IN MEMORIAM: September 19, 1956-April 15, 2012
Robert D. Madonna was a science teacher for Collier County Public Schools for 20 years, on the high school level, in Immokalee, Everglades City and in Naples at Lely High School.
Mr. Madonna leaves behind his beloved wife, Joan Leindecker Madonna, his daughter and son, Joanna and Robert and extended family. He was a passionate fan of the Chicago Blackhawks and, of course, ‘Da Bears.’ Bob coached baseball and soccer for the Marco Island YMCA, Lely High School and Gulf Coast Little League. He was a popular teacher and mentor for all the years of his teaching career which was demonstrated by the hundreds of students and former students who attended his Memorial Mass at San Marco Catholic Church in April.
He was a great prankster, keeping colleagues on the alert for a football toss from Bob or a funny joke which had them doubled over with laughter. He will be remembered always for his enduring sense of humor and wit. There was another side to Mr. Madonna. He was always ready with a meal, counsel, encouragement and was a great listener.
He had a deep love of family and his Christian faith. He had many friends on Marco Island where he formerly resided and in Naples where his family currently resides. He was a good neighbor and could be counted on to help out with any community need.
A selection of tributes to Mr. Madonna appear on this page and are a tribute to the affection and respect he inspired from his “kids” and associates.
A Commentary on Robert Madonna
Candice Sanderson, Psychologist, Lely High School. Member of the Crisis Team for Collier County Public High Schools.
In a letter to Joan Madonna, widow of Robert Madonna, Candice Sanderson made the following comments about Robert.
In all the years I have served in my capacity as a crisis team member, I have never seen a person who had such an impact on students’ lives as Bob. Bob’s passing affectedthe entire student body, not just freshmen. I had seniors come to me, crying. Several people told me that Bob was personally responsible for turning their lives around. More than one person stated that he was like a father to them.
Several freshmen students stated that he had the words “Love” and “Forgive” on the white board for people to see when they entered the room. He talked so often of his children and how proud he was of both of them. He had recently talked of Robbie and how proud he was of him as he was preparing to enter college next year. He often used Robbie as an example for his students. Many of his students said they felt like they knew Robbie. The love he had for both his children was undeniable.
I had students tell me that they were ready to quit school, but Mr. Madonna was personally responsible for changing their minds.
The students shared a lighter side of Mr. Madonna as well. They loved his sense of humor. One student told me that Mr. Madonna made fun of his hairstyle. This young man wears a modified Mohawk. On the first day of class when Mr. Madonna met him, he asked where he was from. The student said he was from Italy. Mr. Madonna argued that he was NOT from Italy. He stated that they don’t have Mohawks in Italy, so he must not be Italian!!
His sense of humor was loved by all. Students from other science classes came to me. They said Mr. Madonna would, out of nowhere, run into the room during the middle of class and throw a ball at their teacher to catch, and then run back to class.
Many students told me that Mr. Madonna’s class was the highlight of their day. They always loved seeing him and learning from him.
He was so much more than a teacher to his students. I talked with the students about keeping Mr. Madonna’s legacy going byliving the principles he taught them by his actions. We talked about sharing themselves with their family, friends and, when they have children of their own, share their lives with their own children as Mr. Madonna shared his life with them. By living his legacy, Mr. Madonna’s memory will live on in their lives and they, too, can impact others in a way that he impacted them.
Sophi Popoff, former student
Mr. Madonna wasn’t just a high school science teacher. He was a friend and supporter to everyone. He put anyone’s priorities and goals before his own. Not many people can say they know someone that generous & self- sacrificing. Mr. Madonna was the typical family man.
Always bragging about his daughter’s future career as a doctor, and his son’s soccer achievements & upcoming college decisions. He would tell stories of the great times his wife and he had that always had me leaving class with a smile.
He was an incredibly likable person with his unique personality and original sense of humor. He could easily turn anyone’s bad day into a great one! He made a point to personally get to know each and every student. He even broke the shells of the shy, quiet kids in class. Even before his passing I was positive he would be a teacher I would remember forever. He taught me to treat everyone with kindness if that’s what I want in return. I can truthfully say Mr. Madonna has made an impact in my life.
“Golden Heart” Teacher Award Goes to Robert D. Madonna
Favorite teachers are remembered for a lifetime, and with another school year coming to a close there is one Collier County teacher who will never be forgotten. His life with us ended at the early age of 55 on April 15th, 2012 and he left behind a legacy not only to his students but to every life he touched. He wasn’t the picture perfect teacher with pressed suits or a completely appropriate senseof humor. He would frequently walk into class with a plate of five hotdogs and eat every single one of them before he could get through one power point slide, share his large can of dollar store Cheetos with any student brave enough to ask, or personally assemble the planet’s solar system with a plate full of meatballs soon to be eaten with a pair of scissors from his desk drawer. His personality brought about a teaching style that made kids eager to attend his class, and most importantly wanting to learn.
Mr. Robert Madonna taught science at Lely High School for the past fifteen years. He was not only a father to his own children, Joanna and Robbie, but to anyone who stepped foot in his classroom, on his doorstep, or in his presence. He spent his life dedicated to others by coaching, teaching, mentoring, and just being a friend to anyone who was in need of one. So often he heard a knock on his front door from past students visiting, thanking him for encouraging them to stay on the right path. Without hesitation he whipped up a dish of pasta or burgers to feed any visitor, regardless if they were even hungry or not. He loved his students and his family to no end. Mr. Madonna did not judge or stereotype by intelligence, race, ethnicity, because he loved everyone and cared about others above himself. Proof of this was evident at his funeral. On the outside he was a big Italian man, rough around the edges from the streets of Chicago, but on the inside, a giant teddy bear with a brilliant brain and a genuine heart larger than his being. He truly had a heart of gold, and it goes deeper than any newspaper article or Facebook posting can even begin to describe in words. What is left are great memories of our father and husband which will live on forever through us.
Notes from some ofMr. Madonna’s students at Lely High School:
• “You got me through my freshman year and the only adult I could go to.”
• “The first thing you said to me was, ‘What’s up coconut head?’”
• “Thanks for cheering me up when I was down.”
• “He was always smiling with such an inviting personality.”
• “7th period will never be the same without your crazy jokes.”
• “I remember when you had potato chips in your drawer from the year before.”
• “He was a great pal the years I spent at Lely. I have nothing but good things to say about him.”
• “You always cracked on people and your own self, which was really funny.”
• “He had characteristics that nobody at Lely did.”
• “I will remember what you told us, always love and forgive.”
• “He was a great man, but will live on through his children and all the lives he touched.”
• “Have a peaceful and eternal life…RIP
• CCPS crisis counselor: “I had students tell me that they were ready to quit school, but Mr. Madonna was personally responsible for changing their minds.”
A recent letter said,” I will always remember him for his BIG HEART and awesome sense of humor”. His last lesson in Science to his 6th period Freshman students at Lely High was on “Love and Forgiveness”. Mr. Madonna, our Dad, Husband, Uncle, Brother, son, teacher and friend will be missed here on this earth dearly, but he lives on eternally in heaven with God and in our hearts lies a piece of his gold. Written by Joanna Madonna (daughter) & Joan Madonna (wife) 5.20.12
• Joan, we cannot tell you how sorry and shocked we were to hear about Bob. He was a very caring person. He was our son Jordan’s Science teacher at Lely and he was Jordan’s favorite teacher. Just like you were our daughter Ashley’s kindergarten teacher! He loved you guys very much and was so proud of JoJo and Robbie. Andy was very shocked to hear the news.If there is anything we can do, please let us know. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
• Sorry to hear about Mr. Madonna, he was absolutely my favorite H.S. Science teacher at Everglades City.
Reflections about Bob Madonna
Dr. Roger Kindinger, Colleague
“Bob Madonna obviously touched the lives of many past and current students and fellow educational leaders. The attendance at Mass of both past and present students at his Memorial Service was evidence of his teaching and mentoring effectiveness.
Bob had a teaching style that appealed to young minds seeking to expand their knowledge. His ability to respect the educational process while maintaining and using a remarkable sense of humor in the learning process made him the effective educator he was.
As a peer, Bob was always willing to be helpful with sharing ideas that worked for him. He was also very open to growing from the ideas of others that would add to his effectiveness.
Mr. Madonna touched the hearts of the Lely student body in a life changing way. Mr. Madonna was always “real” with the kids. They did not just respect him because he was a teacher and insisted on it. They respected him because he was a real person and treated them in a respectful fashion. He got a real thrill out of watching a kid finally “get it” after going through moments of confusion or frustration. In the eyes of his students he was a good man and a true teacher who made a difference.”
Principal, Gulf Coast High School
Ken Fairbanks, formerly Principal, Lely High School, in speaking with Robert’s widow, Joan Madonna, said: “Joan, he was a big bear on the outside but he was a Teddy Bear on the inside.”
“Bob was my co-worker at Lely for five years. I was fresh out of college and he went out of his way to tell a joke or anything else to make me feel welcome. Students certainly always enjoyed his outgoing personality. My condolencesto the Madonna family.”
Memories of a student
Dear Mrs. Madonna: It’s crazy to think that last Friday morning (April 13, 2012) on my regular route to Anatomy, Mr. Madonna was standing in the corner of his hallway. He gave me a little shoulder punch and asked how I was doing. It has been a rough time watching as our school transitioned. He was no longer in the area where he greeted his kids in between every class. I watched as they changed the sign outside his door from “Mr. Madonna-Science” to just plain old “Science”.
It really sucks to lose someone you know, even more so when that person is such a huge part of your life. It truly hurts me deep down to know what you and your family are going through. It hurts me to know that a great family has to deal with a husband and father’s loss.
I know it has been a rough time and I assure you it will gradually get better, but not without difficulty. I am grateful to still have my dad but I lost a stepdad who played a huge role as my second father. It took me more than four years to realize all I learned from my stepdad’s life and even his death and how I got through the bad times. When I applied to the University of Central Florida, his life was part of what I wrote about.
My goal in this letter is to tell you I understand your pain and loss. I, too, am saddened by the loss of a good man I have known most of my life. I am only 18 and soon will embark on a new journey that I trust will help me grow into a man as great as Mr. Madonna. I don’t have much to offer right now except my concern and a few simple words. If I can be of assistance to help in any way I can I will be proud to help you and your family.
With love, Andrew Cabrera.