Many of the fencing club probably has never met Ms. Josi, but you’ve seen her. Her picture is on top of the fridge, and her former Dancer’s Creative Workshop door magnet is above the stairs.
Coach Gerhard would occasionally call her a few times throughout the year, but had not talked to her in a while. Unfortunately, we found out today that she passed July 15, 2019.
She’s important to us, and everyone that’s a part of the All-American Fencing family, because if it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t exist.
In 2008, Coach Gerhard was looking for a new brick and mortar location, trying to expand from the using the gyms on Fort Bragg. Someone had mentioned a dance studio in Downtown Fayetteville and an instructor that might be willing to sublet the studio. That dance instructor was Josephine Strasnicsak, otherwise known as Ms. Josi.
I scheduled a meeting with her to ask her if she might be interested in allowing me to teach fencing in her ballet studio. I can keep all my equipment in one plastic closet out of the way.
She said she had to think about it. She has never subletted the studio before. She’s never had another instructor in there before. She was very particular about her dance and her students. It was just tights and tutus, no big grand expensive costumes and recitals were all in the studio (Have you noticed the red curtains?)
But Ms. Josi called Coach Gerhard the next day and said, “I have NEVER let anybody else teach up here. But I like you.”
I later found out that one of her daughters fenced at one time and I think she’s also met Coach Ron Miller. I’m sure that helped.
She continued to teach while we were up there a few nights for fencing, even after doctors told her to stop. After half a year, Ms. Josi tells Coach Gerhard that her doctors are finally putting their foot down and absolutely NO MORE teaching. She was not allowed to do so anymore, but she didn’t want the ballet studio to become anything else, nor did she want another ballet instructor teaching there. She felt it would continue to be loved and a home if Coach Gerhard would take it over and become the All-American Fencing Academy.
Over the years, she would call Coach Gerhard and ask if she could be there on some afternoons because there was a student she wanted to teach. Coach Gerhard always said, “You never need to ask me, this is always your home, and I will work around any time you want to be here.”
She even had no qualms about Coach Gerhard’s wife, Jennifer teaching a few friends some beginning ballet. In fact Jennifer might have been the only other ballet teacher Ms. Josi allowed teach in that space. Coach Gerhard has been approached by people in the past if they can teach ballet there, and out of respect for Ms. Josi, I don’t even consider it.
She would also tell me about the frustrations she would have with our former downstairs neighbors. When she was truly irritated, she would purposefully teach her tap classes above the desk of the neighbor below her.
She loved the fencing group and the people she met. I am sad I hadn’t kept in touch more often and to learn of her passing sooner.
We may not have our Annual Harry Rulnick this year, another important figure in All-American Fencing Academy’s history. But now we will include an annual Miss Josi tournament.
Below is from her obituary:
Josephine Marie “Miss Josi” Strasnicsak
Fayetteville—Josephine M. Strasnicsak (Miss Josi), 85, passed away Monday July 15, 2019 at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center.
Born 12/31/1933, in Sidney New York, she was the daughter of Herman and Anna Strasnicsak.
Josephine grew up in Bainbridge, New York, a small town in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains.
As an adolescent she and her mother traveled to neighboring communities to teach dance. As a young woman she moved to New York City where studied classical ballet and honed her craft as a choreographer. In the late 1960’s Josi and her daughters moved to Fayetteville. After teaching at Fayetteville State University and Culbreth School of Dance she opened Dancer’s Creative Workshop where she would teach dance and theatre arts well into her 70’s.
Josi loved the theatre and was involved in several productions at Cape Fear Little Theatre (now CFRT) and with Circa Productions.
She is survived by daughters Anamaria and her husband John and Sabrina and her partner Michelene; granddaughter Juliana and her husband Robert; and cousin Thomas and wife Christine.
In addition to her parents Herman and Anna, she was predeceased by her brother Francis.