John Kopil passed away peacefully on Saturday, September 5, 2020, at Haven Hospice at JFK Medical Center. He was born in Bayonne to the late Veronica (nee: Nemcik) and Steven Kopil and was a long-time resident.
With this family having immigrated from Czechoslovakia, Mr. Kopil took great pride in his Slovak heritage. He enjoyed taking part in making traditional Slovak nut cake each Christmas and Easter with his family as well as making other traditional Slovak food.
Mr. Kopil was a teacher at Dickinson High School, prior to retirement, where he also served as the track coach and the State District Coordinator of the Fire and Police Program. Upon retiring from Dickinson, he became the Women’s Track coach at St. Peter’s University for a number of years.
Mr. Kopil had an illustrious track career that began at Bayonne High School, continued at Villanova University and took him to various places throughout the world as a member of the United States Marine Corps. On January 31, 1953, he set the High School World record when he ran the mile in 4:20.1. Later that season, he won the National Indoor Mile Championship race at Madison Square Garden establishing a national record indoor time. Mr. Kopil, then, competed in the 1953 Penn Relays, taking part in winning the Distance Medley Relay Championship. He also was a finalist at the U.S. Olympic Trials for the 5000-meter race. After a wonderful career at Villanova that included ICAA and National Indoor Championships in 1956, Mr. Kopil joined the United States Marine Corps. He enjoyed a brilliant post college career winning the All-Marine’s Championship in the Steeplechase in 1958. He also competed with the New York Athletic Club winning many AAU titles and represented the USA with the State Department in 1960 and 1962 and competing as a member of the US Team, touring Italy, Greece, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Morocco, Cyprus, and Turkey, setting national records in those countries at the time. He received a traditional but unique and special Marine Salute for his accomplishments.
In 1967, Mr. Kopil ran his last big Steeplechase race, representing the New York area in Puerto Rico.
Mr. Kopil was inducted into the Bayonne High School, Bayonne Sports, Hudson County and Villanova Halls of Fame. He was the recipient of the National Scholastic Track Champion and National Record Holder Awards. For many years after his running career, Mr. Kopil was often seen running in the parks and neighborhoods of Bayonne. He often ran in local races, winning his age group well into his 70’s. Despite all of his achievements, he was a kind, thoughtful man of integrity, and humility. He was also an avid Giants football fan.
Mr. Kopil is survived by his loving daughter, Desiree Kopil Gannon, and her husband, Jason; his cherished grandson, Colin Gannon; his dear siblings, Steven Kopil, and his wife, Joan, Loretta Sullivan, and her husband, James, and Diane Snyder, and her husband, Harold; many loving nieces and nephews; and his former spouse, Philomena (nee: Cusack) Kopil. He was predeceased by his dear sister, Madeline Baran, and her husband, Michael.
The funeral will be conducted by Bayonne Memorial Home, Inc. on Saturday, September 12, 2020. A funeral Mass will be held at Blessed Miriam Teresa Parish at St. Andrew the Apostle Church at 10:00 a.m., followed by entombment with Military Honors at Holy Name Mausoleum, Jersey City. Visitation will take place at the funeral home on Friday from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Donations may be made to the Alzheimer's Association.
Due to current CDC guidelines, visitors and funeral attendees are asked to wear face coverings and practice social distancing.
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