Saturday, December 15, 2007

RIP: Eric Whiting (1973-2007)

It's weird when friends die. You don't expect it. You see a lot of yourself in them and can't imagine life ending...or wanting to end life.

You're used to family members dying as grandparents pass or become ill. You're not OK with it, but it feels like a part of life. It feels natural somehow.

Not so with friends and peers. You hang out, work, and play together never once thinking that this will come to an end. You're not out at the bar or hiking through the woods thinking, "This could end at any second."

Of course, it does end.

One or both of you moves on. There is college to attend. Jobs take us to new places. Our lives and relationships constantly change.

I had a friend named Eric. We worked together for three years at Western Elementary in Bellefontaine, OH. During my first year, he came in as a student-teacher to the school he attended as a kid.

Being the only two men and eventually fifth-grade teachers, we bonded quickly. I remember walking in and out of each other's classroom to collaborate, vent, or goof around. We created the "executive meetings" as code for happy hour. It made my three years back at home bearable.

Eric had a lot of struggles. There were certain expectations placed on him as a local high school sports hero and grandson to a prominent man in Bellefontaine. He was a kid who made it out of the rougher, poorer side of town and overcame a difficult upbringing. He was the poster child that Bellefontaine could hold up as proof of their tolerance and diversity. The expectations were sometimes too much. He was held to a higher standard than most in that small town.

A lot was expected of Eric, but there were roadblocks at every turn. His supervisor for student-teaching gave him a tough time although his cooperating teacher thought he was doing a fine job. He had won a minority scholarship that locked him into a job in Bellefontaine schools. The superintendent threatened him not to leave the district under any circumstances. He then had one run-in after another with the law and administrators and health issues that probably made life rather difficult.

I left Bellefontaine, but we periodically kept in-touch. We recently contacted each other through MySpace and found that some of our recent struggles with teaching and administrators was similar. I know that hearing how he was coping with the experience helped me recover from depths I had never reached. I just wish I could have done the same for him.

I don't know all of the details about Eric's death, aside from a few cryptic emails from his girlfriend. But I wanted to put this out there. I wanted it to be in print. I want people to know of my friendship with Eric and that he meant a lot to me in both good and bad times.

Eric Whiting will be missed.

(For more information, check the Bellefontaine Dispatch article.)

36 comments:

Carole said...

Thank you Zac for writing this rememberance about Eric. You put into words his life and struggles.
I remember both of you at Western. You and Eric were both important to the school during that time. I am so saddened by his untimely death.

Joshua said...

Zac, thank you for your post. Many fond memories have been shared here at Bellefontaine High School. Eric was a fine young man that brought joy to many lives. We pray that those who loved him will be comforted and see a ray of light through this dark moment. Might all of us grow stronger and better as a person bringing this joy to others as Eric did.

Mom said...

Zac, you did say it best. I just want to add how much I thought of Eric as an 8th grade student many years ago, as a teacher, and as a person. I know you two had a special bond for the few years you taught with him. I am very saddened by his death.

Mariea said...

This evening while I was at work I received a telephone call from my son. He was calling to inform me that one of his friends from Ohio, where we lived for several years, phoned to tell us of the recent passing of Eric. Instant shock surrounded me as tears filled my eyes and my heart dropped. I almost fainted. I wish to share a few things and ask for you to close your eyes for a moment of silence and prayer for Eric's soul.

Eric was a kind hearted man of 34 years old. He was a helper and giver on all levels and always had a way to make you laugh when you felt down. His smile radiated across every room he entered. He was a well known person versed with an educated background and had many passions. He dedicated his life to helping people starting with teaching as an elementary teacher at Western Elementary in Bellefontaine, Ohio. In his early years he made time in his schedule to be the after school Director for the Safe Haven program at the Presbyterian Church in Bellefontaine. He also sat as a Council member for Bellefontaine where he worked hard for the elderly and less fortunate as well.

Although he eventually accepted a teaching position in North Carolina and enjoyed teaching there, he would take road trips every weekend back to Bellefontaine to see his family and friends. Eventually he missed home and his family so much he decided to relocate back to Bellefontaine. This is when I met Eric. :-)

Through the months that I got to know Eric I realized what a special person he was and due to his uncanny persistence it became quite evident that we would have a whirlwind romance. :-) Although we did not stay together we had a lot of great times together. We laughed, we cried and we shared many wonderful times together going places and doing things or just plan hanging out. We danced quite often at the LockerRoom :-) as many of you remember, to Marvin Gay I might add. :-) After about a year, he was offered another teaching job in North Carolina and decided to move once again. I did not want to move and he went on to follow his dreams. :-)

Eric was always the life of the party. He could enter a room and be completely surrounded by loving friends and family that could never get enough of his jokes or his sarcastic antidotes if you were having a bad day.

In closing, for those of you that knew Eric remember the good times and the infectious laughter and love he gave us. He will be sadly missed but remembered forever as a special person and a giver with whom I can say, have been most honored to get to know.

For those of you that did not have the chance to know Eric, I'm sure there has been a time in your life that you yourself have lost a special person and you can understand the meaning of this post.

So now if you all could stop what you are doing and close your eyes and wish for Eric his peace and place in heaven.

For his family, may the faith of your believed higher power give you the strength to get through these saddening days and keep you embraced with the loving memories Eric would want you to remember.

God Bless...

~Mariea~
Zac thank you for starting this rememberance for Eric. :-)

JB said...

I just received word of Eric's death and I'm still quite shocked and disturbed.

I had the privilege of teaching with Eric while he was down here in NC. His passion for helping students shined every day as he walked the halls and taught his class. He was a positive role-model for many of our students; a strong black man who worked hard and was respected.

I have a lot of good memories of our talks and shared passion for making a change in the school and community. When outside of school, our talks were focused on life, our pasts, and sports. We always enjoyed having a beer together after a long, hard week.

Eric didn't teach at my school this past year, he moved on and was missed greatly by our school, staff, and community. I hadn't talked to him in some time, and I regret not contacting him like we said we would.

I'm sad to know he's gone. I'm glad to have known him. May he now rest in peace. Goodbye my friend.

amyh said...

I first met Eric a few year backs when the school principal asked us to work together on a project. Over the next three years, we got to know him very well. He spent quite a bit of time at our house and became very close to our family. He and my husband called themselves "Samoan Brothers" and he referred to us as his "North Carolina mom & dad".

We had a front row seat for all the obstacles and roadblocks he was challenged with and helped as much as we could. We were always there when he needed anything; even just a place to escape to and an ear to listen.

My step-daughter had him both in the 6th grade and the 8th grade as a teacher. She, as well as the rest of the students, loved him, respected him and looked up to him. He was always the one to volunteer when no one else would, no matter what it was for. It was obvious to see how much he loved to teach and how much he loved his students. As parents, we could always count on him to keep us informed and keep a watchful eye on our kids.

His was passionate about everything he did. We loved our friend and will miss him greatly.

Jamie said...

I have had the privilege of getting to know Eric over the last few months when he and Vanessa chose to move to Murphy NC. I actually set in on their teaching interviews and was impressed with both of them from the very beginning. We had lunch as I showed them around our schools and I got to know a little bit about them. I remember that the principals setting in on the interview, all wanted to offer Eric a job.

I invited Eric and Vanessa to join us some Wednesday night at a local restaurant for team trivia. We sensed they were used to having more of a social life than our small community sometimes affords. We have a Wal-Mart and that’s about it. Both came to trivia and we had a great time. It has not been a week since I spoke with him or Vanessa. The community is in shock and disbelief and the students are truly struggling to make sense out of everything.

In the brief time he was here, he touched many students’ lives and from what I understand was building quite an afternoon program of Power Partners for the students. The program was enjoying its greatest successes under his leadership. He was wanting to start working on his administration degree and become a principal.

Still in shock and disbelief in Murphy NC……………………….

Mi--Lee said...

Zac, thank you so much for putting this together. It is greatly appreciated..."Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth." Yes, the family is in disbelief but God will see us through. Many family members have read the comments and we thank each and every one of you. May God bless all of you and continue to pray for us. Michelle L. Artis, cousin of Eric but more like his little sister :-).

Hurley said...

I learned of Eric's passing tonight through myspace. I am in complete shock. Although we lost touch with both of us moving, I will cherish the good memories that Eric and I had. We taught together for 3 years, he coached football/basketball and I was the cheer coach, and we also were roommates in 2005-2006.

As his past roommate and friend I know Eric had many struggles. I only wish now that I could have extended my hand and been more understanding with the challenges. Although we had tough times, a smile comes to my face when I think about all our "Happy Hour Fridays", Ohio State games on the coach, and long dedicated hours at TMS!

I wish I could have had the chance to tell him this:( He will be missed. I want all his family and Vanessa to know that you are all in my thoughts and prayers. We spent many nights telling family stories. He loved his mother, brothers, and sisters very much~
Hurley, Salisbury, MD

Mr. V said...

Eric,

I still remember the day I hired you . . . big as life. Ready to save the world. Just the kind of teacher I wanted at TMS. We all were trying to save the world, weren't we. The question is did we lose ourselves in the process? We had something special at TMS; Through all the ups and downs we stayed together and had each others' backs. But as I look back I regret not taking more time to work on each other. I regret not taking more trips to the Brickhouse. I'm sorry for not digging deeper. Don't worry, I'm not blaming myself for anything . . . just being reflective. You know what a perfectionist I am and that I had to make everyone happy all the time. I will always remember your loyalty as one of "my teachers" and as a friend.

This morning I shared the news of your passing with my current staff in Bolivia . . . we have devotions every day and pray and stuff (can you imagine? That would have been cool at TMS!). Anyways, I wasn't prepared for my own emotional reaction. As I began praying I first thought of Vanessa and that was all it took for me start bawling, and then I started thinking about all of us who worked at TMS together for 2 amazing years . . . I prayed for Jake and Leigh and Shannon for Daniel and Kelly Rife and Parker and Brent and Nick . . . I even thought of the duo - Bart and Jeff Brinager. Memories. I thought of the kids too . . . the lives you touched during your time at TMS. It's not possible to make sense of it . . . so, I'll stop trying.

I will miss you, Eric. I will miss the thought of you. Life takes so many unexpected turns . . . you will be missed. You are loved.

To the TMS community . . . hugs and tears. Know that I love you and miss you and think of you all fondly.

Still trusting in the Goodness of God,
Mr. V

Colton said...

I Still Remember how much fun We had in Basketball Practice and how me and you competed with each other in everything we did.....Im gonna miss how much fun your class was and how you always made us laugh and how u never let us down...I hate the last time I saw you I only got to say hey...I will miss u Dearly Mr.Whiting you will always be in my thoughts and prayer..Colton

Revonda said...

It was a wonderful privilege getting to know and working with Eric Whiting at Martins Creek School. He was a very kind and outgoing person. He will be greatly missed by the staff and students. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Tayler said...

Mr Whiting,
I can't believe you're gone. I still remember all the fun we had in social studies two years ago. You were always so funny and full of life.
Lauryn told Noelle and Cherish and I this morning. I know we'll all miss you.
With love, Tayler

Hailey said...

I am one of many of Mr. Whiting's (Eric) students.I could not wait til his class. We were reading Roll Of Thunder Hear My Cry. I asked for a copy at school. It turns out I had gotten his original book. On 12/18/07 we are going to plant a Buckeye Tree on the Middle School campus. When the Middle School found out about his death we cried even the boys. Mr. Whiting was a life changer. He cared about our grades. He always told us to do our best. Even though I am dumbfounded I cope with it by praying to God because he created Mr.Whiting and he knows we are sad but all I can do is pray for his girlfriend (Vanessa White) and his parents.

We all loved Mr.Whiting and we will miss him. 6th grade 7th grade and 8th grade at Martins Creek School in Murphy.

califoniaxhco said...

Mr Whiting you will really missed by ALOT of people. you were my softball coach and my teacher and my friend. you kept me out of so much trouble and i knew that i always could go and talk to you. and now that your gone ill never be able to talk to you again. im really going to miss you.Nick,alaina,lauren,jackie,katie,dylan and me still cant believe that it is real it just doesnt seem right. we all mis you a lot and you touched us all with the was that you taught us about everything.its reallly hard but the seven of us are sticking together and hoping it gets better we were in the student center today.(me alaina,dylan and Kaite) and we were just talkin about all the fun we had with you this last three years and we miss you more than anything,its really hard knowing your gone. RIP Mr.Whiting 11-25-73-12-13-07 we love you :[

L3TM3KiSSYOU23 said...

....i think i am still in shock that your actually gone! last night i was looking through some pictures from the 8th grade trip and i saw some pictures of you and all the crazy teachers making everyone laugh and some from the formal when we finally got you to dance at the very end of the night(: the last thing you said to me was at kendalls halloween party when i was leaving you said " miss cash. i'm coming down over christmas break and i will be expecting a present from you." haha.and i was going to get you one. and now i guess you cant visit.but we all still have the memories sitting in your social studies class watching you sometimes making a fool out of yourself.but i just wanted to let you know that you never gave up on any of your students and thats exactly what a great teacher does..and you succeeded. its like i can still hear you yelling down the hallway " ALAINA COOSH" and i really miss you espically when you moved): and when we got to see you a few weeks ago it had seemed like forever.Now all i remeber is when i ran up to you and gave you the biggest hug because i had missed you so much. like when i called kendalls phone to tell her that i was on my way to her house and you answered kendalls cellphone and scared the crap out of me..and i was so excited that i was going to get to see you again for the first time since school had let out. You were an inspiration to me,kendall,nick,dylan,katie,lauren,and jackie its going to be hard when we think about all the fun times we had with you laughing and messing with you in the hallways! I have a picture of us from the 8th grade formal on my wall right beside my computer and i look at it every day..and i close my eyes and its like i'm there again and having so much fun all of us together..i can't bare the thought in my mind that your acutely gone. we loved and still love you so much! i just think that thought in everyones mind is why? Because you seemed so happy and everyone at our school was in shock. But i no that there was many reasons why and I unlike some people don't want know why. Because i think if i do it will just make it worse. No one can ever take your place in all of our hearts, you'll Never be forgotten!! we miss and love you always.♥


r.i.p mr.whiting i love you....


your studentt...Alaina(:

Jon Kunze said...

I grew up watching Eric play basketball for the Chieftains. I can remember his battle with Asthma throughout basketball, and his great strides in over coming it.

I had the pleasure of reconnecting with Eric while I worked at the Clubhouse Grill in 2004, and we had some very kind and lengthy conversations.

Although he wasn't always dealt the best hand, I felt like he was truly a special person, and always gave his all to those who needed it. He was a champion for the west end of Bellefontaine while he served on City Council, and I know many people appreciated that.

I feel privileged to have known such a wonderful soul, and know he is looking upon us in the after life. God Bless.

ferdie88 said...

I will miss my youngest brother he was a role model to each student he taught i really looked forward to him coming home to visit we had the best of times. I will miss him with all my heart.He made a name for himself with all the roadblocks he had in life. He al
ways live in my heart and soul.
I love you Eric RIP your brother Richard (ferd)

stegall said...

I worked with Eric a few years ago when he was a 5th grade teacher here in NC. I was his Assistant Principal and we "male bonded" a lot. He was an awesome teacher who put so much time and planning into his class. He was so talented and I knew that his ceiling on life was limitless. He was so charismatic and energetic. Everyone loved Eric. He kept in touch through email and I constantly told him that he could come work for me any day.

He touched so many lives and made a difference to many children and adults alike. I will truly miss him and wish he could have/would have been able to reach out. I would have dropped everything to help him, as would anyone else who knew him.

Thank you Eric for making your mark on our lives. Your spirit will live on through those who knew you.

Cherri said...

Mr. Whiting! It's so sad what happened! I knew Mr. Whiting and Ms. White and I'm deeply saddened by what happened. I'll be praying for his family and Ms. White! I really enjoyed your class, Mr. Whity; it was the highlight of my day! Especially now that our current social studies class is horrible and our teacher doesn't teach us anything worth crap! You're in my prayers, and I hope to see you in Heaven one day.

brutus43311 said...

Eric was my baby brother,and we were almost like twins,being so close in age. He had to work hard for his dream in teaching,and truly enjoyed his job. He spoke often of the challenges,and accomplishments in the classroom. He truly enjoyed his work!! We will all miss Eric greatly,and hope that he is at peace. I've not only lost my brother,but my best friend. I will miss you forever!! Thanks to all for your sincere expressions of kindness. It is greatly appreciated.

jamieandteresa said...

I have known Eric since I was 10 years old. We grew up playing sports with and against each other. Although I was a year ahead of Eric, we became very good friends in high school (Actually, I think everyone considered Eric a friend and more amazingly Eric considered everyone his friend as well). I picked up Eric for school every day and we hung out almost every weekend ("Crusin" and chasing girls). There was not much else to do in Bellefontaine.

My wife and I still joke of the great times we had playing basketball with Eric and her best friend. I was interested in my future wife and Eric was interested in her best friend. Therefore, we played basketball with them any time they wanted. We always let them win!

After high school, Eric and I spoke occassionally for the next few years. However, our lives led us in separate directions and I am sad to say that I had not talked to Eric in probably 10 years.

As a young man, Eric was a leader to his teams, his school and his community. It is no surprise to me that he continued to be a leader as an adult. He obviously touched the lives of many friends, colleagues and students in many communities.

To his mother, siblings (Keith, Ferdie, Jimmy, Kristi and Nancy), fiance, and other family members, please know that my wife and I, and our families are thinking of you.

To Eric, I will miss you my friend and I will never forget you!

Jenny Neff said...

When I got the news of Eric's passing, I was shocked, like many others. I can not fathom that he is gone. I always considered Eric to by my "Uncle Eric" and in fact would run up to him whenever I got to see him and call him "Uncle Eric" even at almost 30 years old. I looked forward to seeing Eric at the holidays, but missed him at Thanksgiving. I was hoping to see him at Christmas.
Eric had been in my life since I was about 5. I can remember he taught me how to dive, or better yet for me it was more of a jump, off the diving boards at our apartment in Pennsylvania. He had come out to visit Keith and us one summer. Over the years, Eric would teach me many lessons. Ironically, he helped "teach" me to be the teacher that I am today. He was at Western when I did my student teaching with another 5th grade teacher. He was next door and taught me some very valuable lessons that another person may not have been able to let me know.
Eric was such an inspiration to many and will be greatly missed. God always seems to take the best ones early. He knows he can count on them to do the job, considering all the greatness they did in life and on Earth.
I will keep Eric's family in my thoughts and prayers, especially Charlene, Keith, Ferdie, Jimmy, Kristi, and Nancy!
Love you forever and miss you always ~~Jenny~~

Jodi said...

Eric was one of the most special friends. There was something between us that few ever have the chance to experience in life and for that I am grateful. Although we lived so very far apart he knew that I was only a phone call away. I spoke with him last Thursday morning and I never expected to get the call I did on Friday, like the rest of you I have lost an extremely special person in my life. I keep reminding myself how many times I have done something and in the next moment wish I had not. I have to believe this is what happened to Eric. My heart is heavy with the lost of Eric as he brighten many of my days just by calling or e-mailing, Eric was an amazing man and wanted to be the best he could be at everything he did. I will always love Eric he is now my hearts angel! Eric you will forever be penciled in....Love You!

Katie Pressley said...

For crying outside
The school is flooded
With tears, pain and heartaches
No one saw this coming
The school is nothing
But a grain of sand without
You Mr. Whiting
Don’t be sad but remember
All the good
Times we had together
And that he would like us all to be
Happy and be kind to one another
To not grieve and be sad
Remember he’s happy now!

Katie Pressley 6B Martins Creek School

Paul Wilson said...

Mr. Whiting (Eric) filled my place at Martins Creek School this year while I left to work on an MSA through Western. I didn't have the honor and privilege to know him as well as others who have posted, but my interactions with Eric are well inline with what I've read here. I worked as the language arts teacher at MCS for eight years and have come to care deeply for the students and faculty there. I felt confident entrusting my position to Eric. I was impressed with him from the first day he entered my classroom. He looked like he stepped out of a men's catalogue or GQ Magazine. His immaculate and professional attire made me look like a hobo. When I saw his stature, I joked, "I'm sure you won't have any problems with discipline." It was impossible to not like Eric. His warm smile and friendly eyes instantly won me over. Later, as we ate together in the cafeteria, we talked about our views on teaching. Eric told me that he believed in "being straight with kids" and doing everything in his power to help them grow in character as well as academically. I could see his conviction as he spoke. Eric quickly endeared himself to the middle school students at MCS through his charisma and sense of humor. I admire his courage in coming to an all-white, southern school to teach language arts, even though most of his experience was in social studies. He did a fine job and didn't shy away from challenges. He read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry with his sixth graders, a young adult novel that takes a hard look at the history of racism in the south. Eric and I were together probably a half dozen times and exchanged emails throughout his semester at MCS. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to him and encouraged him to seek a degree in administration. I gave him a CD-Rom to prep for the GRE test and was excited about the possibility of him becoming a principal. I have two nieces in the sixth grade at MCS and a nephew in the 8th grade. They are but three of many students who quickly came to love Mr. Whiting and will miss him greatly. He will not be forgotten by Martins Creek School. My heart goes out to his family, friends, and former students.

Angel D said...

I was shocked this morning when I received the call and I even tried to call Eric's cellphone hoping he would answer. I find it hard to believe that the person who was so confident, and knew who he was and what he was about, would leave the earth this way. I had the opportunity to work with Eric briefly at TMS but even after I left the school we continued to be friends. I remember one particular time I brought a camera to school and he dodged me every time he saw me coming, I still didn't get the picture! You will truly be missed and I hate that for years to come there are students that you won't be able to teach.

Corie Pressley said...

"It's a negative" that I don't miss you, because I do. And I wish I could "hustle" up to heaven to see you. The fact that your not coming back has made a big impact on my life. I'll never forget you Mr. Whiting.

Corie Pressley 6B Martins Creek School

Paul Wilson said...

A nice recent photo of Mr. Whiting can be found here: http://www.cherokee.k12.nc.us/education/district/district.php?sectionid=1

chase said...

My name is Chase and I was Student of Mr. Whiting's at Martins Creek.Mr Whiting was a Great Teacher. At first I was a little scared of him because of his size and all, but we soon realized he was not so bad. We may have disagreed a couple of times but he would always say "Boy what am I going to do with you." If I started slacking he made sure my Mom got me back on track. We only new him for a short time but his memory will last forever.
Chase Brown 6thA Martins Creek NC

CS said...

There isn't anything else that I can add to define Eric's character or personality than what has already been said. I enjoyed the time I worked with Eric at TMS, his smile was contagious, and it was hard to have a bad day around him. I will miss him greatly, and know that he lives on in my memory and in my heart. May God bless and comfort his mother, siblings, Vanessa, and all the friends he has left behind.

vanessa said...

Eric has such a huge heart. He loves so many and cares deeply for our students. I cannot imagine a life without him. My only condolence is that he may finally be at peace and be with his grandfather whom he has always spoke so highly of.

Barb N. said...

It is still more than I can fathom that Eric is gone. I've known Eric since he was a little boy. I watched him grow up to be a wonderful male role model for little boys everywhere, especially family and neighbors.
I hope his former students and his nieces and nephews will be better people because of the example he set for them. He was always the shining star of his entire family.
My prayers and thoughts go out to his Mom, brothers, sisters and extended families.
I'm sure Grandpa Lewis and Grandma Grace welcomed him with loving, open arms. It is hard to understand what pain he must have been going through. Only God knows what really happened.

nancy whiting said...

We have received your condolances and expressions of love for Eric. From all of his friends and family who knew and loved him,we find great comfort in them. Also to all of his students in N.Carolina who have sent cards,and flowers we say THANK YOU!!He touched so many people in his short life. We will miss him terribly,and have a BIG HOLE in our family that only time will heal. To those who really knew and loved him the Whiting family says "THANK YOU",and GOD BLESS.R.I.P.my son. mom

califoniaxhco said...

I was his student at tms. mr. whiting was really close to my family he called my dad and stepmom his nc parents.i miss him like crazyyy,he was so close to me. i thought so much of him i looked up to him.This christmas was really hard because he had told me at my halloween party he was comin back down. it really stinks when your so close to someone and you find out something like this has happend. i miss him, i knew that i could go and talk to him anytime i wanted, and when he moved to murphy he told me if i ever needed anything then i could just call him. its really hard kowing he is gone, but i just try to sit there and think about all the good times there were, and there was alot of them.RIP mr. whiting i love and miss you very much.

love forever and always,
Kendall

Anonymous said...

Eric was a wonderful person who had lots of personality. I am glad to have gotten to know him while attending Urbana University. I am sad to hear of his death, and may he now rest in peace.