On Friday, Madisonville-native and longtime educator John McClearn passed following a brief illness. On Monday, friends and former co-workers remembered the former Hopkins County Superintendent of Schools and what he meant to employees and students.
Current Hopkins County Schools Superintendent Amy Smith said when she started her teaching career in 1995, McClearn was the superintendent who hired her.
“He, along with his children and grandchildren, have been products of Hopkins County Schools,” she said. “He leaves a long legacy that will impact education in Hopkins County for future generations.”
McClearn was a native of Madisonville, who played basketball for Madisonville High School until graduating in 1955, then he went on to play for Western Kentucky University. He came back to Madisonville after graduating college to teach.
He started coaching in the Dawson Springs School System and teaching at other schools in the county in the early 1960s before working his way up to Director of the Learning Resource Center. He became the Hopkins County Schools assistant superintendent in the early 1980s, then served as superintendent from 1991 to 1998.
McClearn was in the U.S. Army Reserves. His reserve unit was called up in 1961 during the Berlin and Cuban missile crises.
Linda Zellich, a retired educator who worked with McClearn, remembered him as well respected
“He was very gracious about his time if people had questions or concerns,” she said. “I think he wanted to make the school system a better place to be.”
Zellich said she remembered him as caring very deeply for the students, especially when deciding on what teachers to hire and developing programs to meet the needs of the students.
“He was thoughtful and caring and always trying to do what was best for Hopkins County Schools, and more importantly the children that were in the school,” she said.
McClearn was also very civic-minded being active in the Madisonville Lion’s Club, she said.
Keith Cartwright, the Hopkins County School board attorney, said he started working as the school board attorney when McClearn became Hopkins County superintendent in 1991.
“He was, in addition to being a great educator, a fine human being,” he said.
Cartwright said he and McClearn knew each other not only from the school district, but both being members of the Lion’s Club. They also bonded over their time playing for the church league basketball at the Rosenwald building in their younger days.
Cartwright said he and McClearn met for lunch about three weeks ago at The Farmhouse Cafe to catch up and reminisce about old times.
“He always enjoyed eating lunch. His favorite thing was soup and cornbread,” he said.
Cartwright said he was shocked by McClearn’s passing because when they got together, he seemed in good health.
“He was still very mentally sharp right to the very end,” said Cartwright.
That last meal together, catching up with an old friend, is something Cartwright said he will always treasure.
McClearn’s funeral will be at 2 p.m. on Friday at Barnett-Strother Funeral Home in Madisonville with the burial to follow. Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursday and from noon until the service time on Friday.