A sectioned off memorial at Columbus Park offers a placard and flowers in memory of John A. Sacci, a well-respected Hoboken High School history teacher who was shot to death 15 years ago this month as he was walking from his car to the high school.
Sacci was 48 and a father to four girls ranging in age from 6-16 when he died on Feb. 12, 1998. He was born in Hoboken and was a teacher for over 20 years. His parents owned Johnny’s Prime Meats on Second Street and Willow Avenue.
The popular teacher, who also advised the debate team and was involved in many activities, was walking from his car that afternoon back into the school when he was shot next to Columbus Park by Gerasimos “Jerry” Metaxas of Fairview, a jealous man who was apparently convinced of an affair between Sacci and his wife. Metaxas then turned the gun on himself three blocks away and shot himself in the head.
A small fenced-in part of Columbus Park at Ninth and Clinton streets serves as a memorial to Sacci. Last week, passersby shook their heads when asked if they knew who the park commemorates.
Passers by didn’t know the reason for the memorial to a dedicated teacher.
“It’s easier for his mom to come here than the graveyard. She is a very nice lady,” said the park worker.
Flashback 15 years
It was a three year-old Chirstmas card that sparked Metaxas’ interest in Sacci, according to a 1998 New York Times article about the incident.
The card was from to Sacci to Metaxas’ wife Linda. Prosecutors said at the time of the murder that the card did not offer anything more than usual holiday greetings. However, Metaxas became convinced that his wife and Sacci were having an affair, and believed it for close to a year before the incident, according to the Times.
The article said that Sacci got the help of an attorney who sent letters to Metaxas asking him to stop harassing him. Reports said that Linda Metaxas had been a teacher with Sacci years earlier at Connors Primary School, but never worked at Hoboken High School.
Prosecutors said that Metaxas had no criminal record, that no complaints were ever signed against him, and that he was not being treated for mental illness, according to the Times. The story said that Sacci was returning to the school to stay after and supervise weight training for the girl’s softball team that afternoon. Sacci was described by many as a caring person, a good coach, and a good teacher.
When Sacci was walking, Metaxas took him by surprise.
After the shooting, students crowded around the area crying, while news reporters descended on the park.
The administration of then-Mayor Anthony Russo said they were going to name Hoboken’s newest waterfront park after Sacci. However, Frank Sinatra died that May, and the new park was named Sinatra Park, while Sacci got his own plot of land across from the high school.
Today, the Sacci memorial area includes a raised plaque with flowers and flags around it. It’s in the center of Ninth Street facing the high school.
Amanda Palasciano may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.