Born in Flushing on December 5, 1950, Sukanek’s parents, the late Charles Sukanek and the late Ruth Helena Barry, were both from Long Island City.
Sukanek enterd the formation program of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart in September 1968 at Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School. He became a novice the following year, and professed his first vows at McClancy in August 1970.
He served as an English and religion teacher, as well as a guidance counselor, youth minister and campus minister at several schools. He spent 34 years at McClancy High School in East Elmhurst.
Sukanek served in many roles, including Director of Postulants, Vocation Director, Master of Novices, local Religious Superior, Provincial Councilor in the New York Province, and most recently, the Provincial Councilor in the Province of the United States.
He is survived by his brother Peter, nephews Stephen and Kevin, his niece Jennifer and several great nieces, nephews and cousins.
Nicholas Melito, president of McClancy High School, recalled first meeting Sukanek in 1972, when he was a student and Brother Donald was his homeroom teacher.
“From day one, he was comforting, understanding and compassionate,” he said. “Forty-eight years later, we were still friends.”
Melito described Sukanek as always positive and a good listener. He said he helped hundreds of kids through his decades teaching at McClancy.
When Melito was named president of the school, he said Sukanek called him to say how proud he was, and that it was well deserved.
“That meant a lot to me,” Melito said.
He credited Sukanek for building the school’s campus ministry, but noted that he would never take credit for anything. Melito described his former homeroom teacher as a “we” guy rather than a “me” guy
“We lost Brother Donald physically, but Brother Donald will never be forgotten by McClancy and our alumni,” Melito said. “He’s a fixture at McClancy.”
Brother Joseph Rocco, longtime former president of McClancy, studied together with Sukanek in their early years as Brothers of the Sacred Heart. He called Brother Donald a wonderful friend who was humble, charitable and always concerned of others’ feelings.
“I thought of him very highly,” Rocco said. “He was very wonderful with the kids and the faculty. He was always available to do what was asked of him.”
Like many of the Brothers, Rocco, now president at Immaculate Conception Catholic Academy in Astoria, said he was shocked by the suddeness of Sukanek’s death. The Saturday before Sukanek died, he visited Rocco and brought him a statue of the Sacred Heart.
“I said ‘I’ll see you next week,’” Rocco said. “The statue is now being displayed in the lobby of my new school, Immaculate Conception.”
Brother Ronnie Hingle, Provincial for the Province of the United States, said in many ways, Brother Donald was the “epitome” of a Brother of the Sacred Heart.
“He took Jesus’s invitation to imitate him, meek and humble, literally to his own heart,” he said. “He was extremely gentle, very caring and very nurturing of others.”
Hingle noted that Sukanek never sought the limelight, but was always open to serving the Brothers in whatever way they asked him.
Sukanek served on the leadership team, Hingle said, and knew the gravity of the many issues with which they were dealing. Hingle said his friend would often write notes of support and encouragement, but was sensitive to the fact that Hingle was constantly receiving emails.
“He would write in the subject line, ‘This is good news, no action required,’” Hingle said. “He wanted to do all he could do show support and to help.
“He was the consummate Brother,” he added. “He was always right on point.”
Hingle said he was shocked and somewhat in a daze when he learned about Sukanek’s death. He said it would leave a “tremendous hole in our province.”
“He was such a great Brother that you counted on him to be an uplifting, consoling and optimistic person,” he said. “He always saw the positive side of things.”
He added that Brother Donald was a man of great faith, and that his hope and optimism were based in his faith.
“He was a man of prayer,” Hingle said. “He not only talked the talk, he walked the walk.”