The District 24 school community is mourning the loss of one of its own after William L. Buck School head custodian Greg Ike died last week following a two-year battle with kidney cancer. He was 47.
Ike’s death on Oct. 9 stunned teachers and administrators, who expected him to return to work after his latest medical setback, as he has done so many times before. He was remembered as a kind, friendly and funny man who cared about others and took great pride in his work.
“Unfortunately he did suffer greatly over the past couple of years,” said Superintendent Dr. Edward Fale, who noted that Ike was receiving treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “It was a total shock that he passed away at this time. The way he was rebounding from different setbacks, we expected he would be back.”
Ike began his career at the Buck School, the elementary school he attended as a child, in November 1983. He was hired as a cleaner, then promoted to custodian in 1990 while working at the Brooklyn Avenue School. He went back to the Buck School in 2004 and became the lead custodian there two years later.
He shared his hobby — art — with others in the district. Ike was an avid painter, and two of his creations hang in the Buck School, one in the teachers’ lounge and another above the desk of Johanna Owen, Fale’s secretary. Ike’s style was modern, and he took classes to improve his painting skills.
Fale said that Ike was very proud of his work, and the two had detailed conversations about the finer points of painting.
Owen, who got to know Ike when she began working for the district a decade ago, said she is going to miss the man she described as a friend. “My heart breaks that he’s gone,” she said. “He was a great guy.”
Ike talked openly with Owen about his medical issues. She said he just needed someone to talk to about the health problems he was facing.
Mark Onorato, the Buck School’s principal, said that Ike was an integral part of the school community, and that the custodian’s job went beyond simply keeping the building clean. He helped prepare the school for events such as Board of Education meetings, PTA activities and the end-of-the-year barbecue and carnival.