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Late JCC Professor Memorialized For His Life Lessons

From the left, Doug and Jim Berlin stand behind a bench that sits just outside the Hultquist Library on the campus of Jamestown Community College. The bench was dedicated earlier this month to honor the memory of longtime sociology professor John Hearn, who passed away in December 2020. Submitted photo

Behind the Hultquist Library on the campus of Jamestown Community College is a door that John Hearn opened seven days a week for more than 35 years. Upon entry, he would ascend the stairs, find his office, take a seat at his desk and go to work.

Because, well, that’s what the sociology professor loved — his work.

Hearn, who died last December at 69, adored those who filled his classroom, too.

“He will be remembered by his family, friends and former students for his sense of humor and storytelling capabilities,” read Hearn’s obituary on the Lind Funeral Home website. “All that knew John loved and respected his wit and how he wrapped a ‘lesson’ into every conversation.”

So, let me offer a suggestion to alumni of the “Hearn Fraternity.”

Pay a visit to the rear of the building located a stone’s throw from the Jamestown CC dormitories. Upon arrival, take a seat on the bench that is anchored there and give thanks for the legacy he leaves.

The rain was falling late on a Sunday morning earlier this month, but that didn’t prevent a couple dozen invited guests from gathering to pay tribute to Hearn and dedicating the bench mentioned above in his memory.

They included his Sunday breakfast buddies.

His colleagues at the college.

His former students.

And some folks who he barely knew.

Because even if you had been in the Falls River, Massachusetts native’s orbit for decades or for only five minutes, he always left an impression.

So as the rain fell, the Hearn stories began. Funny, poignant, reflective are just a few of the adjectives that could describe them.

“He was as close to me as family,” said Jim Berlin, the chief executive officer of Logistics Plus Inc. headquartered in Erie, Pennsylvania. “I spent every Sunday in his office for an hour or two. I’d pull up a chair and we’d just chat. He kind of solved my problems and I tried to solve some of his. I miss him every day of my life. … He’s a special guy. One of a kind.”

Larry Carter, who taught with Hearn for years at Jamestown CC, remembered how the latter “never walked into a class without thinking about it first.”

“Every morning he’d be there at 7:15 or 7:30, I’d go in and he’d be working on that day’s class,” Carter continued. ” … If you weren’t an observer of that, you didn’t realize how hard he worked every day at what he did, even though he’d been doing it for years.”

By all accounts, Hearn was among the most popular professors on campus. Some students, in fact, took his classes multiple times.

Noted Doug Berlin, Jim’s brother: “A kid I worked with at the (Jamestown) post office told me years ago that ‘Professor Hearn was the best teacher I ever had,’ so I asked him how he did in the class. He said, ‘Well, he flunked me, and rightfully so, but he was the best teacher I ever had.'”

Added Jim: “He won Teacher of the Year twice, and he always thought he’d get fired. He worried about everything.”

Ironically, Hearn’s friends never had to worry — not for one second — if he cared for them.

When Doug and Maureen Berlin’s son, Matt, passed away four years ago, Hearn was among the first to offer his condolences.

“We had to go to Girard, Pennsylvania and break the news to (daughter) Erin,” said Doug, a decades-long Jamestown resident who now lives in Clymer. “Ten minutes later, John was there. He was always there.”

On a cool, rainy day, it was an opportunity for Hearn’s friends to return the favor.

“He probably knows why we’re gathering here,” said Hearn’s widow, Rene, “but I’m sure he thinks he doesn’t deserve any of this. I’d like to thank my friends, family and all of John’s friends for coming. It means a lot to me.”

After the gathering dispersed, Jim and Doug stood behind the bench for a photograph, but not before placing a bottle of Jameson, Hearn’s adult beverage of choice, at each end.

The first line of the inscription on the back of the bench reads: “In loving memory of John Hearn. Teacher, Mentor, Writer, Friend.”

The second line reads: “Let your soul and spirit fly.”

“It’s the least we could do for him,” Doug said.

Cheers, John.

May you rest in peace.

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