Hundreds pay tribute to Bristol, Va. school superintendent, Rex Gearheart

Hundreds pay tribute to Bristol, Va. school superintendent, Rex Gearheart

BRISTOL, Va. - Hundreds gathered to remember Bristol, Va. school superintendent Rex Gearheart. 

Gearheart was found dead at Breaks Interstate park in Dickenson County last week.

The funeral for Gearheart was this weekend in his hometown of Dublin, Va. near Blacksburg. But Tuesday night was a chance for people to share memories and reflect on his impact on the Bristol City School system.

More than 400 people filled the auditorium at Virginia High to pay their respects to Rex Gearheart.

"It has felt as if we were in the middle of a nightmare, expecting that we'd wake up and carry on," Interim superintendent Gary Ritchie said. "And we're left with the fallout of it all."

But Ritchie said this ceremony isn't about the past six days. It's about honoring Gearheart's service to the schools for the past six years. 

"He loved the teachers he worked with, he loved the bus drivers, the kitchen staff and the students," Ritchie said.

And parents agreed. They said Rex Gearheart didn't know a stranger.

"Children need a way to process their grief, so I hope that they can come together and have a place to talk about this as a school community," parent Shelly VanWyhe said.

At this ceremony, school leaders and family shared stories of his big laugh and his love for fishing through home videos.

"We've had so many people reach out to us from all across the state, sharing thoughts," Ritchie said. 

One of those people, Virginia's First Lady, Dorothy McAuliffe.

It was a full house to remember a man who gave his fullest to the community.

"Mr. Gearheart is a wonderful person and he was such an advocate for not only the schools but also the community," VanWyhe said. 

There is now a memorial scholarship established in Mr. Gearheart's name. To contribute, contact Bristol, Va. City Schools.

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