Steve Piorkowski, a Bayside High School softball and basketball coach known throughout the athletic league for his winning teams and his determination to fight a life-threatening disease, died at 54 after struggling with cancer for three years.
“He would push us all to be the best we can be,” said Gayle Bernstein, a former student athlete from Bayside High School who was coached by Piorkowski. Bernstein attended the funeral that was held on Monday.
“He taught us to put our passion into something that makes us successful,” she said. “He helped shape me to be the woman I am today.”
Piorkowski was diagnosed in 2012 with an aggressive form of cancer that damaged his spine and broke his neck. From a wheelchair, the Bayside coach succeeded in fighting back the cancer and eventually regaining his ability to walk. But the cancer resurged in November 2014, and his long battle ended on Feb. 18 when he died.
With 23 years of coaching experience, Piorkowski often led the Bayside Lady Commodores to the city championship. Many of his players have gone on to win scholarships to universities across the country.
After his diagnosis, and while he continued to coach, Piorkowski was invited to Citi Field where he was honored by the Mets with their Spirit Award. He was joined by his family and more than 250 Bayside High School alumni at the event. His fight with cancer was noted by national publications like ESPN and MSG.
His doctors diagnosed him with multiple myeloma and he was given radiation treatment.
“We are sad to announce that Mr. Stephen Piorkowski, our beloved physical education teacher and coach, passed away Wednesday evening after a long bout with cancer,” Bayside High School Principal Michael Athy wrote to the school community. “Steve taught and coached at Bayside for over 20 years, turning frightened freshmen into starring seniors. He will be missed by our entire community and our thoughts are with the Piorkowski family during this sorrowful time.”