Teacher Jeff Pierce remembered for his love
“Phedge” was his nickname, but the late Jeff Pierce was also commonly known as the epitome of love, humor and life itself.
Pierce died in his home on Friday, June 5, from an unexpected heart attack. He was 46 years old.
Though it was short, Pierce had a life filled with love flowing among those who came in contact with him. He helped build a strong marriage with Lisa, widely known as the love of his life.
Love first sparked for the couple during a Michigan summer camp icebreaker game.
“I sat on his lap, because that was part of the game. You had to make the other person laugh,” Lisa Pierce said.
While on his lap, Lisa had to make Jeff laugh. She said she told him she “loved his deep blue eyes.”
“He gave me this big smile,” she said. “We weren’t apart for much after that.”
Jeff and Lisa married in 1989 in Michigan and began their life of adventure.
Jeff served in the Army Reserves for six years and earned his mechanical and manufacturing engineering degrees. After working an engineering job in Texas out of college,he decided to change career paths.
“His job was so not personable,” Lisa said. “It wasn’t enough human interaction for him, and it just drove him insane.”
Lisa, now the principal of Elk Creek Elementary School in New Castle, was a teacher when Jeff was deciding to change careers and supported his decision.
“My parents were both teachers, and I know what that lifestyle was like and how much time you get together,” Lisa said.
Their careers seemed to help fuel their love, as they were able to see each other more often. Jeff was a teacher for 17 years and inspired many people during that time.
Christian Hiller, 13, said he had Jeff for a seventh-grade teacher this year.
“He was always joyful,” Christian said. “He was never down.”
In the classroom, Christian said Jeff viewed students’ opinions “as equal as his when it came to anything.”
Christian’s favorite memory involved Jeff and his petite, furry pug dog. Christian said Jeff would slide the dog down the tile floors at school.
“It was the funniest thing in the world,” Christian said.
Brenna Hinkley, now 11, had Jeff as a second-grade teacher.
“One of my favorite memories of him was he shoved a whole cupcake in his mouth at school,” Brenna said.
Brenna said she sometimes had sleepovers with Jeff’s daughter Emma. She said he always made the best s’mores and mac and cheese for the evening.
Bobby Layman also had good food memories with Jeff. He frequented KFC with Jeff after class and tutoring sessions.
“We’d eat a whole bunch,” Layman said.
Layman was in a ski crash about 11 years ago. After being in a coma for four months and in the hospital for six, he credits Jeff for helping him with his speech and finishing school, including getting a college degree.
Layman, who now instructs skiing at the same place he crashed years ago and serves as a substitute teacher, was inspired by Jeff to teach.
“That’s all possible because of Jeff,” Layman said.
Stephen Smith was fortunate to know Jeff for most of his life. The two met in eighth grade due to a love for motorcycles.
Smith said they were opposites and always tried to “one-up” each other, but neither ever doubted their friendship.
“I was more the emotional one that did really stupid stuff, and he was the more logical one,” Smith said.
Jeff and Smith lived apart most of their friendship, but always made the effort to see each other on vacations.
“The biggest thing he taught me is that you either choose to love somebody, or you don’t,” Smith said. “I just want to tell him I love him.”
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