In Memory

Joe Sladek

Joseph Sladek, Jr., joined the faculty of HMHS in the fall of 1964 as a chemistry teacher. Joe grew up in Wildwood, NJ, and spent most of his life there. He served in the Navy and graduated from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and later obtained a doctorate in forensics. In addition to teaching at HMHS, Joe taught at Audubon and Wildwood High Schools. Joe was also one of Cape May County’s first crime investigators and a crime investigator with the Wildwood Police Department. He was a fireman in Wildwood and North Wildwood during his career.  Unfortunately, Joe passed away far too young in 1994.

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05/02/16 10:18 AM #1    

Ed Madden

From my personal perspective, Joe Sladek was a great teacher and a very good friend. I had him for chemistry in our junior year, and many of my friends also had him for biochemistry in our senior year. His classes were not easy, but they were always, challenging and downright fun. What I know today about chemistry, despite all the discoveries in the intervening years, was because of Joe Sladek. As a teacher, he was dynamic, enthusiastic, and always concerned about his students and what he was imparting to them. My good friend and classmate, Jack Korfhage, put it best when he said to me recently: “Joe was a great teacher. He always said that he did not use the ‘cookbook’ approach to chemistry. He used more of an observation and discovery method which was way more interesting.” Outside of the classroom, Joe was a great conversationalist and mentor, and I would often reach out to him for advice.

                                A couple of things illustrate how much affection Joe generated from members of our class who came into contact with him. On page 132 of the advertisers section of the 1966 Shield, “The ’66 Senior Science Class” had an entry which was signed by all the “Drs.” including Professor Sladek. Finally, in addition to Jane Desmon, another teacher beloved by the Class of 1966, Joe Sladek was one of the two teachers invited to our senior luncheon.

                                Joe Sladek was a man I’m glad that I knew and one who I will never forget.


05/02/16 02:12 PM #2    

Carolee Peterson (Slocum)

Nicely put, Ed.  I remember Mr. Sladek as an excellent teacher, too.  I loved the fact that we didn't have to memorize the periodic table, just learn how to use it.  He definitely encouraged us to think.  I tried to follow his example with my fifth grade science classes.

05/02/16 04:33 PM #3    

Richard Slacum

Mr. Joe Sedek was an outstanding educator. He managed to view his students not as X-graders, but as potential scholars.

He always claimed that he expected to be giving university-level courses for those who wished to move beyond standard ctiteria.

While I didn't have the same personal relationahip as my good friend Ed Madden, I did benefit from time with Joe Sladek.

Richard Slacum



05/03/16 04:01 PM #4    

Bob Mandle

I enjoyed Dr. Sladek's class very much and I remember that he kept elemental sodium in a jar in the storage room. Fortunately I only stole small pieces to explode in Hoppies Pond or I could be typing with one hand. Yes, it was me Joe.

05/03/16 04:56 PM #5    

Bob Greenberg

OK, let's see if I really remember this or if I made it up: I recall a long discourse in Chemistry class re cigarette filters, that the chemicals used to filter the tobacco and those used to treat the paper so that it would not burn rapidly were probably, according to Mr. Sladek, more toxic and harmful than the tobacco and nicotine. I thought his point was well taken, damn smart, and in later years, after reading what was actually in that paper, absolutely on the mark. Please tell me one of you recalls this as well. 

Of course, in college, I recall being very grateful for slow burning rolling papers. I do not recall expressing any concern about the chemicals in those papers at that time, as I was more focused on the presence of Malomars.  Just saying. 

05/04/16 04:31 AM #6    

Ed Madden

Bob: I remember that discussion that you referenced.

05/04/16 11:56 AM #7    

Vincent Summers

The funny thing is, as far as I know, I was the only student in our class to take up chemistry for a vocation. Yet, even though Joe Sladek taught the honors chemistry class, I did not get to attend. But it's understandable. I was too late in applying - the class was already filled. Oddly, I had also applied for honor's math, even though I felt I had no chance. Since the class was not full, I was accepted. The rest is history...

05/04/16 11:29 PM #8    

Laurie Gerber (Rugenstein)

Bob, yes I remember that discussion. I think he was talking about the salt peter they put in tobacco to make it burn slowly. Funny the things that stand out for us. I remember that my lab partner, Julie Kalikman, and I broke lots of beakers in biochem. I loved that class, and Mr. Sladek was definitely one of my favorite teachers. He was so engaged with what he was teaching that I couldn't help but get excited about it, too.

05/07/16 11:28 PM #9    

Josh Gitomer

For reasons that are still unclear to me, I made it into Mr. Sladek's senior honors chemistry class. I think there was a clerical error, but nevertheless there I was suddenly rubbing elbows and bumping Bunsen burners with the HMHS scientific cognoscenti, and trying to use the biggest words I knew. In truth, I was suffering from a delusion of adequacy. Mr. Sladek had this totally unsubtle way of letting you know how you were doing in the class by his form of address when he spoke to you. Those in his favor were given the moniker "doctor." Dr. Weaber, Dr. Kalikman, Dr. Zwarg, Dr. Wickes, etc. All year I pined for this affirmation as few other things in life, but as the months passed, I despaired. To make matters worse, after one experiment involving a somewhat volatile substance called thionyl chloride, my lab partner Geoff Seeger and I, forgot to put the stuff under the venting hood, and by morning the acrid smell of it had wafted out into the halls making several kids and a teacher sick. Geoff and I were hauled into Mr. Lewis’s office to answer for our transgressions. As it turned out, we got off with barely a slap on the wrist, but poor Mr. Sladek caught the worst of it because it had happened on his watch and in his classroom. Then on the last day of the year, he addressed me as Dr. Gitomer, and I knew all was forgiven. It was one of my best days in high school.

05/08/16 12:24 PM #10    

Vincent Summers

Funny and a truly great story, Josh. And to think our own beloved Geoff Seeger shares the blame credit.

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