Joseph Brostek, who most recently served as the first vice president of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association, was in the hospital for a week before he died, according to his family. Brostek was 87 years old.
In a message to friends, neighbors and community members, the Brostek family wrote that their father passed away “calmly, in no pain, and at peace.”
Due to the pandemic, the Diocese of Brooklyn will not allow funeral masses for the foreseeable future. Funeral homes are limited to family viewing a few hours before the burial, the family said.
Though the family is now mourning in private, they wrote that at an “appropriate time” later this year, they expect to hold a proper mass to honor and celebrate Brostek’s life.
They also suggested donating to charities that their father supported throughout his life, including the Carol and Joe Brostek Scholarship at Queens College.
Brostek and his wife, Carol, first met at the college. After she died in 2012, he created a scholarship in their name, presented annually to a graduating senior who is planning to pursue graduate studies and has demonstrated academic excellence while serving in campus leadership positions.
Supporters can also donate to St. Andrew Avellino Roman Catholic Church and Xavier High School, where Brostek graduated in 1950.
Janet McCreesh, immediate past president of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association, knew Brostek for more than two decades. They became friends after she moved into the neighborhood in 1997.
She recalled that one day after she moved in, he knocked on her door with a videotape. Brostek had put together an introduction to BFHA, which he narrated.
“He wanted to educate us about the kind of community we had moved into and what they were all about,” she said.
McCreesh began attending meetings, and later would become a board member and president. She said Brostek was “invaluable” to her, prepared with a trove of information and advice.
He would advise her on marketing and how to get a message out to the community, as well as logistical matters, like how to line up chairs for meetings, putting up signs on walls, and being mindful of where extension cords are.
Brostek would also make sure they had flags at every association meeting.
A few years ago, Brostek was at home recovering from a stroke when McCreesh asked for help with an upcoming meeting. After she went to his house, she saw that he was working on three or four different projects, including a church fair and an event for Queens College.
“He was helping everyone even when he was supposed to be recovering,” she said.
McCreesh said one of Brostek’s constant messages was to talk to neighbors.
“The more connections we have with our neighbors, the stronger we are and the better we are,” she said. “Bringing people together in a very easy and positive fashion.”
The former BFHA president said she was shocked when she learned that Brostek had passed away. She didn’t even know he was hospitalized. She said she felt an “overwhelming sense of loss.”
“People like Joe are one in a million, I don’t know when I will ever meet someone like him again,” McCreesh said. “He was so rare and amazing.”
Kevin Morris, current BFHA president, said he was also taken by surprise by Brostek’s death. Morris, who has lived in the neighborhood for 60 years and grew up there, has known the Brostek family for years.
“He was always involved improving the neighborhood,” he said.
Whether it was covering graffiti, presenting awards for beautiful gardens, lining up speakers for meetings or staying in touch with elected officials, Brostek was constantly active.
In addition to two separate careers, one in corporate communications and another organizing events for Queens College, Brostek served as a trustee for the Queens Historical Society. He also helped out at St. Andrew Avellino’s Friendship Club and other programs for parishioners.
Not only was he involved and engaged, he always had a positive attitude and was prepared for success.
“He approached every task with good fellowship, good humor and with expectation of success,” Morris said.
Brostek mentored Morris on how to look at a venue and identify lights, seats, power outlets, exits and other factors. He always knew where to hang banners and set up tables.
“His little tips reflected a lifetime of information he absorbed in doing this for many different organizations,” he said.
Morris added that while he’s sad about Brostek’s death, he felt gratified to have known him.
“He was most generous with the element of time, which is a commodity which is the most precious,” he said. “We owe an awful lot to Joe, who gave a great example on how to be a great person and treat people with dignity.”
In a statement, State Senator John Liu called Brostek a “respected civic leader and outspoken advocate” on a myriad of issues.
“He was also a teacher at heart and I learned a great deal from him,” Liu said. “I still have several CDs and books he passed to me over the years. Joe is sorely missed.”
Councilman Paul Vallone said his heart was heavy after learning of Brostek’s passing.
“Joe was a true gentleman who greeted every community member with joy, love and his vast knowledge of all things Queens,” he said. “His passion for local history, love for his neighborhood and warm smile will be with us always.”