COLUMBIANA — Jerome Michael Kuzma, 84, who taught thousands, coached hundreds, raised five and shared in an incredible love, has died. He succumbed to injuries from a fall at his home, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021.
Born in 1936 to Michael and Mary Hamborsky Kuzma, and older sibling to Leonard (of Erie, Pa.), Jerome was the first of his family to graduate college. Following his YSU degree, he proudly served his nation as a first lieutenant in the Army.
Jerry’s easygoing, uncomplicated style and sparkling greens caught the eye of Ursuline’s Barbara Tierney at a West Side bowling alley in 1958. After a shin-kick, a fake emergency-room call and an exciting courtship, the destined pair were married at Fort Knox in 1960. During their 60-plus-year partnership, the couple had five children (Mary Kay, Lori, Lynn, Mark and Matt), four grandchildren (Rowan, Ava, Michael and Emily), and an enduring, tender love that continues beyond this world.
Though Mr. Kuzma taught math at Cardinal Mooney, Campbell Memorial and Our Lady of Mount Carmel for more than five decades, he was quick to say, “I never went to work a day in my life” — he so loved students and the profession of teaching. In recognition of his classroom excellence, he received the WFMJ Class Act Teacher Award in 1976.
An avid sportsman, “Kuz” played a stint in pro baseball’s farm leagues before turning his attention to education and coaching high school basketball. Coach Kuz and his Cardinal and Red Devil squads won hundreds of varsity games during his decades’ long career. The youth sports teams that he helmed also enjoyed many successes and memorable runs. His method stressed fundamentals, hustle and sportsmanship. And fun. Always fun.
“Pop” was continually stopped around town by former students and players, enjoying shared times — he seemed to know everyone. Out-of-the-blue letters of thanks and notes of admiration arrived in the mail throughout his life, even in his final days. He cherished knowing that he made a positive impact on so many lives.
A modern Renaissance man, Jerry shot his age in 18 holes of golf, read a library’s worth of novels, perfected the “Dad” joke, played the perfect pinochle partner, picked a mean rock band axe (and real accordion!), cheered LeBron’s, Tigers’ and Birds’ wins, devoured a mountain of mint chocolate ice cream, sea bass, sugar cookies and salami, and was engaged and active until his tragic passing. His was a life well-lived.
A titan in the eyes of his family, Dad will always be missed, eternally admired and forever loved. Rest in peace.
His ashes will be interred, with military funeral honors, in the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in Seville.
A celebration of life will be held at a later date.
Professional arrangements are by Higgins-Reardon Funeral Homes, this tribute my be viewed and condolences sent to www.higgins-reardon.com.