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Magnolia Mourns Loss Of LeMasters

By Staff | Nov 19, 2015

Throughout the past two days, Magnolia High School students and staff have mourned the loss, yet celebrated the life, of beloved teacher of Magnolia High School teacher, Mark Lemasters. He died Wednesday after a short illness.

“As a board, we send our condolences to the family first off all,” stated Wetzel County Board of Education President Mike Blair, referencing the fact that Lemasters is the brother of Board Member Carolyn Gatian.

“Mark was a physics teacher . . . He was a great teacher. He was a photographer, and he did so much for Magnolia High School,” Blair said.

“We are going to miss Mark Lemasters. He’s a teaching professional and the things he did for Magnolia, with the staff photos, yearbooks, and photographing athletic events. … We’ll never get him replaced at the level that he was.”

Lemasters was a physical science, chemistry, physics and AP Chemistry teacher at Magnolia High School and had more than 25 years of service in the school system. His list of accomplishments and jobs at MHS is lengthy. He was a college engineering teacher/facilitator, virtual school teacher/facilitator, summer school program teacher, class advisor, yearbook advisor, school photographer, quiz bowl driector, Science National Honor Society adviser, TSA – Adviser Assistant, technology integration specialist, school technology coordinator, MHS school leadership team, county literacy team, student council adviser, creator and updater of the school’s media center, media center coordinator, Poetry Out Loud co-coordinator, glee club director, co-coordinator for Veterans Day assembly, and scoreboard operator. He also worked on makeup and costumes, along with choreography and music for theater. He wrote the grant for the current Project Lead the Way (STEM) for $45,000. He has run the computer at all track team home events, and was the “Marrying Sam” at Sadie Hawkins.

On Friday, five of Lemasters’ students, along with Principal Kathi Schmalz gathered to share memories of the late teacher and the impact he had on their lives.

“His classes were always really difficult but he’d help everyone out,” ssenior Troy Boughner said. “He made class fun just by his personality. He was cracking jokes all the time. He’d stray off-topic just to keep everyone interested.

The students laugh, recollecting a time when Lemasters showed cartoons on YouTube, specifically one with the “Chiquita” banana.

“I was stressed out in class with all this work and then the Chiquita banana shows up on the screen,” senior Joseph Ledergerber said with a laugh.

“He would never turn anyone down if they needed help with anything ever,” senior Bri Ritz said.

Boughner, who works on morning announcements, showed Schmalz a graphic he had created to add to the announcements’ slideshow. The “M” and L” are taken out of the word “Magnolia,” symbolizing Mark Lemasters’ absence. “That is awesome,” Schmalz stated, becoming emotional.

Senior Archie Petin adds that Lemasters, who was Petin’s virtual Japanese moderator, was a “jack of all trades” and knew something about everything.

Senior Carter Seckman recollected that Lemasters started an Advanced Placement Chemistry class for two students so they could take the class.

“He went to the training,” Schmalz agreed, adding that “It was kind of last minute, but he came to me and said he had students who wanted to take AP Chemistry.”

Petin noted that Lemasters was “big” into theater, stating that prior to the showing of the group’s latest play “Arsenic and Lace,” the lights were dimmed for 30 seconds of silence in honor of Lemasters. The play’s programs also included a notation for Lemasters.

“He loved theatre,” Petin said.

Lemasters will also receive a tribute during Saturday’s Magnolia playoff game against Van. Boughner, a football player along with Seckman and Ledergerber, stated that the players would be wearing stickers on their helmets in honor of Lemasters, who often stood on the sidelines at every game to take pictures.

Notably, Lemasters’ obit states that his viewing on Saturday will be held from noon to 5 p.m. so that he can “make it to the game.”

Schmalz said the school has several plans in the works to honor Lemasters. She added that both students and staff have come forward and asked about ways to honor Lemasters.

“He was a man of learning,” Schmalz said.

“He had expectations,” she added. “He wouldn’t want his students to stop learning. Many of his graduates have thanked him for his instruction. He wanted kids to go to college and be ready.”

Boughner noted that his sister is a pharmacy major at WVU and went into her college-level chemistry classes completely prepared and completely confident with everything. “It was as if she had taken the course once before,” Boughner said.

Schmalz added that students have come back to Magnolia High School to report that they were miles beyond most of their college peers.

“That’s what (Lemasters) was wanting for the kids,” Schmalz said.

A recent social media post by former MHS student Mitchell Goodwin is referenced. Goodwin, in the post, stated that students would urge eachother not to take Lemasters’ courses because they were too hard.

Goodwin stated “Those of us who took the challenge, learned.”

Ledergerber references a post from Former Student Grant Cain, who said he would miss not being able to call “Mr. L.” for help with a problem.

Lemasters’ impact on students is yet again evident in Boughner’s news that several students are travelling in for Lemasters’ viewing. One former student is traveling from Columbia University in New York.

Ritz states that after all the things Lemasters has done, “he deserves to be remembered.”

“He deserves something huge,” she added.

The past few days have understandably been tough of MHS students and staff but they’ve learned the best way to cope with the loss of Lemasters is to look back on the time spent with him.

Boughner described Physics class in which students “just sat down and shared memories.”

Boughner noted that talking about Lemasters was difficult at first but once students started looking back on Lemasters, and the fun and silly things he had done, “it really lightened up the mood.”

The group of five students describe a couple of humorous instances with Lemasters. Boughner described a squid hat the teacher loved to wear, while Ritz spoke of Lemasters’ love of ice cream.

“You never knew what he was going to do,” Schmalz stated. “He’d shave coming in the door!”

Schmalz added that she would often stand back and smile while watching Lemasters interact with his students, adding that MHS strives to be as a family.

“He was going to find me a prom date,” Seckman noted, laughing.

“He was always trying to set people up!” Ritz said, laughing. “That was his thing. If someone needed a date, he wanted to get them a date.”

Schmalz asked the five students if they felt Lemasters knew how much he was appreciated. Ritz responded that she felt he definitely knew when he was in the hospital. The students explained that they all worked together to send him e-cards.

Ledergerber estimated that about 600 e-cards were sent to Lemasters.

Boughner noted that Lemasters’ AP Chemistry class from last year gave Lemasters a signed card, along with two “smiley face” balloons. Ritz added that Lemasters, upon seeing the group coming to visit him at the hospital joked and said “I’ve got a big party coming to see me now!”

Of course Lemasters was not all about fun and games either.

Boughner noted that he could sit and talk with Lemasters for hours.

“After band practice I would go to my locker, which was by his classroom. If I saw the light on in his classroom I would stop in and talk to him for like an hour. If I was driving down the street and saw him walking, I would stop along the side of the road and talk to him for a few minutes.”

Ritz stated that Lemasters was everywhere, “at every Magnolia event possible.”

Schmalz said that even when hospitalized at Ruby Memorial Hospital, Lemasters was worried about getting photos of the National Honor Society induction and MHS’ senior night for volleyball.

“There are things we want to do to remember him because he was part of a lot,” Schmalz stated.

She added that Cole Simms, who is currently instructing Lemasters’ courses, remarked that he has subbed in several different counties, yet he can feel the culture at MHS.

“He can feel what goes on here,” Schmalz said. “It’s good stuff.”

Schmalz said MHS is currently trying to keep things as normal as possible but is also coming together to take care of eachother.

Schmalz noted that every single person in the MHS building has a story to tell about Lemasters.

Schmalz’s personal story involves a trip to Town and Country Days with Lemasters.

“We were there visiting students who had animals and things out there. We wanted to see it and be a part of it . . . They have these huge steer out there, with big horns. Mr. L and I have to go over and pet one. We are petting this steer, and I kind of back-of . . . The steer cornered (Lemasters)! He lets out a squeal, and I’m on the ground rolling. I just remember his face, and we laughed about that for so long.”

Schmalz said Lemasters’ students do not want his classroom rearranged.

“I said, ‘Look around. He’s here.’ You could see all his projects and things around the classroom. One student spoke up and said ‘Don’t change anything. This is our classroom. If you would clean all this up, it wouldn’t be the same.'”

“The best therapy you can have is the good memories that you will take through your life with you,” Schmalz said.