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Sunday, July 06, 2014 8:02 PM


DHI Media Editor

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DELPHOS — Most people have that one teacher they can look back on and say they made a difference in their life. For hundreds of Jefferson High School band members, that teacher is Michael Wark.

More than 150 former band members and band parents donned the red and black and hit the pavement just like old times to bid farewell to their mentor Saturday.

Launched through a Facebook effort, 1996 graduate Heather Lynn Osting spread the work of the Wark’s imminent departure to be closer to aging parents. She sent out the call for a farewell party that started with a march from Jefferson High School and ended at the Wark’s home on Westbrook, a familiar place to many who participated in practice in the back yard.

“I heard the cadence and I told Mike he better get out there,” Robin Wark said Saturday.

More than 150 former band members under the instruction of the retired Michael Wark march from Jefferson High School to the Wark’s home on Westbrook Saturday to say farewell to their beloved teacher. (DHI Media/Tony Wiechart)The Warks were greeted by the faithful alumni in rank and file.

“What are you guys doing?” Mike Wark asked.

One former band member piped up, “Finding out why you never wanted us to march in July!”

“How fun is this?” Mike Wark asked. “You know we’re going be here a while.”

Former Jefferson Band Director Mike Wark passes out hugs to each of the more than 150 band members who showed up at his home Saturday to bid he and his wife farewell. (DHI Media/Nancy Spencer)The Warks quickly made their way through the group sharing hugs and smiles. When they were done, the marchers heard a familiar question.

“Who’s the best damn band in the land?” he asked the group.

“We are!” was the response just like it was all those years ago.

Many felt Mike Wark made band a “safe” place for students to land.

“When you joined the band, you became a part of something bigger than yourself,” 1976 graduate Diane (Blockberger) Boratko said. “He turned the whole band around. He made you feel like you were important and a part of everything. We never forgot it.”

The Warks debuted at Jefferson in 1973-74 with Mike student-teaching eighth-grade band. In 1974-75, he was assistant high school band director and took the helm in 1975-76. Robin joined her husband as flag corps director and the pair worked side-by-side for three decades before retiring in 2003.

The woman behind the reunion was pleased with the turnout.

“I’m so glad all these band ‘geeks’ showed up and helped us let the Warks know how much they mean to us and how much we will miss them,” Osting said. “He was a drill sergeant and a teddy bear all at the same time. You wanted to hug him but you were a little scared. He’s the reason it was cool to be in band.”

Angie (Schleeter) Rinehart, class of 2001, agreed.

“He was the only teacher who got respect without asking for it,” she said. “You just looked at him and knew you had to give it to him. It was the way he carried himself.”

Wark also seemed to have the knack of knowing a student’s potential even if they didn’t.

“Mr. Wark pushed you to be better,” Osting said. “He knew, even if we didn’t, that we could be not only a good band but a great one.”

Lou Best, Wark’s drum instructor from 1992-2002, saw first-hand Mike Wark’s influence on students.

Former band members under the direction of Mike Wark pose with he and his wife in their front yard Saturday afternoon. The group marched from Jefferson High school to their home to show their admiration for a mentor. (DHI Media/Tony Wiechart)“If you look at his numbers, the guy was doing something right. He had almost 80 percent of the students in band. The numbers don’t lie,” Best said. “Mike taught his lessons but also taught them about life. He always told me that if you teach what’s important, everything else will take care of itself. He’s the reason I became a teacher.”

Robin Wark also saw many of her former flag girls among the group.

“This is amazing,” she said. “It’s overwhelming to see the love pouring out of everyone.”

Mike Wark said the band members made his job rewarding.

“To take a piece of music you have arranged and then teach the kids how to play it and hear it with your own ears and see it with your own eyes; it was incredible,” he said.

Robin said joining her husband with the band was a given.

“When Mike got the job he told me there was a microdot on our marriage license that said I had to do flags,” she said with a laugh. “I looked for that microdot but I never found it.”


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