My wife and I attended a funeral Mass on Friday, for our son’s 7th grade homeroom teacher. Brian Hegarty was only in his mid-30s. He started teaching at St. Clare School in 2000 and our son’s class was his first. He became the 8th grade homeroom teacher a few years ago and had just been chosen to become principal of this Catholic K-8 school of about 350 students. He had gone about his life as usual through the weekend, but didn’t wake up on Monday morning.
So last week turned out to be an exceptionally tough week for the graduating class of 2009. The Friday before, a middle school child had drowned and could not be revived. Mr. Hegarty was found dead on Monday. And on Wednesday night, after the graduation Mass and during the graduation dinner-dance, the 2nd grade teacher would fall and hit her head; she would not survive another 12 hours.
Mr. Hegarty had a doctorate in education and could have easily moved on to a position as a dean at any college. But he chose to stay at St. Clare, a reflection of his commitment to his students, the school, and Catholic education.
He wasn’t one-dimensional. He enjoyed basketball so much he coached the school team. To Kill a Mockingbird was his favorite tome and he quoted liberally from its text. He listened to a wide range of musical genres. And he loved the ponies.
Mr. Hegarty’s funeral Mass was celebrated at Mission Santa Clara, a privilege granted because he was an alumnus of Santa Clara University. In traditional configuration, the mission church seats approximately 750 people. Every seat was taken, and people were standing in the side aisles, vestibule and front steps. There were, easily, a thousand people gathered to pay their respects. The recently-reassigned pastor from St. Clare Parish returned from sabbatical to celebrate the Mass, assisted by the incoming parish priest, a monsignor from a nearby church, and Mr. Hegarty’s college math professor. The bishop was in attendance and delivered the final blessings.
So much fanfare for an 8th grade teacher. Completely justified, if you listen to how Mr. Hegarty’s friends, family, co-teachers, and students describe him as a compassionate, thoughtful, loving man. His sister-in-law characterized him as prudent. My son remembers that he always treated everyone fairly, an incredibly high complement for a student to pay a teacher. Such great accomplishments deserve great praise and our prayers.
Eternal rest grant unto Brian Hegarty, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.