Hoopeston students mourn teacher, coach

Hoopeston students mourn teacher, coach

HOOPESTON – At the last boys' basketball game of the season on Friday, players and spectators took a moment of silence to remember a popular Hoopeston Area High School teacher and coach who died suddenly at school that morning.

Danny Park, 55, of Hoopeston, was pronounced dead at 9:10 a.m. on Friday at Hoopeston Community Memorial Hospital's emergency room, after suffering a massive heart attack, Vermilion County Coroner Peggy Johnson said.

Mr. Park was found unresponsive by another staffer. Johnson said "heroic efforts" to administer CPR were unsuccessful.

An inquest will be held at a later date.

Mr. Park graduated from Hoopeston High School. In school, he excelled at sports and set a record in the 100-meter dash.

"He still holds it," friend John Hardcastle said, though another runner has tied it.

After teaching in southern Illinois, Mr. Park returned to his hometown to teach physical education and coach at his alma mater.

He served the school for at least 17 years.

Mr. Park also was head coach of the boys track team and the girls junior varsity basketball team.

He was a former football coach.

"He was a caring individual, and he liked helping kids," said Hardcastle, who coaches the girls varsity basketball team. "He cared about how well they did, and he liked keeping up on what they did later on in their lives."

School officials said social workers and a local minister were at the high school on Friday offering grief counseling to students and staff.

Hardcastle said Mr. Park's death will cast a shadow on Friday's senior night festivities, at which senior players will be recognized.

"We always helped work the games," Hardcastle said, adding he ran the scoreboard while his colleague ran the clock.

Mr. Park's death is the second tragedy in three months for the school district.

On Dec. 16, Superintendent Mark Connelly, 53, died suddenly from a heart attack in Danville after celebrating his anniversary with his wife.

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