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Joanne Goerler, 57, leaves a legacy of contagious positivity

Ronald Goerler Jr. always knew his wife of 30 years, Joanne, was a “wonderful woman,” but it was at her wake last Tuesday that he truly realized just how many lives she had touched.

“She touched hundreds and hundreds of people,” Mr. Goerler said. 

Ms. Goerler, 57, died June 24, after battling myelodysplastic syndrome for four years. She is survived by their four children, Alexander, Anna, Sarah and Olivia.

The wake was held at DeFriest-Grattan Funeral home in Mattituck. The Liturgy of Christian Burial was held the next day at Mattituck’s Our Lady of Good Counsel R.C. Church.

Myelodysplastic syndrome is a blood cancer in which blood cells in the bone marrow do not mature, according to the Mayo Clinic.

In September 2019, Ms. Goerler underwent a bone marrow transplant after four to five months of chemotherapy to prepare her blood. Last year, the News-Review reported on the Cutchogue resident’s journey through that procedure and documented her joy at reaching the one-year post-transplant mark. 

Despite being in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and experiencing severe side effects from the procedure, including rash, diabetes and a pulmonary embolism, her joy was visible a year later, when she met her donor, Beatrice Rodriguez, in person for the first time.

Her smile and contagious positivity that was never lacking is the legacy she left behind, her husband said.

“Every situation in life, she approached it always head on with a smile,” he said. “She just really wanted to do the best [she] possibly could, for anybody that she came across in life. She just was one of those individuals that really just had an amazing attitude; [she] could talk to anybody, could relate to anybody.”

Ms. Goerler was an educator at East Hampton’s John Marshall Elementary School for 30 years as well as office manager at her family’s business, Jamesport Vineyards.

Mr. Goerler said multiple generations of families that Ms. Goerler taught during her time at John Marshall Elementary attended the wake. He said he was overwhelmed to learn that about 800 people attended.

“It was an honor to meet all these people that showed up,” he said.

In addition to her husband and children, five siblings and several cousins, nieces and nephews, Ms. Goerler is survived by her parents, Joseph and Sabina Zuhoski of Cutchogue.

“We’re thankful to the community for honoring her; she’s left us such a big void in our life,” Ms. Zuhoski said. “We were a very close family.”

Mr. Goerler said that his journey with his wife is not over because she lives on through their children.

“My life there might have stopped with Joanne, [but] it continues to go forward through the children,” he said. “My journey begins now through them … My children have a piece of Joanne in them and that’s the part that’s going to be fun for me as they go forward. It’s not the end, it’s not over.”