John Joseph Stefans

John Joseph Stefans, an accomplished writer and editor who lived in Southold, passed away Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023. He was 80.

John was born Aug. 10, 1943, in Teaneck, N.J., to Dorothy Anne (née Ashenbach) and Joseph J. Stefans. The middle of three sons, which included Robert and Joseph, John was raised in Rutherford, N.J., and attended St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark. After graduating, he pursued studies at Fordham University in the Bronx. He left to pursue journalism and, inspired by his lifelong hero Bob Dylan, to write and perform his own folk songs in small venues in New Jersey. 

John eventually joined the army, serving the country from 1965 to 1968. Stationed in South Korea, he attained the rank of Specialist Five and was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for meritorious performance as Information Specialist and editor of the I Corps (Group) newspaper, The Bullseye. Among his notable articles was “Confessions of a Red Agent” (May 1968) which comprised a short introduction and interview with Kim Sin Jo, the only surviving member of a group of North Koreans sent to assassinate South Korea’s then-president Park Chung Hee. His articles were also published in Pacific Stars and Stripes and Army Times

He married his first wife, Mi Yong Kim, in Seoul and then, after returning to the United States, again in Rutherford. His first son, Brian, was born in 1969, his first daughter, Lindsay, in 1970 and second daughter, Cynthia, in 1972. The family moved frequently before settling in John’s hometown, Rutherford, in 1974. This first marriage ended in divorce. 

With already a large family to raise, John found employment at Chase Manhattan Bank where his duties included writing speeches for David Rockefeller when Rockefeller led the bank. He quickly rose through the ranks of corporate communications, eventually being “head-hunted” by other major banks. He moved from Chase to Chemical Bank and, from there, to Manufacturers Hanover, eventually weathering two mergers and ending up back at Chase where he had the title of senior vice president and director of corporate communications.

John met his future wife, Karin Carlson, in the late 1970s when Karin was writing the New York Self Help Handbook, published by The Citizens Committee for New York City, in 1977. The couple primarily lived in Brooklyn before settling in South Orange, N.J., where they were married in 1983. The couple had two children, Alexandra in 1983 and Erik in 1984. During this time, John remained active in politics, notably being a strong supporter of Jesse Jackson’s 1984 bid for president. 

After John’s retirement, he, Karin and the two children moved to Riverhead in 2000 and then eventually settled in Southold in 2017. After relocating to Long Island, he was working in journalism again, first as editor of The Traveler Watchman in Southold and then as a reporter for the Riverhead News-Review. He left the newspaper for a brief stint as an assistant to Riverhead Town Supervisor Phil Cardinale. He later returned to Riverhead News-Review as its editor in 2006. John also served on the boards of directors of Hallockville Museum Farm and Jamesport Meeting House. 

In a “birthday book” assembled when John turned 80, family and friends wrote to him with memories of the impact he’d made on their lives. Among the many recurring themes were John’s great conversational skills, his humor (he could tell and take a joke), his highly-informed passion for politics, his care for his children’s educations, his talents as a host (and skill with fashioning martinis) and, not the least, his continued love for singing and performing — his reverent, velvet-suited versions of Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds” became family lore. 

After a stroke on Nov. 23, John died peacefully three days later while in hospice care surrounded by his wife and members of his family. He is survived by Karin; his two brothers Robert and Joseph; his five children; and four grandchildren: Natalia, Tatiana, Saya and Kira.

Graveside services were held with military honors at St. Agnes R.C. Cemetery in Greenport.

This is a paid notice.