GREEN Longtime Green resident and Green High School teacher Charles “Chuck” Popovich, 80, passed away in the early morning hours of Feb. 13 at the Cleveland Clinic. Popovich started teaching Physical Science at the old Green High on Steese Road in 1966. Teaming with fellow science teachers Frank DeMarco and Harry Hausenflek, they formed a group that one teacher referred to as “the finest intellectual team to ever work together in Green.
He was born to Mathew and Helen Popovich in Brewster on April 16, 1936. He attended Brewster local schools and played football in high school. He then got his bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Akron, and later went back for his master’s degree at Kent State. He served in the U.S. Army Reserves as a medic, receiving his training at Fort Sam Houston in Texas.
In 1973, after several years at the high school Popovich transferred to the new Green Junior High to head the Science Department. Very supportive of his teachers, he was a strong advocate for improvement in the program and teacher training. He was also a strong union supporter and served as the president of the Green Education Association(GEA) during its early formative years in contract negotiations and securing job rights. When a principal was not willing to grant tenure to a qualified teacher, Popovich went to the school superintendent and fought for the teacher, resulting in the superintendent overruling the principal. Eventually, that teacher would go on to follow in Popovich’s steps and become the GEA President.
As a teacher, his students remembered him as very strict and business like. He treated his young students more like young adults than junior high students. Most can still recall his opening remarks at the beginning of class, “Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats and open you books to page…” His students were always asking him if he ever smiled, and his answer would be, “I just did, you must of missed it, so I’ll do it again,” without changing the look on his face. It finally dawned on the student that he was pulling their leg. But when he did smile the students couldn’t wait to get out of class and tell their friends, “Hey guess what, we just saw Mr. Popovich smile!”
In 1972, he married fellow teacher Patricia Horner and they embarked on a series of wonderful adventures that lasted 36 years until her sudden and untimely death in 2009. They both loved to travel and crisscrossed the United States in a series of adventures that saw them go down the Mississippi River on steamboats, visit numerous national parks in the West, go rafting in Alaska and many trips to Disney World. They then took to traveling the world, taking cruises in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, toured Europe and Russia and walked the Great Wall of China. One trip in particular made a lasting impression on him.
“This was the best cruise we ever took, I can’t say enough about it”, he emphatically stated after returning from a two-week long cruise to cold, snowy Antarctica.
At Christmas time, he would go into his Ebenezer Scooge imitation of “Bah, Humbug” when asked about the holidays. Yet, he was generous to a fault in giving presents to family and friends. His homeroom students often asked if they could put up a Christmas tree in the room which he would turn down, but he did allow them to decorate the homeroom door for the annual Christmas door decorating contest, which they often won. At his interment, a small Christmas tree was left on his grave in memory of this.
Popovich is survived by his beloved daughter, Deborah DiGiulio; and his grandsons, Nicolas and Christopher; sister-in-laws Barbara Horner Trimmer and family; and Martha Horner Smith; plus many cousins and longtime friends. At his calling hours and internment, there were people from as far away as Vancouver, Reno, Nev., and Nashville, Tenn.
Today, there are no awards, scholarships, or plaques in his honor in Green Local Schools. But his legacy is all around in the thousands of students he taught. Many administrators and staff in the city of Green, the Green Board of Education, and the Green school system were his students while many other students are employed by the Summit County Sheriff’s Department and local businesses. No teacher can ask for a better legacy than that.