On September 24, 1998, ARDS claimed the life of John (Ivan) Biskup: loving husband, father, and grandfather. On July 21, 1998, John broke his hip. ARDS was to strike not too long after and on July 29, 1998, John was placed on a ventilator. Complications included a coronary and pneumonia. He was on the ventilator until September 3, 1998, when they removed the tube with the help of steroid shots to enable him to live out the remainder of his life without being tied to a machine, but still needed to be on full oxygen. For another 3 weeks he lived, not without incident, in a regular hospital room visited regularly and often round the clock by family members and friends. On September 10, 1998, he turned blue and ice cold, his body, his ears. The family brought in a priest for last rites. John did not want to die alone and did not want to suffer when it would happen. He was to be granted his wishes, for his wife Gerda and their friend, Rosemary, were by his side when he took 2 deep breaths and settled into death.

Born in Mihojan, Yugoslavia (now known as Croatia) on October 18, 1923, he was the youngest of the six children of Janko and Luisa Biskup. His sister, Barbica, and brother, Mirko, survive him and still live in Croatia. At the age of seventeen, John left his home on the family farm following the death of both his parents. A veteran of Word War II, he was taken as a prisoner of war in Austria. After the war, he worked in Austria for 5yrs before facing a difficult choice of going back to his native country Croatia or relocating to America or Australia to begin his life again. He chose America, arriving by ship with just $5.00 in his pocket. Not being able to speak English, he struggled to teach himself the language of his new country without schooling.

He worked various jobs as a gardner, delivery man, baker, and long shoreman on the waterfront of New York City. John met wife, Gerda, on a blind date at Penn Station in New York City in October 1955. A cautious man, he would check out his blind date from the stairs in Penn Station! A little over a year later, in November 1956, they were married.

Gerda and John would go on to have almost 42 years together before he died from ARDS. Gerda talked John into becoming a deli man. He new nothing about the deli business, but she persuaded him into opening a deli business together on 3rd Avenue in the Bronx in November 1960. More deli stores were to follow: Bayshore in 1967, Islip terrace in 1970, Setauket in 1978. At one time two stores were operated in Islip Terrace and Setauket at the same time.

"He was a plain and simple man who had a heart of gold. John was a very hardworking man. His family meant everything to him. John was most happy when all children would be home and we would sit around our dining room table and we would just talk and tell stories.", recalls Gerda Biskup.

John and Gerda were to be blessed with five children and a granddaughter before ARDS took John's life. Luise in 1957, Heide in 1960, Joanne in 1965, Barbara in 1966, and finally a son, John Jr., in 1969. On October 2, 1992, Chelsi Heide Biskup, daughter of Joanne Biskup and Tim Black, blessed their lives. In June 1998, shortly before his death from ARDS, John and his family celebrated the marriage of John, Jr., to Pam Radgowski. John is also survived by his beloved pet dog for 13 years, Jessie.

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Gerda Biskup remembers John's strength when they were confronted with two emotional trials: first when their daughter, Heide, ran away at age 15 for six weeks, and when she died in 1980 at age 20 from anorexia and asthma complications. "John was like steel; I could cling to him and holding his hands would give me strength like no one could believe. I miss this most of all when I don't feel good to go sit by his bed and hold his hand to give me strength to go on. Where do I get it now?"

Yet, John had a softer, more whimsical side to him too. Gerda remembers that John was overjoyed when John, Jr., a son finally came along. "John loved all his children dearly, though there was a special bond between his son and himself. John would always tell me it was because he needed help with all the women around the house!"

Like most of us, John's life was not without crises and struggles. Luise Biskup remembers how in 1974, he suffered a massive heart attack damaging 3/4ths of his heart, a condition deemed inoperable. He was in and out of a coma for the first 11 days, a touch and go situation. John bounced back, though, going on to live and bless his family with his presence for another 24 years. The heart attack jolted him into stopping smoking, up to a two-packs a day habit. In the ensuing 24 years, he would suffer and struggle through 4 or 5 strokes, shingles, and twice broken ribs. He had to re-learn to swallow and walk, and to speak again after his stroke in January 1997.

Traveling abroad, he was to enjoy trips to Germany, Austria and Croatia. He would travel to see John Jr., play football as a kicker for Syracuse from 1989-1992. John traveled to such places as Hawaii, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Phoenix, Tempe, Syracuse, Philadelphia, and many other cities. In September 1993, he was to enjoy traveling to Croatia with Luise to celebrate his 70th birthday.

Luise remembers, as all family members do, the struggles faced by the family due to ARDS as a painful ordeal for the family. The most frustrating thing to Luise was her father's inability to speak because of the ventilator tube. His fluctuating fever was difficult. John's in and out of coherency created stress and strain. The horrible black substance that came up out of his lungs from years of smoking. How Gerda, their mom, had to be admitted to the same hospital in which John was a patient, because of stress. How she had to be kept for a few days to make sure everything was ok because she had a heart condition. How John, Pam, and Luise were unable to visit regularly because they lived in Georgia; while Barbara and Joanne switched from day to day. How Chelsi was able to visit her "Opa" on occasions. How friends and family members rallied to visit John in the hospital. Luisa says with a simple eloquence: "We all miss him and loved him dearly, Words can't express how we all feel. We go on but want to know why? Why when he is such a great and giving mand to his family, friends, strangers and the community in Islip Terrace and the school district in of East Islip, both in New York? My doctor has recommended reading: "When Bad Things Happen to Good People", by Harold S. Kushner. I am working and getting help to get me through this time. Everyone grieves in their own ways."

Joanne Biskup says that "Some of my greatest memories of my father are when we worked together at the family owned deli. He was a unique person, well liked and respected by his customers, neighbors and friends."

Joanne goes on to recall the "time when I was working in the deli there was a baby mouse running back and forth behind the counter. When I told my dad about the mouse he came out with a broom. Tears quickly came to my eyes because I knew what he was about to do. The mouse was now traveling back and forth under the floor between two holes. I grabbed some cheese and quickly made a trail from the hole outside the store onto the sidewalk--hoping the little mouse would understand my intentions. My father was so amused at this he let our little visitor stay...I think."

Joanne followed in her father's footsteps in his love for gardening. She is happy that her daughter, Chelsi, got to become close with him. She is now pregant with her second child and knows that Chelsi will have wonderful stories to tell her little brother or sister about their Opa. "I miss him very much and that will never go away, I am thankful to have known such an incredible person."

Barbara Biskup says, "it is three and a half months since my dad passed way. My father was the best father anyone could ever have. Yea, he was definitely a workaholic, but we had a "family" business and it was truly a "family" business in every sense. I am grateful for the values my father has instilled in us. He always wanted us to work hard and be the best we could be. I have many memories of working with him in our deli and I think that I was truly fortunate to have spent that time with him. Some people only got to see their father's after work or on the weekends, but I actually worked with him and got to spend more time with him than most people did with their own fathers.

The deli was truly a special place in my father's heart. One of my favorite memories is of a story a friend of mine told me. When we were younger there was always a crowd of people hanging around outside the deli, probably anywhere from 10-20 people on a Friday night. My father's "cure" for getting the kids to "move'em out" was to get a bottle of ammonia and pour it outside the deli on the sidewalk. My friend said that the first time she saw him do this she thought to herself, "Wow, this guy really loves his business, he's cleaning the sidewalk!", not realizing it was his way of making them leave.

Another favorite of mine was when I would be working in the afternoon (at that time my father would have his lunch and "take a rest") and my friends would come to visit, (he ALWAYS knew when you were goofing off and not working) he would come out from the back and he would always tell them "Go to movie!" (my friend, Vikki, thought he was a real movie buff!) I could go on and on about my father but that would fill a huge book! My father was good to ALL the kids and adults in this neighborhood. Everyone loved him and will miss him!

I'm sure my father knew I loved him, but I wish I told my father more often how much I loved him. We all take for granted that the people we love know that we love them, but, it's always nice to hear it!!!"

John Jr. notes that "A good friend of mine told me that there would not be a day that you won't think about your Dad. For some strange reason I found this hard to believe. Here I sit 1/14/99, 113 days after his death, and every single morning when I drive to work I think of him.

"The things that I miss most about him:

The most obvious one, being able to hug him and tell him that I love him;
Listening to him tell his stories of his experiences in Europe (pre & post   WWII);
Sitting at the table and drinking "antifreeze" (his wine) with him; Calling him "Chief"; Telling jokes that he heard in the deli and he'd either forget the punch line or would say it too early; Using anything that he could find to scratch his back; Working with him in the deli or at home; Watching him walk around our backyard with an old pair of my sneakers on, never tied of course (I am a size 10 he was a size 8); Sitting on the deck drinking "antifreeze" and him telling stories; Hearing him say: "Clean em up and hit the road, Jack", "It's nice to be nice", "Scratching the lawn (raking the lawn)", "I don't know", "Oh boy".

Dad was a workaholic. His life revolved around working in the deli, usually from 6AM – 10 or 11PM. He always said to me "I work this hard because I want my kids to have a better life than me." Seven days a week and 52 weeks a year he was working behind that deli counter. Holidays were only half days for him (6AM – 3PM). John's Deli was never closed! He said that there was always someone that needed something on those holidays and everyone knew that they could count on John being open. He was the unofficial "Mayor" of Islip Terrace, where everyone who knew him only had nice comments. He was an extremely savvy businessman when it came to reading people and getting the most out of them.

When I was younger I would always tell myself that "I don't ever want to be like my Dad" when referencing his hours worked and not involving himself in any hobbies. As I sit here today typing, I am truly blessed to have acquired many of my Dads assets. Commitment, dedication, discipline and just being nice to others are a few things that he passed along to me. I truly can't wait until the day that someone tells me "you're just like you Dad". I will thank them for making my day.

As I look back and think about different conversations with him, the one thing that I never told him was how proud I was of him. My parents were always complimenting me and telling me how proud they were of me. If I had the chance to tell him one last thing it would be to do just that… tell him how proud I was of him, to know him and to be his son. It is my job to carry on his name and with my wife, Pamela, have a son. I know that my Dad is very proud of all of us and nothing would please him more than to see his name passed on one more generation."

Daughter-in-law, Pam (Radgowski) Biskup, says "I knew "Mr. B" for almost half of my life and although I did not officially become part of the family until this past summer - I always felt like I was.

When you meet a family like the Biskups you find yourself with a strange desire to be part of them. I suppose "strange" is may sound like odd choice of a word, but I know that everyone knows what I mean!

It's funny because I actually met "Mr. & Mrs. B" before I even knew that they had a son. They owned and operated the hottest breakfast and lunch spot in town - "John's Deli". I remember going there after school before a softball game and getting a snack. Mr. B was just the cutest little man you've ever met. He had this thick accent and quite honestly I struggled for years to understand him! I would always just smile at him and shake my head one way or the other. I'm sure he knew that I didn't have the faintest idea what he had said, but he would always just smile back at me.

Once I started dating his son, John Jr., I obviously began to spend a lot of time with the family and at the deli. I even spent a summer making breakfast specials in the back of the deli every morning. "Mr. B" was a hard worker and determined to teach his children his way. Believe me, there were many a day when he chased me out of the deli so I wouldn't disturb John Jr. when he was working. You can not feel anything but admiration for such a hard working family man. Everything he did and worked for was for his family.

Barbara is right on the money when she says that we have a tendency to take for granted that people know how we feel. I have to believe in my heart that "Mr. B" knows that I love him. I just wish I had an opportunity to call him "Dad" while he was still able to hear me. The things I will miss and remember most:

Walking in on him in his "tighty whities" and watching his face turn red;
Listening to his stories about a life he lived that's worlds away from anything a textbook could ever express;  Not having the opportunity to give him a grandson to carry on his name while he was still here to hold him

My relationship with him was one that did not require a lot of words. My respect and love for him has only grown over the years and I am honored to wear the Biskup name and thank him for being a part of my life and even more for allowing me to be a part of his!"

John's granddaughter, Chelsi Heide Biskup, in the way only a child can express, recalls:

"I remember when Opa and I used to play my favorite game, Lucky Ducks, together. We would play a long time. Opa always liked to play games with me. I used to make pictures for him. He used to be sad when I went to school, when I came home he was happy to see me. I take care of Opa's best friend, our dog, Jessie. Sometimes I miss my Opa a lot. When I think of him and how much he loved me it make me happy. I'm glad I got to spend some time with my Opa."

A precise condensation of a simple, good-hearted man.