John A. Kolic

  1943 - 2014

  John A. Kolic, 71, passed away on Friday October 3, 2014 at the Andover Subacute & Rehabilitation Center in Andover, NJ. John was the son of the late Marion and Agnes (Verkey) Kolic, was born in Dover, NJ September 30, 1943.

John resided in Franklin Borough since the late 1970's.He was a United States Air Force veteran. He was an expert hard rock miner and exploratory driller at the Sterling Mine, Ogdensburg, NJ. He provided critical expertise to convert the Sterling Mine to a public access museum and made numerous contributions to mineralogy, having the mineral Kolicite named in his honor which is on display at the Smithsonian Institute.

John's interest in minerals began the usual way, by observing the rocks around him and wishing to know more about them. In John's case the initial spark came in the 1960s, when a hike down the Bright Angel Trail to the bottom of the Grand Canyon in Arizona impelled him to purchase a book on geology. After moving back east to New Jersey, he continued his interest in rocks by collecting along Interstate 80, which at the time was under construction. About the same time, a neighbor, aware of John's interest in rocks, suggested that he visit the Franklin Mineral Museum to see rocks that "glow in the dark." This, John said, was something that he just had to witness. During his first visit to Franklin, he viewed the huge display of fluorescent minerals in the Franklin Mineral Museum and met both Ewald Gerstmann and Nick Zipco. It was during that visit that his focus on Franklin-Sterling Hill minerals first took root.

About 1970, Stephen Sanford, then a miner at Sterling Hill, introduced John to Gene Clyne, a shift boss at the mine, and suggested that he visit Gene to view his collection. Upon arriving at Gene's home, John found a large workbench in his basement covered with arsenate minerals from Sterling Hill, which were just coming out at that time, though nobody yet knew what they were. The Sterling mine during that period was short-staffed, so Gene suggested that John hire on with the New Jersey Zinc Company and thereby have an opportunity to collect minerals underground every day. Thus began John's career at Sterling Hill; he worked there from 1972 until the mine's closing in 1986.

From the beginning, John was a studious collector of the minerals he saw underground. He learned what they were, how to identify them, and marked mineral localities on a set of mine maps, so he could predict where to find the same species the next level up or down. During lunch breaks, he visited as many places in the mine as he could. Moreover, he made agreements with other miners to share the various finds: John would keep the specimen he liked best from a particular find and share the rest with the other miners, and they would do the same with him. In this way, John assembled an unparalleled collection of Sterling Hill minerals.

John was also a longtime friend of Ewald Gerstmann and obtained many fine specimens from him over the years. This is where the best of John's Franklin specimens came from. John clearly opted for quality over quantity, and, because he was local and a good friend of Ewald's, he had continual access to the best specimens on offer for as long as Ewald remained in business. Other fine specimens were obtained over the years from Dick Hauck, from the George Pigeon collection, and from other sources. An impressive number of specimens were obtained in trade, in exchange for choice specimens that John had collected himself underground at Sterling Hill.
Compiled from “Birth of a collector” written by Earl R. Verbeek, PhD, Resident Geologist, sterling hill mining museum for the Picking Table.