Joseph Poracsky

Joseph Poracsky found peace on April 8th, when he passed away comfortably at Bridge Haven in Lawrence due to complications from Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinson’s. Joseph was born on June 21, 1945 in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Andrew and Mary (Anzalone) Poracsky.

He attended Waterford High School in Waterford, Connecticut. He then attended Clark University where he played on the varsity basketball team while dreaming of starting for the Boston Celtics. He served his country in the Navy and Naval Reserves while earning a Master’s degree in Geography at the University of Maryland. He earned his Ph.D. from KU in 1983 in Geography and was a professor of Geography for 31 years at Portland State University, teaching cartography, remote sensing, and urban forestry. He also served on and chaired the Portland Urban Forestry Commission.

The master of dad jokes, Joe was quick to laugh, had a smile that could light up the northern hemisphere and had more patience than Oregon has fir trees.

He enjoyed reading about and traveling to Italy. If the teaching hadn’t worked out, he could have opened up a ristorante in Sicily as he was a magician in the kitchen.

In addition to food, he enjoyed running races and through the forested trails of Portland. The Oregon Coast was a place of rest and relaxation for him, regardless of the weather. Watching KU basketball games on TV with family and friends was a weekly social event where he somehow managed to stay completely calm even during those last second nail biters. His preference for Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac and Van Morrison was something his children did not truly appreciate until they were old enough to realize that lyrics actually can mean something. He also loved going to the movies and would see just about anything once. He channeled his inner Phog Allen and coached the Lawrence Boys Club basketball team for a few years in the early 80s.

Joe truly loved his family and was always there for them, whether it was meeting them at the ER after a car wreck, visiting colleges when his children were in high school, or helping his son move various times up and down the West Coast. He quietly offered his pragmatic advice, which his children should have followed more often. Babysitting his grandchildren was something he enthusiastically did and loved showing them off to his students, fellow professors and any stranger within earshot.

His wife, MJ Riehl, lives in Portland, Oregon. He has two stepsons, Troy and Darren. His sister, Fran (Michael) Hastedt, and brother, Rocco, live in Connecticut. His first wife, Laura Stull, lives in Lawrence. His daughter Kristina, son Rome, daughter-in-law Nikki, and four grandchildren (Finley, Sawyer, Ayden and Sydney), all of Lawrence, consider themselves the luckiest kids in the world to have been able to call him dad/pops/poppi. They only wish they had more time with him.

Joseph was preceded in death by his parents and sister-in-law, Barbara Musorofiti.

There will be a celebration of Joe’s life later this summer in Portland, Oregon.

Memorial contributions may be made in Joseph’s name to Douglas County Visiting Nurses Association and the National Audubon Society and may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.

11 Condolences

  1. Sean Drake on April 20, 2021 at 1:06 pm

    Kristina & Rome…Beautifully written honor to your dad. My condolences to and the extended Poracsky families.

  2. Jon Goodman on April 20, 2021 at 10:31 pm

    Joe Poracsky was a great example of someone who was a gentleman and a scholar. He was a great friend, solid academic, steadfast parent and grandparent, and a fine human, as well. He is missed, I know, by his Clark classmates and friends and he is gone way too soon.

  3. Donna Lang on April 21, 2021 at 11:59 am

    What a wonderful obituary. He sounds like such an amazing person. How blessed were you to have him in your life! Thinking of you…

  4. Paula Donohue on April 21, 2021 at 8:27 pm

    So sorry for your loss, Kristina and Rome.

  5. Clenece Hills on April 21, 2021 at 11:26 pm

    I remember Joe helping Jim and me host an after-party in 1986 when our daughter, Eve Hills Cummins, and Rome attended the ninth grade formal together at South Junior High. I thought then how much fun it would be to know Joe better. He had a great sense of humor, a tolerance for teenagers, and a love of learning that Jim and I admired and respected. Kristina and Rome and Laura, we are glad to have known Joe however briefly. You are on our minds and in our hearts as you learn to live without him.

  6. Arlene and Terry Slocum on April 25, 2021 at 3:12 pm

    Joe was the first friend we made when we moved to Lawrence from Albany NY in 1976. I was a young bride we just got married in May 1976. My husband Terry was starting the PhD program in geography at KU. We went to Joe and Laura’s and had fun watching Rome and Kristina race around on their big wheels. Then Joe started making spaghetti and showed me in detail how to make perfect al dente pasta! It was delicious. He had a stereo that let you stack the records so you could play several in a row. He put on one record and told me it was “the Boss” – Bruce Springsteen. I had heard a couple of his songs on the radio, but I could tell Joe was a true fan and deep into his sound. Joe’s passion for good Italian food, and the Boss’s music came through, but it was clear that the most important thing in life to him was family, especially his kids. Terry and I never forgot his kindness and welcome when we came to town knowing no one. Through the years in Lawrence we got together at parties and to watch KU sports. Our last visit was in Lawrence around 5 years ago. Joe made his life in Portland and we retired to Alaska, but when we got together in Lawrence it was like we were grad students at KU again. We have many fond memories of Joe and send our deepest sympathy to his family.

  7. Heejun Chang on April 25, 2021 at 5:29 pm

    Joe was one of the finest and dedicated people in the Geography Department at Portland State (PSU) for many years. He was so kind and helpful when I first arrived at PSU, picking me up at the airport and offering many tips to adjust to the new environment where I hardly knew anyone. I learned a lot from him, both personally and professionally. His office doors were always open, welcoming anyone around the Department, whether they were students or short-time visitors. Joe was found virtually most Saturday mornings enjoying pastries from the farmer’s market on campus. Joe Initiated happy Thursday evening social hour where Geography faculty and students gathered informally at a local bar to talk about many fun things beyond academia. Joe will be long remembered for his endless love, dedication, and wit.

  8. Nancy Gronowski on April 25, 2021 at 5:31 pm

    I had the pleasure of working with Joe on Portland’s Urban Forestry Management Plan many years ago when I worked for Portland Parks and Recreation. He was great to work with, always enthusiastic and full of good ideas. I am sorry to hear of his passing. He will be missed.

  9. Ellen Jones on April 27, 2021 at 9:54 am

    My heart is full of good memories of this kind and gentle friend. Joe and I met as professional colleagues while I did an interim stint on the Geography faculty at PSU in 1983. We became friends immediately — easy with him — and that friendship lasted. He taught me many things about being a professional geographer. Early on, I became Rome and Kristina’s go-to caregiver; those two have also become lifetime friends. With Joe, I watched lots of strange movies, listened to endless stories about KU and U of O basketball, learned several of his mom’s cherished recipes, laughed, drank beer . . . so many good things. Even as his health declined, he remained positive and kind and I loved chatting with him. I will miss Joe!????

  10. Michael Booton on April 29, 2021 at 12:15 am

    Oh what do say about Joe!
    What an honor and privilege to have Joe as a friend/teacher/team mate.
    The willingness to make a student expand and succeed. Playing Ball, long hours in the Cartographic Lab trying to “get it right”.
    Im sure Joe would “get that smile” if he knew I was producing hydrographic charts and teaching others of cartographic principles.
    Joe was so willing to impart knowledge….what a TRUE TEACHER.

  11. EILEEN A OLYNCIW on May 13, 2021 at 6:44 pm

    Eileen Olynciw
    Joe has been friends since junior high school. Practically all of our classes were in the same–seventh grade through high school. He became a dear friend all through our lives. Whenever he came “home” to Waterford, Connecticut to visit his family, he would stop by to visit. Often he would visit retired faculty members from our high school…he was truly a kind and loyal friend. I feel very lucky to have known Joe and enjoyed his friendship over all these years. I will miss him!

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