March 25, 1975 - May 13, 2018
Eric D. Przykuta texted his sister-in-law on Saturday to see what he could bring to the family dinner on Mother's Day. He planned on fishing Saturday night with some friends and Przykuta wanted to make sure his family had everything it needed for dinner.
"He had it all ready – Mother's Day cards, flowers," recalled Jennifer Przykuta. "That's just the way he was. You could always count on Eric to get things done."
Mr. Przykuta, a science teacher at Lancaster Middle School, died late Saturday in a boating accident while fishing with friends near the Small Boat Harbor in Buffalo. He was 43.
On Sunday morning, the Przykuta family gathered at the Small Boat Harbor to await word on the search for him.
"We were at the water waiting, hoping he would swim up," said Jennifer Przykuta.
"He was a strong man who came from a family of boaters," said his father Dennis Przykuta. "He was 6-foot-2 and weighed 235 pounds. He loved the water. We went fishing together so many times."
Mr. Przykuta made many friends working as a schoolteacher, lacrosse coach and president of the Lancaster Central Teachers Association. He was an avid outdoorsman and vocal supporter of the town and its school district.
He spent his summers as a child with his family at their cottage near Georgian Bay. The days were filled fishing for salmon and trout. Nights brought a meal built around fresh salmon steaks cut 1-inch thick, grilled and immediately devoured, said Dennis Przykuta.
Mr. Przykuta continued the summer vacations at the cottage with his wife Lori, son Landyn, daughter Emersyn and their chocolate Labrador retriever Forrest.
He attended Court Street Elementary School in Lancaster, Lancaster Middle School and Nichols School, where he played goalie for the Nichols Vikings ice hockey team. He graduated in 1993, and was drafted by the former Beauport Harfangs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He opted to attend SUNY Fredonia, where he played for the Blue Devils ice hockey team that competed in the NCAA Final Four, said Aaron Przykuta, his brother.
As a science teacher for 20 years, Mr. Przykuta injected fun into his lesson plan with classroom science experiments where his students played active roles. A video tweet posted by Lancaster Central School District in 2014 showed Mr. Przykuta in action surrounded by students and fellow teachers. The experiment allowed the students to "walk on water" using a mixture of corn flour, blue food dye and water.
He received the Leadership Award from New York State United Teachers.
Sean Bruso, 27, was in Mr. Przykuta's eighth-grade science class in 2002-03.
"He's a teacher you remember because he cared about you," said Bruso. "Everybody wanted to be around him. He was easy to talk to, and at that age, you needed to know someone was in your corner."
Mr. Przykuta coached modified lacrosse at the middle school. Twins Andrew and Alexander Reimer, who now are on the Lancaster High School boys' varsity lacrosse team, were among those coached by him.
Andrew recalled how Mr. Przykuta would talk to the team from the front of the bus on rides back to middle school after a team loss. He was always optimistic, Andrew said. "He told us how good we played and that if we practiced hard we could beat the team we just lost to. He was motivating."
The high school lacrosse players are honoring Mr. Przykuta by putting stickers of his initials, "EP," on their helmets and dedicating the rest of the season to his memory, said Andrew.
Mr. Przykuta's classroom has been decorated with flowers and other memorials placed by students, parents and colleagues.
The Lancaster Central Teachers Association has established a benefit fund for the Przykuta family. Information can be found on the association's Facebook page.
Beside his wife and children, Mr. Przykuta is survived by his parents, Dennis and Diana; a brother Aaron; and two nieces.
Services will be held at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, May 19 in the Lancaster High School Auditorium, One Forton Drive, Lancaster.