John Joseph Kotzman, 77, of Frontenac, Kansas, passed away at 9 a.m. on Sunday, July 3, 2022 at his home surrounded by his family. He was born May 9, 1945 to Jack Kotzman and Gloria (Pipkin) Kotzman in Lakeland, Florida. He was united in marriage to Beth Banke on Dec. 9, 1966.
John attended elementary school at Sacred Heart in Frontenac, Kansas, and attended Frontenac High School, class of 1963. John was an avid sportsman throughout his schoolyears, and in high school earned the nickname “The Galloping Ghost”—a testament to his incredible speed. To this day, he holds the record for the 100 yard dash at FHS (10.3 seconds). He would go on to play football for one year as a member of the 1964 Razorback National Championship Team at the University of Arkansas.
Following a year at Arkansas, he was enlisted in the Navy and served one tour in Vietnam. It was during this time that his son, Johnny, was born. He was on leave from the military for Johnny’s first birthday, and drove straight from California to his home in Frontenac to meet him. His wife, Beth, had been letting Johnny’s hair grow out to show off his long, curly locks. On seeing his son for the first time, John exclaimed, “You need to get that boy’s hair cut!”
After serving in the Navy, followed by the Army Reserves for 4 years, he enrolled at Pittsburg State University, where he received his bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and later his administrative degree.
He began his long and storied coaching and teaching career at Lamar High School from 1971 to 1975, which continued at Nevada High School from 1975 to 1976, and eventually Girard High School from 1976 to 1998, where he was a teacher, a coach, an administrator, and athletic director between the years of 1976 and 1996. As the head coach at Girard, he led the football team to 101 victories. He then served at his Alma Mater, Frontenac High School, as vice principal. Just days after his “formal retirement,” John was contacted by Pittsburg High School, who asked if he would join the football coaching staff. John happily accepted, commenting to his family after receiving the phone call, “I feel like a kid in a candy store!”
John had a deep love of history and kept his students entertained by making history come alive during his lectures. He assured his students that they enjoyed the right to wear short sleeved shirts thanks to the passing of the second amendment. During a Christmas trip to Holland in 2006, while visiting son Johnny and his family, he was found in a local pub, surrounded by Dutchman. John had one foot perched on a chair and a draft beer in hand as he was conducting a history lesson to the Dutch, explaining how Sir William of Orange simultaneously ruled both England and Holland. The Dutch patrons were mesmerized- here was an American explaining their history to them- and picked up the tab.
John will be remembered by his family and friends as a high-spirited conversationalist, and
boisterous personality, a generous man (many students recall his buying new shoes, suits, etc. when they could not afford them) and caring individual who always put others first and he loved his family above all else. Countless stories have been told about him over the years—how he could liven up a crowd at Barto’s with his accordion, how he pushed his students and athletes to be the best they could be, and how he cherished every moment spent with his children and grandchildren at family gatherings, on holidays and the multiple family vacations to Florida. Up until his final days, John relished in sharing stories about his time as a rambunctious child, a dutiful sailor, and a passionate coach and teacher. These stories will be passed on by his family and friends for many generations to come.
John is survived by his wife, Beth Kotzman; his son, John (Chrissy) Kotzman; a daughter, Keri (Richard) Mick; his son-in-law, Gary Janzen; his brother, Greg (Karen) Kotzman; his sisters, Betty (Steve) Wutke, Kristie (Kevin) Knaup, and Theresa (Larry) Vanderhoofven; his nine grandchildren, Nick (Ivy), Braden, Keri, and Zack Janzen, Cody, Kylie (David) Darland, Garrett, and Owen Mick, and Jake Kotzman; his great-grandchildren, Violet, Ida, and Clare Darland and Kira Janzen (and new baby boy Janzen expected in August); and his Godchildren. Debbie Varela, Hayley Varela, Kayla (Spigrelli) Keto, Erica (Crespino) Harris, Merle Clark, Lance Reeves, Jacki Gariglietti, Russell Knaup, and Kyle Kotzman. Although not related by blood, John is also survived by his honorary grandkids: Carsen, Chloe, Chalei, and Cashlea Nickelson.
John is preceded in death by his father, Jack Kotzman; his mother, Gloria (Pipkin) Kotzman; his brothers, Steve and Robert Kotzman; and his daughter, Kelli Janzen.
A parish rosary will be prayed at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 6 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where John was a member. The family will receive friends following the rosary in the Sacred Heart Parish Hall until 8 p.m. A Memorial Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 7 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church with Fr. John Fogliasso as celebrant. Burial of the cremains will follow at a later date at the Military Cemetery in Fort Scott.
Memorial donations may be made to Sacred Heart Altar Society, Angels Among us, Angels Home Health Care or Harry Hynes Hospice. These may be left at or mailed to the Brenner Mortuary, 114 E. 4th St., Pittsburg, KS 66762. Online condolences may be left on the Brenner Mortuary website. Arrangements are under the direction of the Brenner Mortuary, Pittsburg.