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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

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Two music teachers who are considered local legends at Eastwood Schools, Lawrence J. McCormic and Mark Deerwester, or “Mr. Mac” and “Mr. D”, are being inducted into the district’s Eagle Way Hall of Fame.

Both were nominated by James Opelt, a former Pemberville mayor and currently a village councilman, who also has a long history as a theater instructor and music teacher and is an Eastwood graduate. Both are being inducted posthumously.

Opelt says the two are credited for co-writing the Eastwood High School Alma Mater and Fight Song. Eastwood’s Fight Song, unlike most other schools, is uniquely written and not a copy-cat of the Ohio State, University of Michigan, Notre Dame, or any other well-known fight song.

Commissioned by the Class of 1966, the Swingin’ Ez and a selected group of band members presented the Fight Song before a student body assembly on Friday, May 20, 1966 to a grateful and appreciative audience.

“There is not a week that goes by that somewhere Eastwood students and community are cheering on a team with the fight song or standing with pride for the Eastwood Alma Mater. What more could a man from Hoytville, Ohio (McCormic) do for a school and community?” Opelt wrote.

According to Opelt, McCormic exhibited a gift of music at an early age when he sat down at the piano one day and played something he had heard at the neighbor’s house. His first instrument was an accordion.

He graduated from Jackson Township High School where he was drum major and then played tuba when the band was able to purchased one. He graduated from Manchester College in Indiana with a major in music. While at Manchester College he played bass violin among many other instruments. His first teaching job was at Tontogany High School which later became Otsego High School after consolidation. He became Otsego High School first band director.

He decided to take a year off from Otsego to complete his Masters at Ball State University.

“Once his degree was completed, he decided not to return to Otsego, which became their loss, and instead accepted the position of band director at Eastwood High School, which became Eastwood’s gain,” Opelt wrote.

During his 22-year tenure at Eastwood, Mr. Mac, as he was affectingly called, would build the marching band to 200 strong, the largest in school history, and also be one of the most traveled bands in the area. The band performed in every part of Ohio, along with Indiana, Michigan, New York City and Washington, D.C. At one time one out of every three high school students was in band.

Opelt says Mr. Mac did this all on his own, never having a full-time assistant and packing students in the same music room that is used today.

The band turned down dozens of invitations every year. Even though the band only took off the month of July, cities, festivals, fairs and celebrations wanted the Eastwood band to be part of their event.

“The Eastwood band displayed a sense of excellence where ever they went and for that they were in demand. And if trophies were given out to bands, Eastwood never came home without a top prize,” stated Opelt.

One such parade in 1969 was the Homecoming Parade for Astronaut Neil Armstrong on when he returned from the moon. Only three high school bands from Ohio were invited to the parade. Eastwood was one of them. Opelt notes that there were over 1,400 high schools in Ohio at the time.

The parade included Bob and Dolores Hope, Dr. Albert Sabian, who invented the polio vaccine and Johnny Carson’s sidekick, Ed McMahon. The Eastwood Band marched behind McMahon and he commented that the band was one of the most talented high school bands he had ever heard. The band performed for a crowd of over 80,000 that day. The Eastwood Band is the only high school band from that day to be featured on the Ohio History Connection website page. The Eastwood Band made history again.

Mr. Mac would spend most of the month of July in Portland, Oregon at his brother’s. There he would reenergize, plan for the next year and study the new trends in high school bands. His goal was to always keep the Eastwood Band the best and far superior than any other.

One high school band in the area that attempted to live up to Eastwood was Anthony Wayne. It was said in an editorial in 1988 that “Mr. Mac and the band were the greatest when the competition was the greatest. Many would argue that he was never defeated by another band.”

Opelt said that if the AW Generals marched side to side, Eastwood marched side to side, if the Generals marched backwards, the Eagles marched backwards, if the Generals came prancing onto the field, the Eastwood band pranced even higher. It became a joke with band students that the fourth show of the season was the Anthony Wayne show.

“It was always clear even with the Anthony Wayne community who won the band show — Eastwood,” said Opelt.

Opelt calls McCormick an innovator. He started the summer uniform for high school bands while every other band was still marching in their winter wool uniforms. He started the first flag crop and introduced the first Eagle mascot to the school, hatching it from a large papier-mâché egg during a halftime show.

Opelt says band students looked forward to band camp every year. During the week, the band would perfect a pre-game show, three halftime shows and be introduced to the fourth show.

“It was a week of hard work, fun and memories,” Opelt said. “Mr. Mac was always coming up with new ideas.”

One halftime show was a tribute to the moon landing. Every band member wore a penlight on their shoulder lapel. At a given time in the show, the entire lights of the stadium were turned off as band members turned on their penlights.

“The crowd went wild,” Opelt said. “However, no one took into consideration that the stadium lights at that time had a delay on them and it took several minutes for them to return to full. Eastwood (football) was charged a penalty for ‘delay of game’. Mr. Mac felt so bad and apologized to the coaches on Monday. But that night Eastwood still won for best band show and the game.

“Mr. Mac was very supportive of the athletic teams. He required that every band member was in the stands a full three quarters in full uniform. It also was not uncommon for the band to stand outside the locker room after the game and play the fight song for the team. He would do the same for the basketball teams during pep band season. He was a team player.”

In additional to the marching band, Mr. Mac would also direct the stage band (at one time both an all-male and all-female stage bands), symphonic band, concert band, numerous concerts, contest solos and ensembles and orchestra pit bands. Mr. Mac was always the pianist for the musicals.

McCormic was born on May 5, 1934 at his grandmother’s house in Hoytville. His parents were Ruth Dennis and Jake McCormic. He had an older brother, Richard Eugene McCormic. Larry, as most called him, died on February 21, 1988 in Florida. His two step-brothers are also deceased. Today he is survived by only nieces, nephews and a cousin.


Mark Deerwester
The Deerwesters’ lives began in McComb — Mark on the Leipsic side and Mark’s wife, Beverly, on the Findlay side. Coincidentally, Bev’s dad dated Mark’s mom briefly in high school. She married and ended up on the Leipsic side and Bev’s dad married a school teacher and lived on the Findlay side.

For the two, elementary school years were uneventful and high school years were full of the normal high school activities: band, choir, sports, yearbook, 4-H, and other high school activities.

Mark and Bev started dating their senior year and graduated from McComb High School in 1957. Summers for Mark were spent working at Eastman Kodak, Libby McNeil and Libby, and working on the family farm, which wasn’t his favorite activity. Both Mark and Bev first chose colleges which neither could afford, so they ended up together at Bowling Green State University.

They dated throughout college. While at BGSU, Mark was active in Collegiate Chorale, some theatrical productions, Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity, and Phi Mu Alpha Music Fraternity. Bev worked. They graduated from BGSU in 1961 and were married and looked for schools that had vacancies in both music and home economics. After several interviews, they decided on Lakota High School because they would be close to their family and Mark would be able to direct the choirs at the First Presbyterian Church in Fostoria.

They moved to Fostoria in the summer of 1961 and Mark started his music career. Mark taught for three years at Lakota, leaving in 1964. His activities at Lakota included the normal music activities: choirs, ensembles, programs, and musicals. While at Lakota their first two children, Laura and Mark L. were born.

One day Ted Bowlus, a member of the Eastwood Board of Education and Dr. Ted Bowlus’ father, called Mark to tell him about a music vacancy at Eastwood High School. Mark interviewed a couple of times and was hired for the position. Ted again called and said he had a house for them to rent.

“The Deerwesters knew Ted had taken them under his wing. So the Deerwester’s left Lakota with two children and no money,” Opelt said.

After several moves around Pemberville, all with the help of faculty members, many times faster than Bev could pack, they ended up in Hugh Graffice’s house on West Front Street, their third home on Front Street. When telling people where they lived, they referred to the three-story house as the chicken coop but later found that it also had been a dairy. Bev remembers that the house was great for kids.

“With a closed alley between their house and Obie’s Flowers, the 15 neighborhood kids who lived on the alley were on the move all day. One of the greatest things about Pemberville was how safe it was. They never locked a door or their car and never had to worry about their kids roaming the alley from house to house to play. The kids played at the Deerwesters ‘chicken coop’ a while, then at Ebka’s, then Campbell’s, then on to Obie’s and back again to start all over,” Opelt said.

It was in 1972 that Mark and Bev, now with four children, (Mike and Matt were born while living in Pemberville) left Eastwood and moved back to Fostoria.

“The kids and Bev left with their heels deeply dug in the sand,” Opelt said.

Opelt continued, “One thing that people remember about Mr. D, as everyone affectionately called him, was his great sense of humor. Mr. D took his job seriously and worked for perfection on every level but he could also have fun with students. Students recall during concerts, Mr. D would watch the students file onto the raisers as he faced them very straight, with his hands at this side. He would then mouth ‘no’ as he discreetly put an index finger next to his nose, indicating they were not to put their hands up on their face and by all means, ‘No nose picking’.

“He would also say rather than sneeze into our hands during the concert, sneeze into the hair of the person in front of you. He then would proceed to direct with only his fingers, barely moving his arms and body. He believed that the director is best when not noticed. It seems directors today want to wave their arms, dance and boogie, not Mr. D. It was about the students.

“Mr. D built the musical theatre program at Eastwood,” Opelt continued “He directed shows to sold out auditoriums every year. Shows included ‘Bye Bye Birdie’, ‘Camelot’, ‘How To Succeed In Business’, ‘Oliver’, and ‘The Pajama Game’, ‘The Sound of Music’ to name a few.

The choirs under Mr. D were consistent state winners. Along with the musical he directed the Mixed Chorus, Girls Chorus, Boys Chorus and numerous solos and ensembles. During his years at Eastwood, Mr. D never had an assistant.

Every year the annual Pops Concert was a great draw for the community. Admission was 50 cents and for that you could see all the choir and band groups perform. The gymnasium floor would be covered with tables and you had to arrive early to get a seat.

Mr. D was before his time when in 1966 when he created the very popular Swingin’ Ez. This was well before the acclaimed TV show ‘Glee’. A high school show choir that didn’t only sing but could dance and interact with the audience.

“It was nothing for the Swingin Ez to perform 28 to 30 times a year. They were always in demand and well received,” Opelt said.

A performance at the state fair included the recording of a record of their performance, making the Swingin Ez the first Eastwood vocal group ever recorded.

During what spare time Mr. D had he spent it directing church choirs, hand bell choirs, community choirs and community musicals. He also worked with ‘Feed My Kids’ and ‘Meal on Wheels’. He was often invited as a guest conductor throughout the area. Mark and wife Bev also added a foster son, Robbie, to their family, who became a music teacher in his own right.

“Right up to his untimely death in 2011, Deerwester would say that his biggest mistake in life was leaving Eastwood High School. His departure was also a loss for students who would follow,” Opelt said.

Tickets to the Eastwood Hall of Fame dinner, to be held 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 27 at the Pemberville Post 183 American Legion Hall, are available at Eastwood High School, Pemberville Library, and any Hall of Fame committee member. They are $25 each. Other inductees are Mike Van Camp, Fred Koester, Rolland Huss and Gary White. More information can be found at EastwoodLocalSchools.org/alumni.


Pic-MarkDeerwester
Mark Deerwester

Pic-Larry J. McCormic
Lawrence J. McCormic

 

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