John Girard (left) with his final class at Marion Cross, the fifth grade in 2011-2.

John Girard, beloved teacher and coach, dies at 79

Submitted 4 months ago
Created by
Mark Travis

John Girard, who taught at the Marion Cross School for 46 years, coached legions of youth baseball players, and remained a daily presence at the school long after his retirement, died Sunday evening at the age of 79.

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Girard was riding on his regular bicycle route and returning to Norwich from Thetford on Saturday when he was stricken along Route 5. Bill Hammond, the principal at Marion Cross, said it's unclear exactly what happened; Girard may have had a blood clot in his brain, leading to a fall, or the opposite.

A memorial service has been scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 25, at 10:30 at St. Denis Catholic Church in Hanover. The family plans a reception to follow on the baseball diamond at Huntley Meadows, where Girard coached. The gathering begins at 1 and is scheduled to go until 4.

Girard's death will be felt acutely throughout Norwich, but especially at Marion Cross, where he taught math and science. Retirement could not keep him away.

"He's been helping with the kids at the buses, saying goodbye, for the last six years," Hammond said.

There's really no need for a new memorial to Girard at the school, which is perhaps the greatest testament there could be to his contributions. The entrance to the school is Girard Way, and the gym is already named in his honor. He was also a former Norwich Citizen of the Year.

"I tell you," said Hammond, "this was the most humble man you could meet."

Beyond that, I won't presume to say more about Mr. Girard, but will leave that to members of the community who knew him best and appreciated him most. The comment section is yours. I hope you'll use it.

Here's the letter Bill Hammond sent to Marion Cross staff and retired staff today:

Dear Everyone,

It breaks my heart to let you know that John Girard passed away on Sunday evening. John, as most of you know, was a stalwart here at Marion Cross School, teaching math and science (and PE) here for 46 years. For the following six years—through June 18th—he volunteered for bus duty at the end of each school day where he and I would say goodbye to the students together.

Not to mention all the coaching and referee work he did through Norwich Rec and beyond.

He was a good man, a humble man, and a generously helpful man. I will miss him daily.

I've heard from his children that a service will be held at St. Denis Catholic Church in Hanover at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, August 25th, followed by a reception at Huntley Meadows (rain location: the John F. Girard Gym at MCS). All are welcome.

If you'd like to send a note to the family, you may send one to his wife, Cathy (and his children John and Lauren and Mike and Linsey), at PO Box 57; Norwich, VT 05055.

Take care.


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