St. Francis Prep remembers late ‘legendary’ English teacher John Madri

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Photo via Facebook/St. Francis Prep

The St. Francis Prep school community in Fresh Meadows is remembering the late John Madri as a “legendary and enthusiastic” English teacher who loved literature, reading and poetry. 

Madri died on Monday, Oct. 19, at the age of 71. He was the beloved husband of Martha Jane Madri, who taught at Sacred Heart in Manhattan for four years, and 44 years at Our Lady of Hope Catholic Academy in Middle Village. They were married for 45 years. 

A Mass of Christian Burial was offered at Our Lady of Hope Church on Friday, Oct. 23, followed by interment at Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens, under the direction of Maspeth’s Papavero Funeral Home.

Students, teachers, administrators and staff members at St. Francis Prep attended the ceremony remembering Madri as a dedicated English teacher at the school for over 48 years and an avid patron of the performing arts.  

“John really loved literature. I can remember when I started years ago, he and I were on hall duty and said, ‘I started today and already started talking about literature,’” said Brother Joseph Castellano, an English teacher and assistant principal at St. Francis Prep. “He also loved the kids.” 

For the last 20 years, Madri taught ninth and 10th grade at Prep and shared a classroom with Castellano helping with activities for students. 

Every year, Madri met about 175 to 180 incoming freshmen at Prep, according to Castellano, and he was considered the honorary homeroom teacher. 

“John loved poetry and he wrote some plays also, but he always had his kids writing a lot and in the homeroom we shared it was always covered with the kids’ writing,” Castellano said. “I think John really wanted to encourage their writing and make them feel good about it, knowing that was an important part of who they are.” 

Madri made the decision last summer to retire as an English teacher. In June, he bid farewell to his colleagues via email amid the COVID-19 shutdown. 

“I have enjoyed every minute of my 48 years here and will miss you all,” Madri wrote. “In the words of Jacob Marley (with a little adjustment!), spoken to Ebenezer Scrooge in Stave 1 of ‘A Christmas Carol’ (all time favorite novel!), ‘Look to see me no more; and look to remember what has passed between us.’” 

Madri’s 48 years at Prep left him with unforgettable memories that he said he’ll carry with him forever, particularly the last few years in Brooklyn when they came to Fresh Meadows in 1975 and built St. Francis Prep. 

“We did not have computers, iPads, technology or SMART Boards; we had chalk, textbooks and a lot of devotion, and we turned out students who became doctors, nurses, lawyers, educators, successful business people and much more,” Madri said. 

Though they were sad when Madri announced his retirement, Castellano said they wish he had another 15 to 20 years to enjoy that time with Martha. 

“It was a hard way to retire out of this. There was never a gathering or celebration for him,” Castellano said. 

Aside from teaching, Madri also loved animals, nature and life. He would head outside every morning to feed the stray cats, Castellano said. 

The St. Francis Prep Ministry Office is currently coordinating with students to write letters expressing their feelings about Madri to send to his wife.

“John will always be remembered as a dedicated teacher at St. Francis Prep who provided a service to the school and being a part of the community,” Castellano said.