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VALPARAISO — Matt Hofer was never in Gary Webster's classroom at Cooks Corner Elementary School.

Yet the 41-year veteran teacher who died in 2014 had such an impact on the sixth-grader at Ben Franklin Middle School that he undertook the project of having the auditorium at the newly renovated school named after Webster.

"Mr. Webster should be honored as best as possible," said Matt, whose brother John had been in Webster's class.

Matt had been awarded a scholarship through the Young Musician's Program, initiated by Webster prior to his death.

Webster's brother, Cory, also spoke during a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony at the school Thursday night.

"This is an honor for our family. When Gary stopped teaching, it was tough. He really doubted that he had made an impact," said Cory Webster, adding that after his brother died in 2014 from melanoma, letters and emails poured into the family.

They spoke of Webster's efforts at inclusion, unconditional love and imparting a love for reading to his students, along with wearing "goofy hats and ties," Cory said.

Programs including a scholarship, Books for Gary and the young musicians' program will continue, he said.

The dedication was part of a larger ceremony  which marked the completion of the rehabilitation project at Cooks Corners.

Superintendent E. Ric Frataccia thanked the community for passing the referendum which financed the renovations of this school and others within the district, along with the construction of a new elementary school.

"We had an ambitious project to finish 11 schools in two years. We look forward to turning it over to the community," Frataccia said.


Porter County reporter

Joyce has been a staff writer for The Times for more than 20 years. She is the municipal and education reporter for Porter County. She is an amateur genealogist and writes a blog, Remember your Roots, appearing online each Thursday.