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Friends, students remember retired Kennard-Dale teacher who died from COVID-19

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
Henry "Smitty" Paul, who died Sunday morning due to COVID-19, was an English teacher at Kennard-Dale High School.

Some of Jeff Hersey's fondest memories of his friend Henry "Smitty" Paul were also the simplest — like mornings spent sharing breakfast and stories.

Paul, who died Sunday morning from COVID-19, had been an English teacher at Kennard-Dale High School.

"I was in complete shock, because in my optimist world I had been saying he'll make it through," the now-retired social studies teacher said after hearing the news. "He had an ability to appreciate the simple things that not everybody thinks about."

Paul, who was 71, specialized in American literature and served as an adviser to both the yearbook committee and the ski club. 

He began teaching at Kennard-Dale at 23 years old and retired in 2006. Hersey began teaching at the school soon after Paul, joining the staff in 1973.

Teaching in rural southern York County, Paul would accompany students on small-game hunts — often joining them and their families for dinner afterward, Hersey said.

Paul's death touched many of those who knew him, including dozens of students who owe their love of literature and public speaking skills to him.

"I wasn't a great student. I used to irritate the hell out of Mr. Paul," said former student James Hash in a Facebook post. "Now it will be one of life's regrets I never thanked him for fostering a love of literature."

Another former student, Benjamin Halsted, referenced the Old English epic poem "Beowulf" when writing a goodbye post to Paul, who first taught Halsted about the work.

"Because of (Paul), they had a much better appreciation of literature," Hersey said. "When I see some of the students on there quoting 'Beowulf,' it just makes me laugh that a teacher could have that kind of impact on his students." 

Hersey said one particularly fond memory he has is yearly trips with the male teachers of Kennard-Dale to a cabin in the mountains of Huntingdon County.

"Time was spent just decompressing and talking about the school year," Hersey said. "Those times in the mountain cabin in Northern Pennsylvania were really good times."

After retiring, Hersey and Paul stayed in touch and remained good friends up until Paul's death.

Paul contracted COVID-19 at the end of September and went in and out of intensive care, unable to fully recover, Hersey said.

"He died at home after a valiant fight," Hersey said. "He was a loving husband, father and grandfather, as well as a great friend."

Former students, friends or family who want to send a card to Paul's wife, Kris, can mail them to 428 S. Spruce St., Lititz, PA 17543, Hersey said.

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.