Joseph Brostek, a Queens resident who both lived through history and contributed to it, passed away March 25 at the age of 87.
Brostek was born in Manhattan on May 12, 1932, but spent much of his childhood in Queens Village. He earned a bachelor of arts in economics at Queens College, where his leadership skills began to emerge — he was student body president, Phi Omega Alpha fraternity president and commander of the campus United States Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps.
He met his wife, Carol Heiser, at the school’s Catholic Newman Club. The two married after his 1955 graduation and enjoyed a 56-year-long union until her death in 2012.
After serving in the USAF Strategic Air Command in Kansas for two years, Brostek settled with his wife in Flushing, where they remained for the duration of their lives.
Brostek worked in sales, event coordination and public relations for companies such as RCA and General Electric, as well as the Continental Can Co., which donated over 100 pieces of memorabilia to the creation of a museum to preserve the legacy of the company that created meal packages for the Apollo 11 mission.
Brostek returned to Queens College in 1988 to serve as the executive director of events and alumni affairs, a role that he held for 22 years before retiring in 2010. During a portion of that time, he also worked as the advisor to the Silhouette yearbook.
Despite being retired, Brostek refused to slow down and instead turned his attention to community involvement. He became a member of the Board of Trustees for the Queens Historical Society in 2014, served as an executive committee member and the communications chair of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association, joined the Queens College Retirees Association as an executive committeeman and membership chairman, as well as a community council member of the NYPD’s 109th Precinct. He was also deeply involved in the St. Andrew Avellino parish, serving as a pastoral council member, parish communications chair, editor of the monthly Andrean bulletin, vice president of the Friendship Club and as parish historian, as which he wrote the 100-year history of the church.
“My father had a wealth of knowledge and was a fabulous communicator so he loved to tell stories,” said his daughter Jeanne Altenau, reminiscing on his accomplishments. “For his own family, he continually wrote itemized lists of the topics he wished to discuss with each of us, and he wanted us to do the same. One of his favorite sayings when we were coming to visit was, ‘Do you have your list?’ We will miss those lists forever.”
Brostek received numerous recognitions during his life including “Who’s Who in Corporate TV,” Queens College Alumni Association Alumni Family of the Year in 1965 and a 2004 Newsday “Everyday Hero.” Former Borough President Helen Marshall declared a “Joseph Brostek Day in the Borough of Queens” day on two separate occasions — on the 50th anniversary of his college graduation in 2005, and on his retirement from the school five years later.
Other than creating history and contributing to the Queens community, Brostek saw milestones occur before his eyes — he attended both the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs, and attended the Mets’ 1969 World Series win.
Brostek’s memory lives on through his children Altenau, Carol Benedetto and husband Paul, Gerard Brostek and wife Catherine and Annemarie Brostek Martines and husband Peter, as well as his grandchildren Joseph, Alyssa, Daniel, Meghan, Paul, Emily and Zachary.
Because of restrictions on large gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic, the family celebrated Brostek’s life with a private interment at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Flushing.
In lieu of flowers, the Brostek family requests donations to any of these three nonprofit entities: the Queens College Carol and Joe Brostek Scholarship, St. Andrew Avellino Roman Catholic Church or to Xavier High School.