John, traditionally pronounced Y-ah-n.

His last name, anglicized to Thoreck (commonly misspelled by his contemporaries), originally spelled Thorrek, is a Ruso-Nordic derivative, translated as the Son of Thor. In Norse and Slavic mythology, Thor (Asa-Thor) is the Son of Odin, The Allfather (Wodin/Wotan). Thor is the God of Thunder, and Protector of Midgard (Earth) who defeated the Great Serpent Jormungand with his magical hammer, Mjolnir.

True to his given names, and called by dozens of nicknames, Jan was a local legend, a natural-born diplomat and lover of all earthly inhabitants. A bear of a man of Slavic, Jewish, Mongolian and Nordic lineage, he was known to decimate a woodpile with the mighty swing of his axe.

Jan was the descendant of Polish and Russian immigrants. His maternal grandparents: survivors of the Holocaust – Polish Ashkenazi Jews persecuted by Hitler who lost countless relatives to the blood-stained hands of the Third Reich in Auschwitz. His paternal grandparents: Russian Orthodox Christians loyal to Tsar Nikolai II (Saint Nikolai, the Passion-Bearer), were hunted by Leninist factions and fled Mother Russia after the assassination of the Tsar. Both Jan’s maternal and paternal family names (Bednarczyk and Thoreck) are recognized on The American Immigrant Wall of Honor at Ellis Island.

Jan’s deeper genetic heritage harkens to legendary European and Eurasian warriors of the past. His maternal Slavic ancestors fought with King Jan Sobieski III in his cavalry of Winged Hussars, who pushed back the Ottoman Turks and united the Kingdoms of Poland and Lithuania. Later they bravely posed a rebellion on two fronts, against Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin as Jews. His paternal Russian roots trace back to the Swedish (Kievan Rus) settlers of the Ukraine - founders of Russia and the Varangian Guard - the Viking mercenaries and personal bodyguards of Byzantine Emperors from the 10th to the 14th Centuries who also held back the Ottomans and preserved Christianity. His paternal grandmother identified herself as the direct descendant of the Great Mongolian Unifier, Chinggis Khaan, Clan of the Wolf, who tolerated people of all faiths in his Kingdom, establishing the first formal international passport, The Gereg.

Jan’s booming voice, infectious laughter, great physical stature and even greater heart touched thousands. He detested injustice, ignorance, and greed. He would take the shirt off of his back and give his last dime for those he found in need. He lived his life to fullest, embracing the journey and all he met on it until the bitter end.

An American Patriot, he voted early and often, and fulfilled his numerous calls to jury duty. Ready and willing, he was denied military service when his number was selected for the Vietnam draft, diagnosed with genetic high blood pressure. Throughout his life, he felt compelled to support U.S. Veterans of all Wars, Conflicts, and Police Actions.

A steward of the land he loved, Jan’s career spanned nearly three decades with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation: beginning as a laborer in 1981, raising and stocking land-locked Atlantic salmon at the NYS DEC Fish Culture Station – Region 5 (Adirondack Fish Hatchery) in Lake Clear. He transferred to the NYS DEC William C. Whitney Wilderness and Round Lake Wilderness – Sabattis, in Long Lake, in the late 1990’s, where he maintained the facilities and lands. He formally retired as a Conservation Operations Supervisor 1 in 2009. (Notably, his loves of nature, country, and humanity were developed at Boy Scout Camp Sabattis, on the same lands he worked as an adult, for several consecutive summers during his youth.)

An avid motorcycle enthusiast, one of Jan’s greatest pleasures was taking elderly ladies for joy rides on his custom Harley Davidson. He loved to travel, and checked the trip of a lifetime off of his bucket list in 2017, when he rode his motorcycle in an epic international journey to visit his sister Eileen in Arizona. Amateur golfer extraordinaire, consistently drove 300+ yard bombs in his prime, and to his delight, witnessed both is mother, “Irene”, and daughter, Kelly Lynn shoot holes-in-one. A dedicated conservationist, Jan never missed a season in pursuit of fish, fowl, and white-tail deer, harvesting hundreds of animals with family and friends over a lifetime. Much of what he harvested was quietly donated to hungry families.

A committed supporter of civic and fraternal organizations, he was at one point or another a member of the Loyal Order of Moose, the Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake VFW Posts, the Saranac Lake Fish and Game Club, Ducks Unlimited, and multiple hunting clubs. He was a proud volunteer of the Alpo International Sled Dog Races, formerly held in Lake Clear, and gave his time and resources to a host of benefits and fund raisers throughout the Tri-Lakes. Jan was amiable, a veritable social butterfly, and was known for cultivating random encounters into lifelong friendships.

Raised a Roman Catholic through his families’ war-time conversions, steeped in both Catholic and Russian Orthodox traditions, Jan was a devoted altar boy in his formative years at the predominantly Slavic Transfiguration Church of Syracuse.

Jan upheld his faith and commitment to God as best as any mortal can. He received the last rights of the Roman Catholic Church while at AMC in Saranac Lake. He died with the Holy Rosary in his left hand and a talisman of a crescent axe embellished with the Ukrainian Kolovrat in his right hand, literally at the Gates of Valhalla, where his spirit was carried by the Valkyries and he was recognized by his Creator.

Jan’s mortal body was handled professionally and respectfully by the McMahon, Lyon & Hartnett Funeral Home in White Plains, New York. He was cremated at Ferncliff Crematory in Hartsdale, New York on August 1, 2019. His ashes were received by his daughter Kelly Lynn, on August 10, 2019, and per his request, are being lovingly tended by close family and friends.

During his final days in Valhalla, he was comforted by daughter, Kelly Lynn, her mother Nancy, partner, Patti; her daughter, Erika, brother, Michael, his daughter, Tracy, dear friends “Dobber” and George, his daughter’s friend, Angelica, who lovingly called him her “Viking Dad”, brought him treats, tended to his personal hygiene and appearance, and prayed with him when his family couldn’t be there; and by new-found comrade and hospital roommate Elias, with whom Jan formed a deep bond and lovingly called “Rocky”. Elias, a complete stranger, lifted his spirits, gave him his final moniker of “Paulie”, and guarded his person and property with the devotion of a son in spite of his own ailments.

Jan was pre-deceased by father, John Thoreck, and mother, Amelia “Irene” Thoreck (Bednarczyk) of Syracuse, New York. He is survived by elder sister Eileen Thoreck-Swete, of Carefree, Arizona; elder brother Michael Thoreck, of New Woodstock, New York; daughter, Kelly Lynn Thoreck, of Saranac Lake; son Jeffrey Scott Thoreck, of Cape Elizabeth, Maine; four grandchildren by his son: Griffin, Connor, Owen, and Julia Thoreck; several aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews spread across the globe; partner of 20 years, Patricia Duval- Stenger, and “adopted” daughter, Erika Stenger-Thomas, both of Tupper Lake.

Family and friends throughout the world will miss him dearly and carry on his legacy with stories of wild adventures, selfless generosity, and fond remembrances.

A Celebration of Life will be held in Jan’s honor at the Saranac Lake Golf Club in Ray Brook on Friday, September 27, 2019. Calling hours will be from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. All are welcome.

In remembrance of Jan’s legendary 9th hole drives at the SLGC, the First Annual Jan “Big John” Thoreck Memorial Long-Drive Contest open to all youth, ladies and gentlemen of the public, will be held on the 9th tee during calling hours, rain or shine – winners will have bragging rights and results will be posted in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise – bring your driver, your balls, and your best swing.

Correspondence may be directed to The Thoreck Family, PO Box 154 Lake Clear, NY 12945. In lieu of flowers, please direct monetary donations to North Country Life Flight.