Jonathan Herath, the 37-year-old music teacher and band director who secured $40,000 in instruments for the Carpentersville school in which he worked, died earlier this month after battling an unknown infection, a school official said.
Previous cancer treatments as well as end-stage kidney disease compounded Herath's illness, said Asia Gurney, principal of Lakewood School.
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Herath survived cancer 10 years ago and had been trying to work as much as he could this year. He died March 8.
"He had remained hopeful over the past few months while he was on the waiting list for a kidney transplant," Superintendent Michael Bregy said in a statement.
Herath, a Lake in the Hills resident, taught at Lakewood seven years and current students, as well as those who have gone onto Carpentersville Middle School and Dundee-Crown High School, still talk about him to this day, Gurney said.
"He was just very dedicated, he was very dedicated to his family and his friends and just well loved," Gurney said. "The staff here are just heartbroken. And the students."
Silverio Benitez, a sixth-grader at Lakewood, said that besides motivating him to play the clarinet, Herath was like a brother he often turned to when he was having his own problems.
For example, when kids at school teased Benitez about his clothes, he told Herath about it.
"He said, 'Just don't listen to them, they're just trying to make you sad,' and I just didn't listen to them," said Benitez, who penned an emotional letter about Herath after he died.
Herath knew how to give back in other ways. In 2012, he secured a $40,000 grant from the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation for new school instruments. Outside of that, Herath spent hours before and after school fixing instruments for his students, helping them practice and encouraging them to not only work hard in band, but in all of their subjects, Gurney said.
Herath also was a guest speaker at a "Man in Demand" and "Dare to be Rare," a pair of school programs that teach kids about making good choices, showing respect and being good citizens.
Moreover, after realizing kids needed a place to study and do homework, Herath founded an after-school program to help them do just that.
Community District 300 officials held a moment of silence for Herath at last week's school board meeting. The district also offered counseling services for staff and students, district Spokeswoman Allison Strupeck said.
Herath's survivors include his wife, Holly Schupple; children Theodore, 3, and Ivy, 9 months; his parents, William and Patricia; and his sister, Anna Hoenig.
Services were held Saturday.