Michael O'Hern with former student Rob Thomas.

Michael O’Hern with former student Rob Thomas.

Michael O’Hern, retired choir director at Lake Highlands High School, died early Saturday of a massive heart attack. O’Hern had been treated for a brain tumor in 2008 and had grappled with other health issues in recent months.

As former students and colleagues, now living and working all over the U.S., learned the news of O’Hern’s passing on social media, they have shared messages and remembrances of the teacher they loved, recognizing the lasting impact he had on their life.

“From all district elementary choir to Espree,” wrote Lindsey Zachry Bourland, “to becoming a music teacher in the district I grew up in, I owe so much to my music educators and especially to this man who showed me what hard work and dedication to the arts can do for your life. You will be so missed Micael O’Hern. Thank you for helping mold the musician and educator I am today.”

“The amazing memories have been flooding back,” wrote Sadie Miller, “LHJH choir, Limited Edition, LHHS choir, Espree, musicals, ski trip, Disney World, and so much more. He was my teacher and mentor for 6 years. He always knew what I was capable of and pushed me beyond my comfort zone. He made me a better student and a better musician (if I can call myself that). He was strict when necessary, but he was a motivator and an encourager above all else. I miss you MOH. Rest well.”

“Cannot believe that my beloved choir director has passed on to conduct the heavenly choir of angels,” posted Julie Cutts Ezrre. “There are very few people that have influenced my life more than this man. He was there for me with compassion, love, understanding and guidance during a very turbulent time. Always encouraging and believing in me and my musical ability, but most of all being there with a compassionate and generous heart, giving freely to all of his ‘kids.’ May you rest in peace and enjoy the boundless beauty of heaven, always looking over us and smiling.”

“No other educator had more impact on my life than Michael O’Hern,” wrote Ross McClendon. “The scores of students who have been able to say that over the years, myself included, are a clear testimony to the incredible investment MOH made in students’ lives. ‘To whom much is given, much is expected’ was a regular admonition he made often to me through the years at Lake Highlands. Thanks, MOH, for how you poured yourself into us – how much we were given. We are sad that you are gone from us, but the part of you that lives on in the lives you touched makes this world a much brighter place.”

Dr. Bob Iden, who retired as LHHS principal in 2008, recalled his friend and coworker.

“We call him ‘Mighty MOH’ because of the indelible manner in which he influenced the culture of LHHS and the Lake Highlands community, but even more for the huge heart he possessed that enabled all students – regardless of race, gender, economic status or learning difference – to access the choral music program, and because of the incredibly profound influence he imparted to thousands of students who are now changing the world for good as a result of their relationship with him. To one of the finest music educators, kind and loving human beings who was a friend and mentor to all who knew him, we raise our voices with all the Angels, Saints and company of Heaven and sing ‘The Lord bless you and keep you.’ We will miss you ‘Mighty Mo’ – farewell friend!”

When he retired in 2013, former students gathered to gush about what O’Hern meant to them. You can read that article here and see photos from a reception in his honor here. Plans for a funeral or memorial service have not yet been announced.

Michael O'Hern with Espree. Photo courtesy of Sadie Miller.

Michael O’Hern with Espree. Photo courtesy of Sadie Miller.

Michael O'Hern directs the LHHS choir in the new LHHS foyer, 2007.

Michael O’Hern directs the LHHS choir Christmas caroling in the new LHHS foyer, 2007.