John L. “Jack” Hart, a longtime Toledo educator who served as principal of DeVeaux school and was a staunch supporter of athletics at the University of Toledo, his alma mater, died Thursday at Hospice of Northwest Ohio in Toledo after a long bout with melanoma.
Mr. Hart, 85, retired in 1990 from DeVeaux Junior High.
His career began in 1950 at Jerusalem elementary in Oregon. A year later he taught at Toledo Public Schools’ Walbridge elementary, becoming assistant principal in 1956.
He later served at Chase, Navarre, and Fulton elementaries, and finally DeVeaux in 1970.
His focus foremost was on the children.
He believed in positive reinforcement and told his charges that “If you believe, you will achieve,” because simple statements, he explained, “give [students] something to hang their hats on.”
Mr. Hart and his wife, Sophie, organized annual spring trips to Washington for students who signed contracts at the start of each school year agreeing to good behavior, attendance, and grades as a condition for going.
Mrs. Hart said the trips involved up to 100 eighth-graders, along with their parents and teachers as chaperones.
Despite seeing the same monuments and significant sites year after year, Mrs. Hart said, “We were never bored. Jack always loved history, and so did I.”
Mrs. Hart, a registered nurse, was an integral part of the whirlwind trips.
“One year I was in charge of it because he was ill,” she recalled. “We had five buses full.”
Mr. Hart explained his motivation in a 1983 interview.
“I owe it to the kids,” he said. “Each year we ask them to make our school the best, and this is my way of saying thank you.”
His leadership skills were employed outside the school.
His son, Jack, Jr., recalled his father organizing “Teen Town” dances at Highland Park under the auspices of the city’s parks and recreation department.
He was a weekend deejay with a mobile sound truck between 1954 and 1967, drawing hundred of young people to the South Toledo park.
He and Sophie were avid dancers and was “still cutting the rug” at age 80, his son said. “Legend has it that that is how he got my mother.”
Mr. Hart and the former Sophie Harbol were married in 1958.
Mr. Hart was an avid tennis player, singles and team, and competed in city, district, and state events, his son said.
He enjoyed fishing on Lake Erie, at one time landing a walleye large enough to mount, said Jack, Jr.
He graduated from DeVilbiss High School in 1945 and enrolled in the University of Toledo. He was drafted in the Army, serving in the medical corps as an X-ray technician.
He returned to Toledo and earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1950 and a master’s in administration in 1953.
He remained close to his alma mater and its support organizations as a 25-year member of the UT Alumni Association and the Downtown Coaches Association, for which he served as president in 1996-97.
He was longtime volunteer and chairman of 50/50 ticket sales for all UT football and basketball games.
He was a member of the UT men’s and women’s basketball fan clubs.
Mr. Hart was born on Oct. 15, 1927, in Toledo to Leona and John P. Hart. His parents died when he was 8, and he was raised by his aunt Helen Hart-Young.
Mr. Hart is survived by his wife, Sophie; son John; daughter Sherry Hart, and one granddaughter.
A celebration of his life will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Patrick of Heatherdowns Catholic Church.
Newcomer Funeral Home handled the arrangements.
Memorials are suggested to the University of Toledo Rocket Fund or the DeVeaux Elementary School’s library resources fund.
Contact Jim Sielicki at: email@example.com or 419-724-6050.
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