LAST CAST: Legacy of late history teacher, fly fisherman tied to many hearts

Published: 7/13/2017 10:00 AM
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BY JENNA WASAKOSKI

THE NEWS-ITEM

jenna_w@newsitem.com

Much like fishing, in life, you never know what's at the end of the line. For Mike Marcinek, of Shamokin, it's a lasting legacy imprinted on all those who crossed his path. A teacher, family man and friend to many, this avid outdoorsman and expert fly fisherman caught more than fish. He caught the attention and respect of family, friends and students.

Marcinek passed away Monday in Weikert at the age of 69 — a place where he connected with nature most of his life.

He was a history teacher for Shamokin Area School District for 37 years and, in his retirement, taught a history course at the Shamokin campus of Luzerne County Community College (LCCC). His students and colleagues of varying ages, through comments on Facebook, poured from their hearts memories of the man they described as funny, cool and someone who "brought out the best in everyone he met."

"Mr. Marcinek was for many a sixth-grade teacher," shared Bud Hoy. "He taught many of us, but I will always remember him as the fly-tying class teacher and his love for fly fishing."

Hoy said Marcinek could not help but to spread the knowledge of his favorite past time. Once, when fishing Penn's Creek, Hoy stopped to purchase a few of "Mike Marcinek's specials (fishing flies)," only to be told he was a day late because "those things sold like hotcakes."

A few minutes later, Marcinek or "Penns Creek's finest" as Hoy referred to him, popped in and said he didn't have time to chat because he was "chasing the green drake." And off he went to do what he loved most.

Penn's Creek's finest also touched the hearts of this writer's family.

"I cried most of the morning over Mike Marcinek," said MaryAnn Wasakoski. "This is just for you to get a feel for the man he was. We were very good friends when we were all single. He was a true gentleman, the life of the party and was always ready to help someone. He lived his life like we all should. He was a great sportsman, fishing, hunting, coaching and enjoying his cabin up in Weikert."

She also spoke of his warm nature.

"He was very humble and never looked for accolades. He gave massive bear hugs when he saw you, even in recent times. He was definitely one of the best and I will cherish the memories we made," said Wasakoski.

This writer also learned Marcinek fly fished with her grandfather on many occasion "up Weikert."

His passions for the outdoors and teaching went hand-in-hand.

Past students spoke of his large personality and his genuine care for them as well as his humor. History class isn't the most exciting for all students, but it seems Marcinek had a special touch.

"I had Mr. Marcinek back in sixth grade," said Maxine Howerter Harvey." He was always great with a joke to help make the history subject easier to understand... He wanted every student to have a good education — from history to hunting safety to his famous fly fishing. He will be deeply missed by so many. I'm blessed to call him a friend."

Kyle Burns shared a similar sentiment.

"I had Mr. Marcinek for a few of my history and civics courses at LCCC. He was an all-around great teacher and a stand-up guy. Mike didn't just pass along what was written in the textbook. He made going to class fun and interesting. He was the kind of teacher who was interested in what you had to say and encouraged debates." said Burns.

Nicole Lucas Edmonson, director at LCCC, saw his value as well.

"Mr. Marcinek was a wonderful educator that went above and beyond to teach and serve the students of LCCC. He always made history fun and interesting to his students and gave extra time to those who needed it. Mr. Marcinek always made a point to greet everyone and say goodbye at the end of the day. He was a great man and will be missed."

His effortless approach at giving his all to education resonates with former student Keith Long as well.

"I knew him since I had him as a teacher in middle school, I later had the privilege of student teaching with him," shared Long.

"I also knew him both personally and professionally after leaving teaching... Mike really cared about connecting with each of his students. I feel he did a great job of making them feel special and went out of the way to find ways to bond with them. As a teacher, once you have that down, you have someone who is always ready to learn."

Long noted some unique approaches Marcinek utilized as well.

"He was also a master of disguised learning, creating games or silly activities that got across his point while focusing on fun, as well. Kids often left class thinking they did next to nothing, but, somehow learned a good deal. Throughout the nine years that I taught I tried to operate that way with my students. I carried those lessons with me and still do to this day. He was an excellent teacher and a great guy," said Long.

Josh Sulham said words weren't enough to describe the man who touched so many lives.

"He was an amazing fisherman, a successful businessman, and most of all, an outstanding teacher. If he wasn't making you laugh, then he was pushing you to be the person he knew you could be. Mr. Marcinek was a human though, and if you made him angry, boy did you know it. But he was a man that never carried his anger over to the next day. He treated you as if nothing happened, said Sulham.

"I will always remember being so stressed during his tests then look up to see him making his fishing lures by hand and immediately feel a piece of calm... Mr. Marcinek made us laugh so hard we cried, he guided us and molded us to be the person he knew we could be and when he seen us slipping, he would set us straight and back on track."

Becky Noles said of Marcinek, "He truly made history come alive. His voice was commanding, yet gentle; I could listen to him all day."

He excelled at teaching history, but also connected to his student's well-being. Deb Mull recalls, "Mr. Marcinek taught my father (and then Mull) while he was in school. When my parents decided to divorce, if Mr. Marcinek saw I was having a rough day, he would put a movie on for the class and talk to me about my situation with my parents. Mike had the heart to teach and cared about the lives of every person he came to know. He will be greatly missed and forever remembered."

In addition to his connection with students in the classroom and his passion for fly fishing, Marcinek is remembered for not only his kind heart but his generous nature. Some recalled run-ins outside of school or fishing on the creek.

"He always bought the candy we had to sell for fundraisers and sold it in his classroom. He made my life so much easier by buying the entire box, every single time I had one," said Lauren Stoud. "He was hysterical and told the best stories. He will be missed terribly."

Emily Barnhart, who recalls Marcinek tying flies on her shoelaces in sixth grade, ran into him while buying soupie at a local meat market.

"One time, he saw me at Massers and after catching up, he asked what I was there for. I was there for a soupie. He wasn't having that, so he had me follow him home for one of his homemade ones."

From tying flies to tying soupie to tying a permanent place on the heartstrings of many, Mike Marcinek gave to the world many gifts.

Van Gogh once said, "If you love nature, you'll find beauty everywhere."

Marcinek's connection with nature combined with his love of teaching and a one-of-a-kind personality made for a warm heart so beautiful, history and those whose lives he touched will never forget.
(To see more tributes to Marcinek go to The News-Item's Facebook page and look for the post seeking memories of him.) 

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