Community gathers to mourn inspirational Indian Hill educator

‘Jeff was about kids first, and that’s why this is so devastating’
Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 9:41 PM EDT
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INDIAN HILL, Ohio (WXIX) - Dozens from Indian Hill and beyond gathered for a celebration of life Thursday at Indian Hill High School to honor Jeff Clark, the school’s late choir and theater director.

Clark died on Tuesday, just a month after he received a stage-four colon cancer diagnosis. He said in a blog post he began feeling ill in March during a trip to Europe with his choir students.

He discovered it was colon cancer after a biopsy on May 19. His loved ones described the cancer as “extremely fast growing.”

“The support, the cards, the letters, the notes, the heartfelt sentiments, it’s just a small testament on the impact he has had in his time with our kids and the kids beyond the walls of Indian Hill,” said Principal Jeff Damadeo.

Sophomore student Marilyn Blemker says it doesn’t seem right that Clark passed after such a short illness.

“He never wanted us to call him Mr. Clark. He was like, ‘That’s too professional,’” Blemker said. “But he was one of the most incredible people I have ever met in my entire life.”

Clark joined the district in 2016. Over his tenure at Indian Hill, according to a district spokesperson, Clark earned the love and admiration of his pupils and their parents.

Blemker says Clark a source of support when she stepped on stage for her very first theater musical at the school.

“I had brain surgery when I was younger. I have half a brain and I was bullied a lot for the way that I looked and the way that I acted... the way that I really just was as a human being. And he didn’t judge me because of that. He gave me a shot,” Blemker said. “Getting up on that stage with him made me feel less alone. I want to be in music now because of him, and I love being on stage now because of him.”

It’s a common sentiment. Many of those he impacted left similar comments on a blogging site dedicated to chronicling Clark’s battle with cancer. A post on Monday that said his family had transferred him to hospice care has hundreds of replies.

Clark’s impact reached far and wide, even stretching across the globe.

“We have alumni who are coming in from literally all over the world to pay their respect,” said Indian Hill Schools Superintendent Kirk Koennecke. “Jeff was about kids first, and that’s why this is so devastating for everybody.”

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