A legacy leaves us…

Get a Mr. Webster memorial bookmark…

garyOur wonderful Mr. Webster, dear brother and uncle peacefully succumbed to his valiant battle with metastatic melanoma at approximately 4:35 a.m. on Friday, October 24, 2014.

Many of you did not know — which was how Gary wanted it — that he had been battling cancer, as well as Parkinson’s disease, for the past year. He never wanted the fuss and attention that came with that type of news and simply wanted to keep doing what he loved, without disruption, for the students to whom he was so dedicated. He was receiving care with some of the most recently approved cancer treatments at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. We had great hopes for extending Gary’s time with us, and we did everything we could to give him a chance to beat this horrible disease, but it was not to be.

Our family is so grateful for the unbelievable outpouring of love and admiration for Gary. During his short time at hospice, we read to him the many letters we received there, as well as the comments left on this site. He heard your words and knew that he was surrounded by your love and appreciation.

As so many of you have told us, Gary was a Valparaiso rock star and a Valparaiso institution. We know his impact will be felt for generations of students to come.

Please continue to leave your comments about dear Mr. Webster on this website.  We will cherish each and every one.

Memorial services are pending and will be announced when they are available.

27 thoughts on “A legacy leaves us…”

  1. Mr. Webster was my 4th grade teacher. I would like to think we had one of those special student-teacher relationships where the teacher also served as a mentor, a leader and an inspiration for that one student. The truth of the matter was that I was just one of hundreds of students who felt that rare connection with Mr. Webster.

    Through our shared love of sports, Mr. Webster was able to connect with me on a very personal level. He used that as a building block to impart a lot if greater life lessons that would have otherwise fallen on deaf ears. He knew that while sports were all I cared about, they would only take me so far in life. He emphasized, much like my parents, the importance of being a well-rounded person.

    My dad would always coach a little league team when I was growing up. I was such a fan of Mr. Webster that I begged my dad to ask him to help coach the team. The next day, Mr. Webster was there throwing batting practice. He would help coach the team the next two years, as well. I never saw a coach so proud and pleased with a group of kids he had no familial connection to. He just wanted to share his love of sports and watch kids grow up to love sports as much as him.

    I lost touch with Mr. Webster as I got older. But I remember him coming to the BF vs. TJ game in 8th grade and saying hi to me after the game. I remember seeing him in the stands at my football and basketball games in high school. He would always be sure to say hi to my dad. I never told him thank you or how much it meant to me.

    Thank you, Mr. Webster!

    Seth Hancock

  2. Dear Mr. Webster,

    I am a student a cooks corners and have been for 6 years. and im saying this to the great Mr.Webster. Even if i did not have you you were still the best. I have many memories of you. You Are still awesome.

  3. Gary was my classmate in grade school (Fieler) and Merrillville Jr. High and High School (Class of 1970). I knew Gary to be quiet, reserved, intelligent and much more mature and responsible than the rest of us. He was always polite and had a wonderful, warm and genuine smile. Although we have lived in Valparaiso for 28 years my children never had the pleasure of having Gary as their teacher. I am not surprised by the positive comments left by Gary’s students. I would have expected him to be outstanding and very caring. I am very saddened by the news of his passing. His family is in my thoughts and prayers.

  4. You didn’t have to have him as a teacher to know how much he cared and helped people. I’m thankful I went to Cook’s Corners, especially since I became a teacher. What a great bunch of teachers.

  5. My thoughts and prayers go out to Mr.Webster and his family!! He was a wonderful caring man! When I was in the fifth grade I was in a very bad car accident and broke my leg. I could not get down the stairs to art or music class and he carried me up and down the stairs every class!!! He will be greatly missed <3

  6. I also had Mr. Webster at Hayes Leonard in the 1970’s. He was a fun and fair teacher. Camp Tecumseh comes to my mind….fun times. Sorry to hear of this news.

  7. While it’s very sad to know that future students won’t have the privilege of spending a school year with Mr. Webster, I hope this site will help his family find some peace knowing that he was a teacher who left his students with such fond memories. As one of those students from his time at Hayes Leonard, hearing of his passing brought those memories to the forefront of my thoughts. Morning basketball was always fun, and now that I’m older I realize that it was a sneaky, yet clever way to make us tired so we wouldn’t go crazy in class. Well played, Mr. Webster. Also, around Christmas time I still find myself whistling the tune to “The Hat I Got for Christmas is Too Big,” and “Must Be Santa Claus.”

    Thank you, Mr. Webster, for bringing such genuine enthusiasm to our school. You will be missed, but always remembered.

  8. Dear Mr. Webster,
    You were one of the best teachers anyone could ask for. You helped us on homework when we were confused, you made field trips as fun as they could get, you were so fun that I can’t even tell you how much, you didn’t give a lot of homework which every kid dreams of, you spent your money on us to buy us smacked for the end if the day like animal crackers and pretzels, you didn’t have to do that because most teachers didn’t but we could all tell that you cared so much for us, you made class fun like doing projects and letting us play games, and many more. When I found out about Mr. Webster when I woke up this morning I was so sad and shocked at the same time because you were teaching about a week ago, and you faught through cancer for your family, friends, and students which is so amazing because most people aren’t strong enough but each and every person could tell that you were the strongest of all. Today after I heard the news I asked my mom if we could go to the school to drop of some things. What I dropped off at the school for you was a teddy bear with a tie around it because we all know that you have so many ties so I thought that I would just add one more to your collection, also Hope Weber, Kate Weber, and a young boy named Cayden Steighner who is in your class got a pumpkin and we all wrote what we liked best about you aand we put it by the cooks corners sign. You will always be in our prayers

  9. Dear Mr. Webster,
    You were one of the best teachers anyone could ask for. You helped us on homework when we were confused, you made field trips as fun as they could get, you were so fun that I can’t even tell you how much, you didn’t give a lot of homework which every kid dreams of, you spent your money on us to buy us smacked for the end if the day like animal crackers and pretzels, you didn’t have to do that because most teachers didn’t but we could all tell that you cared so much for us, you made class fun like doing projects and letting us play games, and many more. When I found out about Mr. Webster when I woke up this morning I was so sad and shocked at the same time because you were teaching about a week ago, and you faught through cancer for your family, friends, and students which is so amazing because most people aren’t strong enough but each and every person could tell that you were the strongest of all. Today after I heard the news I asked my mom if we could go to the school to drop of some things. What I dropped off at the school for you was a teddy bear with a tie around it because we all know that you have so many ties so I thought that I would just add one more to your collection, also Hope Weber, Kate Weber, and a young boy named Cayden Steighner who is in your class got a pumpkin and we all wrote what we liked best about you aand we put it by the cooks corners sign. You will always be in our prayers

  10. Wow! Mr. Webster… to hear his name alone opens up the flood gates of so many amazing memories for me. For a 9 year old girl getting thrown back into public school and somehow getting blessed with being put into his class was sure amazing. My 5th grade year back then was filled with so many great lessons thanks to Mr. Webster. The biggest thing I can remember is “Taking care of business” this was the theme song of our year and in some way of my life from time to time. This world has lost a very special man and a teacher who really cared about each student and helping them see the good in themselves. However, heaven has gained an amazing angel and we all now have someone upstairs to help keep us safe. My thoughts and prayers go out to his friends and family. God Bless you and may he hold you tight in your time of sorrow.

  11. Kellie Carmichael

    My heart hurts over this loss. Gary was not only my 6th grade teacher at Hayes Leonard but also my intramural coach for basketball and soccer, rainy day recess “dance instructor”, mentor, challenger and friend. He also instructed my 3 children at Cooks Corner Elementary.

    I maintained a connection with Mr Webster long after leaving elementary school; often visiting after school to help grade papers or play some b-ball with him and his friends.

    Gary was truly my favorite teacher, not because he was easy but because he challenged me – in the classroom, on the court and in life in general. He encouraged me to think about my future when I was young enough for it to make a huge difference in the paths I chose.

    I will remember forever this teacher, this mentor, this friend.

    Rest in Peace my friend.

  12. The Valparaiso community has lost an outstanding educator and all-around great person. Gary Webster was the favorite teacher of both my daughters and probably hundreds of other students. I am so saddened by this loss.

  13. All children have a favorite teacher. But my favorite teacher wasn’t even technically my teacher. In fifth grade I would have done anything to be in Mr. Webster’s class. Instead I was in the the other section. But with Mr. Webster that didn’t matter. He still joined us on the playground everyday, gave us nicknames, and knew all our favorite things. He never talked down to us, and he always made us feel special.

    Two years ago my oldest daughter decided to switch to Cooks. On a tour of the building, we ran into Mr. Webster. I hadn’t seen him in over 25 years, and I’m sure I look very different from my 10 year old self. But to Mr. Webster, again, that didn’t matter. He knew exactly who I was. He remembered my family. He still made me feel special.

    Today I am a teacher too, and I hope that I can instill just a fraction of the goodness that Gary Webster did into the world. I was one of the lucky ones. I got to know Mr. Webster. And I will forever be better off for his jokes, for his time, and for his love. I’m sure I’ll see you again Mr. Webster. And I expect to see you running up the slide, jumping off the swing, and organizing 50’s concerts with all the energy and charisma that you had in the 80s. I expect we’ll recognize each other instantly. And this time I will give you a big hug and tell you thanks.

  14. I was thinking this morning about how Mr. Webster would extend afternoon recess. When the bell rang we would all look at him on the basketball court and he would either hold up 5 or 10 fingers to let us know how many extra minutes we had. You don’t find many teachers like him. I saw him a few years ago and I said “Hi Mr. Webster”! He said I could call him Gary now…. but I didn’t feel comfortable with that lol. RIP

  15. I had Mr. Webster for 5th grade 25 years ago at Hayes Leonard Elementary School. He has remained one of my favorite teachers to this day. My heart sank when I read he is gone. I think of him whenever I get certain songs from the 60s in my head, Do Wah Diddy Diddy in particular, whenever I have to give a high five and whenever I see a man teaching elementary school. He was really something special. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss, as well as the loss to Cook’s Corner and the Valparaiso teaching community.

  16. Mr. Webster……probably the only teacher Liam really loved and ever listened to! and always was Hannah’s ‘favorite’…..
    We , as their parents, are proud to have had this man make an impact on our childrens’ lives…… his discipline, his dedication and his positive outlook on all aspects of life were apparant in everything Mr. Webster said and did. We ALL remember those things he taught us, and there fore we will ensure that his life lessons will go on in our own lives and hopefully with others we touch.
    God bless you, Mr. Webster, and your family-thank you for sharing him with our community, we are all the better for it. He will be sorely missed….
    The Shepherd Family

  17. Me.Webester was the best teacher in the whole wide world.He knew just what to say when you were down.It feels like just yesterday he went to my baseball tournament and that met the world to me. He did what he loved and that was teaching. He will be dearly missed. He is in a better place now and is looking down on us smiling.

  18. My Godfather & Uncle, a Friend to many, a Teacher to all…

    The world is clearly a better place because of Gary Webster and his legacy will live on forever. The outpouring of love and support from past students and parents is truly remarkable. I’m honored and humbled to call him my Uncle Gary.

    Until we meet again…

  19. It does not surprise me at all that Mr. Webster didn’t want the attention that comes with being sick over the past year. I love that people have described him as a Valpo “Rock Star.” That is what he was to thousands of kids who were so scared, unsure of who they were, trying to figure out the world at such a young, impressionable age. I’m so glad I left a message on this site last night to tell him what he meant to me. I hope he heard the words from everyone who loved him. It’s really telling the kind of person someone is when someone touched your life so much that even though you haven’t seen them in 25 years, hearing of their passing leaves you weeping. That is me this morning. Weeping for the loss of a man who was special to me as a kid in so many ways but now as an adult, I reflect on his dedication to his students as a truly selfless, amazing quality that is all too rare in this world. Godspeed, Mr. Webster. I bet you were called to Heaven to comfort all the little children who are there far too soon.

  20. Mr. Webster was one of the first teachers I really connected with. There weren’t a lot of male elementary school teachers to begin with, and Mr. Webster’s love for sports mirrored my own. I remember crying on the rare occasion when I was not allowed to go to after school sports. Just a fantastic man whose passion and caring for students was evident in every smile and action.

  21. I am so saddened to see this. He was my favorite teacher growing up, and one of my heroes. I remember 1993/1994 so well. I was a fifth grader at Hayes Leonard Elementary and relatively new to the Valparaiso area. I was scared to start school as a new kid. I remember being so excited when I got Mr Webster as a teacher. He was a legend at that school. I immediately started going to morning basketball at then gym where we played boys vs girls (and Mr Webster) often helped us defeat the boys, as well as got highly involved in after school sports… Much thanks to the organization and encouragement of Mr Webster. This inspired a future athletic career that paid for my college education. He was special in the classroom too. He always made his students feel so good… There was a pride to learn and really engage in the community in his classroom. From soc hop concerts to Christmas parties, we were always singing and dancing, meanwhile challenged to excel scholastically. Even though the school year ended I never forgot about how special he was. Im so grateful for his life as he has changed the woman I am today. I pray for his family during this time of loss, but give thanks for sharing his gifts with so many. You could tell he loved what he did, and lived his true calling.

  22. Gary was simply the Best. He was the best brother, the best friend, the best teacher and how I got to know him …. The BEST man in my wedding.

    You are loved by so many and we are lucky to have been loved by you

    See you again Dear friend.

    Always in our hearts

  23. So very sorry to hear of Mr. Webster’s passing. He was my 6th grade math teacher at Hayes Leonard and morning basketball champ! Having been a teacher myself for 24 years, I look back and see how dedicated he was to his students and the community! May he forever rest in peace…

  24. I will always remember Mr Webster as one of my favorite teachers, always quick with a joke and a smile but also firm and fair when he needed to be. Valpo has certainly lost one of the finest educators its ever seen. Rest in peace.

  25. Mr. Webster was my 6th grade teacher at Hayes Leonard in the early 70’s. We thought he was so cool and hip. He would actually be outside with us at recess playing basketball and so involved with us!! What a great teacher and what a contribution he made to doany students.

  26. It was my privilege to work with Gary for twelve years at Cooks Corners. We shared many laughs and memories. Some memories that I have of Gary include his singing and unbelievable knowledge of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and Greek mythology which mesmerized not only the students, but staff as well.

    Gary’s definite love of basketball was evident and contagious which he exhibited during after-school sports. He could hit a shot from almost anywhere on that court!

    Our many field trips hiking up the dunes and enjoying the campfires at good ole Camp Tecumseh with Gary leading the way up the hills and starting the songs showed his never-ending energy.

    Gary’s caring manner and understanding that teaching a child involves so much more than what can be found in the books…it comes from the heart. He made such a positive impact on so many lives, including mine, he will be missed.

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