Keith Garcia
Keith Garcia

DEPUE — The school and community of DePue is mourning the loss of a longtime teacher and mentor.

Dr. Keith Garcia passed away unexpectedly Thursday morning.

Garcia, who taught science at DePue School since 2008, was also head of the alumni club and a mentor to generations of students who passed through the halls of the school.

An outpouring of memories and support have flooded in for a man who dedicated so much to others in his community.

“I was very lucky to coach a lot of very good students/athletes. Keith Garcia was one of them,” Eric Bryant, DePue village president said.

“He became an excellent science teacher at DHS who loved his students and the town he lived in. It breaks my heart to witness his passing when he still had so much to give to his family and students in DePue.”

“Keith was the president of the DePue Alumni Foundation and served the organization well for the past five years. He was a teacher to generations of students, he mentored kids before school, after school, weekends, summers; you name it. If someone needed help, Keith was there to help. Keith developed a student mentoring program, he wanted more and expected the best from those that interacted with him. He led science students through real world experiences, often times exposing them to profound foundational concepts they carried through life,” friend and former DePue School colleague Anna McKee said.

“He was proud of the work he did and he loved DePue like no other person I’ve known. Keith was dedicated as the foundation president, he worked boat races, did fundraisers, collected donations and truly wanted to preserve the great qualities of growing up in a small town. I’m sure you will hear dozens of stories of the great work Keith did in his lifetime. I am truly grateful for the time I had with Keith as a colleague and as a friend. My deepest sympathies go out to the Garcia family and the DePue community.”

Coach Charles Klinefelter said, “Keith was by far one the greatest basketball players ever to come out of Bureau County. I can still remember the last and final Little 8 Conference tournament where his legend will forever be solidified. As the lane opened for me almost like Moses had just opened the Red Sea, I spotted Keith on the baseline and dished off to the “hero” Garcia who put up an up-and-under shot with, it seemed like, all the Ohio team clinging all over him. It still went in with just seconds to end the game, what a moment for the community, as well as DePue basketball. He was truly a great mentor, friend and even better human being.

“I cannot begin to emphasize the importance he was to our small town with helping all of his students to become better human beings and going above and behind to make DePue a much better place he will truly be missed.”

“Keith was my teacher and coach in high school. I’m sure I can speak for many people as to the impact he had on kids and the whole town of DePue. He loved DePue Schools and the town of DePue. He gave so much of himself to DePue and it’s people. He will be missed by so many people,” Pat Klimaszewski, former student said.

“Mr. Garcia was one of the only teachers that helped me through high school that understood my ADHD. He never let me fail a single test because he’d work with me every day after school till I understood the material. During class he’d make me move a desk next to his so I’d stay focus and so he could help me while he worked as well. If it wasn’t for him I don’t think I would have passed high school. I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher,” Elladee Louise Escobar, a former student, said.

“Such a wonderful man, husband, and father. An amazing coach, teacher and mentor to so many kids, including my son, when he played baseball at a young age. Even when I was starting up the 5K race again as director in 2011, he volunteered to help me so I wouldn’t be lost with all that goes into putting on a 5K race. He was someone I called friend. I also had the honor and privilege to coach alongside him when my son Michael and Gavin (Keith’s son) were playing baseball together. This is heartbreaking to all of us who knew him. We lost a community leader, an amazing educator of young minds, a wonderful coach, a mentor to so many and a great friend to all of DePue. Head of the science department at DePue High School, president of DePue Alumni Foundation, former high school basketball coach, and a heck of a player in his own right, track coach, youth baseball coach and continuing fighter for the environment and a cleanup of Lake DePue. His legacy will live on with the students and athletes he helped mentor his loss will be felt by the entire community. We lost one of our favorite sons and a great leader for DePue.” Michael E. Rodriguez, said.

“I taught alongside Keith at DePue Unit Schools for six years. Keith was a wonderful instructor, friend and colleague. He was someone who genuinely cared for students. I witnessed him on several occasions taking the extra steps necessary to help students meet with success. He helped his students learn with hands-on projects, one of which instructed the students to perform environmental testing and retrieval of important scientific data at Lake DePue. This project allowed the students to have their work and scientific data published and his students left his classroom as published authors in a scientific journal. He then championed them at a presentation of their project, data and paper at a special conference held at Illinois State University. I have watched some of those same students move on to medical school. I know that Keith was a contributor to that success. I also want to add that when I worked with him at DePue Unit Schools, I viewed Keith as both a respected colleague and a friend who I could count on at times when I sought both professional and personal advice. Keith Garcia was a committed professional, an amazing teacher, a coworker who genuinely cared for the people in his school and community, a trusted friend and a great man. His influential work, care, and wisdom still survive him. Thank you, Keith.” Diana Enbom, a fellow teacher who taught alongside Garcia at DePue, said.

Garcia is survived by his wife and children. Funeral arrangements are pending at this time.

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