Irish tenor performs Celtic songs March 15 at St. Joseph Church

Homewood District 153 mourned the loss of teacher John Calabrese who died March 17 after an extended battle with cancer.

Mr. Calabrese, 55, first came to the district as a substitute physical education teacher. He was hired full time 12 years as a reading teacher. He later taught social studies. He is remembered for his outgoing personality and willingness to help make a difference in students’ lives.

“He was a guy full of life and energy and you enjoyed seeing him every morning,” said Superintendent Dale Mitchell. “He was like the Pied Piper with kids. They just really enjoyed him; that special kind of teacher.”

Mr. Calabrese was diagnosed in August 2014 with multiple myeloma, a rare form of blood cancer. He went through a regiment of chemotherapy that kept him from his classroom at James Hart School. His teachers colleagues and friends hosted several benefits to help reduce his medical expenses.

Doctors were hopeful a stem cell transplant in February 2015 would reverse the prognosis, but the cancer reoccurred in last July. Despite his illness, Mr. Calabrese asked to return to work at the start of the 2015-16 school year. The district assigned him to his original duties as a reading teacher.

Mitchell remembers Mr. Calabrese asking for five days off because he and his wife, Mary, were beneficiaries of a visit  to DisneyWorld provided by the Dream Foundation.

Mitchell said Mr. Calabrese joked about just coming back to work and then asking for time off “but of course we were able to give it to him. We care about each other like family.”

Mr. Calabrese had been working until about three weeks before he died.

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