Aurora's DeMay found his passion as physical education teacher, wrestling coach

by MIKE LESKO | REPORTER Published:

Editor's note: This is the third and final part of a series about retiring longtime Aurora school district staffers.

Aurora -- In the final moments of Mike DeMay's last day as an Aurora physical education teacher, Leighton School staff members lined up on the sidewalk and sang, "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow."

"It was kind of bittersweet," he said. "There will be a new physical education teacher in the fall who is young, just like I was when I started. But I've enjoyed every second of my career. I haven't had a bad moment."

DeMay taught physical education for 35 years at Miller, Craddock, Leighton and Harmon schools, plus Aurora High. He spent the last 13 years at Leighton. This past school year, he taught grades 3 to 5 at Leighton and grade 9 at the high school.

"I enjoyed making the students feel positive about themselves and seeing them learn, especially at the elementary level," he said. "You see their joy. They just keep doing it over and over because they know they can do it."

For 34 years, DeMay also was a wrestling coach. He started out as an assistant at the high school under the legendary Dick Bliss, but spent most of his years as an assistant at Harmon under head coaches Ron Hegedish and Paul Frankmann. DeMay also coached high school baseball and middle school football.

There are so many aspects of school that DeMay will miss. It includes the students and their excitement, along with the camaraderie with the cafeteria staff.

"Aurora schools are special," he said. "It's a great place to be connected."

DeMay got his start as an educator when he attended Lakeland Community College to play baseball. He took a course called Introduction to Physical Education, and the instructor was Don Delaney, the school's head basketball coach and, improbably, a future coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"Don is probably the one who pushed me in that direction," DeMay said. "Don said to me, 'You ought to consider being a physical education teacher. You like sports, and you like working with kids.'"

DeMay later transferred to Kent State University and pursued his dream.

He also praised Aurora's Dave Toothaker, an instructor at Kent State "who showed me how to keep the passion for teaching after I got the job. He kept me focused on teaching."

DeMay and wife, Sue, have three grown children -- Jim and Kate in Charlotte, N.C.; and Aurora's Kelly Novotny, who married Quinn Novotny, one of Mike's former students.

DeMay leaves behind plenty of fond memories.

"There have been a lot of good teachers, principals and superintendents in Aurora -- and a lot of good students," he said.

Patricia Beck - 20 years

Patricia Beck also retired at the end of this school year after 20 years as a secretary in the transportation department.

"I started out as a substitute secretary," she said. "The [full-time] secretary fell ill, and they asked me if I'd take her place for three days. I said 'yes,' and I've been here for 20 years."

Beck stressed that "nothing bad [healthwise] happened to [the previous secretary], but she just didn't come back."

The job allowed Beck to follow the youngsters through grades K to 12. "I've kept in contact with a few students," she said. "The drivers are always pleasant. They made my day easy.

"It's a good place to work," she added. "[The officials in the school district] were nice to us and treated us well. It got kind of hectic during the busy athletic seasons, but I enjoyed my job."

Beck said she will miss her co-workers the most. "I made a lot of friendships over the years," she said.

Beck and her husband, Al, have two grown children -- son Ryan, who lives in Medina, and daughter Kelly Mascia, who resides in Thornwood, N.Y. -- and four grandchildren.

Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187

Facebook: facebook.com/mike.lesko.378

Twitter: Mike Lesko@MikeLesko_RPC

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