Anyone who knew Roman Pirozek, Jr. understood that to say he loved flying was an understatement.
The Woodhaven teen rarely went a day without operating a remote-control helicopter – and he frequently spoke about ultimately immersing himself in a career flying a plane. His world, it seemed, belonged in the air.
After Pirozek died at the age of 19 in September, when he was struck by a remote-control helicopter in Calvert Vaux Park in Gravesend, Brooklyn, those who knew him immediately wanted to honor him and his passion for flying.
The question was, how do you do that?
Now, teachers at the High School for Construction Trades, Engineering and Architecture in Ozone Park – where Pirozek was a student – have created a memorial scholarship in his name, and they plan on using all of that which he loved – flying, construction, and reading, for example – to create the foundation for scholarship’s criteria. In November, teachers began raising money for the Roman Pirozek Memorial Scholarship, and they hope to raise about $5,000 to present to a graduating senior this spring.
“He was a great person – a great young man who was enjoying life and doing what he loved to do,” said Brad Shenkman, who taught Pirozek in a class on U.S. history. “We’re trying to memorialize someone who was great for our school community.”
Shenkman knew Pirozek well, especially after he was one of three teachers who accompanied a group of high school students, including Pirozek and Pirozek’s sister, Amy, to Paris in 2012.
“It was a bonding experience,” he said. “It was a really great time.”
After Pirozek’s death, there was an outpouring of grief, with family and friends describing the teen as someone who was dedicated to those he loved, as well as to his helicopter hobby.
“Although we lost Roman doing what he loved to do best, Heaven has gained an angel who will be missed here on Earth,” Debbie Weber Gamble, who knew Pirozek for much of his life, said in September.
A graduate of St. Thomas the Apostle in Woodhaven, the helicopter enthusiast was well known throughout the neighborhood as someone who was a “bright, fun, respectful, responsible young person,” Gamble said.
“I can emphatically say that Roman was a good person,” she continued. “He would always make sure that if I saw him in the neighborhood, he would stop and say hello and ask how my son and I were doing. He didn’t have to, as a 19-year-old, but I have known him since he was in third grade and that’s the way he was raised by his parents – and he held onto those good qualities.”
Shenkman and others in the high school community plan on holding a fundraiser on March 28 at Roma View at 160-05 Cross Bay Blvd. in Howard Beach. The event, which will run from 8 p.m. to midnight, will include raffles and other activities.
Those interested in donating to the scholarship fund may also go to gofundme.com/51b2bg.
By Anna Gustafson