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Joseph Wojcik, Sr.

Veteran, runner, lifelong learner

Joseph “Joe” John Wojcik, Sr. laced up his running shoes for the last time and crossed the ultimate finish line on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 in Claremont, California. He was 71 years old and had battled pancreatic cancer for 11 months.

Mr. Wojcik was born in Chicago, Illinois on January 27, 1941 and grew up with his sister Diane speaking Polish in the home. He was valedictorian of his high school class at Holy Trinity High School, where he played baseball, football and basketball. In 1962, Mr. Wojcik graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York where he was a regimental boxing champion, vice chairman of the honor committee and training officer on the Brigade Staff.

After receiving his commission in the US Air Force, he was assigned to Bitburg Air Force Base in Germany where he was a missile maintenance officer and coached the base and squadron basketball and baseball teams. After serving in the Air Force, Mr. Wojcik worked for Johnson and Johnson in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He obtained his Master of Business Administration from New York University in 1973.

In 1982, Mr. Wojcik moved his family to Claremont. He ended his corporate career at the age of 54 after working for Merck/Medco, where he managed the company’s mail-order pharmacy in Las Vegas, Nevada.

His years at West Point and in the Air Force impressed on him the importance of structure, a quality he strived to pass onto his children. They were expected to get up early, do their homework and generally live an ordered life. Despite the regimentation, Mr. Wojcik is remembered as a joy to be around.

“He was certainly a very driven man, very disciplined, and had a lot of goals he set for himself,” his son, Joe Wojcik, Jr., shared. “But at the same time, he was fun-loving and quick with a joke or witticism.” 

After retirement, Mr. Wojcik volunteered his time by teaching English to Polish students in Poland and coaching his grandson’s basketball teams. He stayed extremely active: golfing, playing tennis, running and traveling.

A lifelong learner who enjoyed auditing courses at the Claremont Colleges like the history of economics, Mr. Wojcik was quick to lend his expertise to others. He once helped his nephew win a sizeable amount of money by serving as a “lifeline” on the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”

It’s small wonder he reached out to his Uncle Joe when stumped for an answer to a trivia question. Mr. Wojcik was an avid reader, enjoyed watching “Jeopardy” and loved crossword puzzles, once qualifying for a national crossword championship.

“He was on a never-ending quest for knowledge, all the way into his late 60s and early 70s,” Joe Jr. recalled.

Perhaps Mr. Wojcik’s greatest legacy was his running streak of 12,628 days (34.5 years) of daily running. This feat included 60 marathons, and running in all 50 states and 27 countries. His total distance over this period was 63,140 miles for an average daily run of 5 miles. He ran the Boston Marathon 8 times and the Los Angeles Marathon 24 years in a row.

Mr. Wojcik is survived by his wife of almost 50 years, Suzanne Wojcik; by his son Joe Wojcik, Jr., his wife Brooke and their sons Jack and Logan of Sun Valley, Idaho; by his daughter Kara Parsons, her husband John and their sons Max, Harry and Gus of San Francisco; and by his daughter Alison Wojcik of Covina and her son Kyle Ochoa of Claremont.

A memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations be made to VNA and Hospice of southern California, 150 W. First St., Claremont, CA 91711.

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com

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