John Penek, MD, a lifelong resident of Warren, NJ, passed away on July 8, 2020. John was born on the Penek Farm on July 25, 1943 and returned to his homestead in 1980 after following his passions for education and travel throughout Africa, England, and the United States. John graduated in 1962 from Watchung Hills Regional High School and earned a Bachelor of Science in Pre-Medicine from Penn State University and a Doctor of Medicine from UMDNJ, Newark. He served as a surgical intern at Dartmouth College’s Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital, and later as a medical intern at Provincial Hospital in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. He also completed a medical residency and Cardiology fellowship in Cape Town, South Africa at Groote Schuur Hospital under the mentorship of Christiaan Barnard, MD. John also completed a residency in Rhodesia, and a postgraduate year at Hammersmith Hospital in London, England. He returned to the U.S. for a fellowship in Pulmonary Medicine at UC Irvine Medical Center and a fellowship in Critical Care Medicine at Long Beach Veterans Administration Hospital, UC Irvine and later studied sleep disorders at Baptist Montclair Hospital Sleep Disorder Center in Birmingham, Alabama.
Professionally, John began his career at Bergen Pines County Hospital in Paramus, NJ as the Chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine in 1980. He simultaneously started and maintained a private practice in Internal and Pulmonary Medicine for forty years, thereafter. Throughout the years, he proudly served on the medical staff at Morristown Memorial Hospital, Chilton Medical Center, Saint Barnabas Medical Center, Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital, and the Medical Institute of New Jersey. He was the founder and Medical Director of The Breathing Center in Morristown, and a founding board member of the New Jersey Sleep Society. John found the field of Sleep Medicine most fascinating and his colleagues viewed John as a pioneer in Sleep Medicine.
Beyond his professional achievements, John was most proud of his family. Shortly after returning to New Jersey, John met his wife Barbara (Bridy) and they were married June 5, 1982 at Our Lady of the Mount Chapel in Warren, NJ. Their reception was held at the family homestead next to the pond that he and his father had made in his teenage years. He spent most of his cherished times with his wife and children appreciating nature and travelling to places near and far. Some of his favorites were The Beaverkill Valley Inn in Northern New York, Knoebels in Pennsylvania, the Jersey Shore, and Cape Town, South Africa.
John often spoke of his wonderful memories of camping, hiking, and staying on the property in a treehouse he had built, and he felt most at peace near water and exploring nature.
He was an avid gardener and appreciated the beauty of flowers and trees, as his family was in the florist business. He shared his creative side through cooking, making flies for fly-fishing, and creating pottery. John loved fishing, archery, and hunting and often organized trips with his friends, travelling to Africa, Canada, and throughout the United States. John was a former member of Amwell Conservancy, Black River Fish and Game Club, and the Campfire Club of America. John’s friends were family and whether he met them in grade school, high school, in his medical career, as a neighbor, or as their physician, he honored and cherished their presence in his life.
John is survived by his wife Barbara, daughter Lindsey and her husband Matthew Quinn, daughter Hillary and her husband Christopher Niesz, son John Penek, and his grandchildren Bodhi Quinn, Sunny Quinn, and Henley Niesz, his sister Lynne Penek-Holden, brother-in-law Bill Bridy and his wife Debbie and his brother-in-law Dick Bridy and his wife Ginny. John is also survived by his nephews Matthew O’Connell, Hunt Stoddard, Richie Holden, Frank Holden, Nick Holden, and Erik Bridy, and his nieces Maria Holden Hack, Kristin Bridy Baker, and Melissa Bridy Brim.
John is predeceased by his parents John and Mary Doris Penek, and his sister Joyce Penek Holden.
John Penek entered into the field of medicine with his desire to truly help people. John spent 16 months traveling overland from Cape Town to Europe and during this period worked at a number of mission hospital’s in Southern Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia. With that in mind, in lieu of flowers, please pay forward an act of kindness in John’s memory.
A celebration of John’s life will be held at a later date.