ROSSVILLE, Ind. (WLF) - Rossville Consolidated Schools is mourning the loss of one of it's own. Chemistry teacher Brian Thomas died in a car accident early Friday morning. Thomas started at Rossville Middle-High School in 2014. He previously taught at Lewis Cass High School.
To many of the people he interacted with, he was more than his job title.
"He was just a very caring teacher," said fellow teacher Mike Priest.
"He was a mentor," said Principal Terry Thompson.
"He was more than just a teacher, he was one of my best friends," said Sophomore Madison Newbauer, who was one of his students.
The halls of Rossville Middle-High School were full of blue on Monday. This was in honor of Mr. Thomas' favorite color and favorite sports team, the Indianapolis Colts. It was a shock to everyone when the news came that he was gone.
"We were notified about 7:15 Friday morning of Mr. Thomas' passing from an accident that had happened the previous evening," said Principal Thompson. He said after they told the staff, they broke the news to the students. Grief counselors, some from other schools in Clinton County, and local religious leaders were brought in to help students and staff deal with the tragedy.
"Initially it was just kind of shocking that it happened to a teacher and especially someone that I thought of as a friend and a colleague," said Evan Price, another of Mr. Thomas' students. Price said he had known Mr. Thomas since he was in seventh grade and had had him for three years as a science teacher.
"The staff is down in the dumps, you just can't get over that," said Priest. "We just chaperoned the freshman community service project on Thursday and the next day he was gone."
But what made him so special?
"Mr. Thomas was the quintessential chemistry teacher," said Principal Thompson. "What I mean by that is he was not only a good teacher but he really understood kids and what they were going through."
"He was always there, he always cheered everyone up," said Newbauer.
"He would go in and play E-sports in that room with those students," said Superintendent Jim Hanna. "He would come in and pound out a song on the piano for the students."
This loss hits close to home for Dr. Hanna. He said Mr. Thomas was instrumental in helping his son get a good start in AP Chemistry.
"He went beyond the job of making sure you were doing ok in the class," said Price. "He would even come in and help you early in the morning before class if you needed it."
The whole county had a chance to mourn the loss at the first Clinton County Power Puff Volleyball Tournament Monday night. Rossville, Clinton Central, Clinton Prairie and Frankfort all competed.
"All proceeds are going to the charity of the school's choosing and another 20% is going to go to the Brian Thomas family," said Senior Jayden Brown, who organized the tournament.
It began with a moment of silence for Mr. Thomas. A banner hung from the sideline that was from the Delphi Community School Corporation offering condolences. People in the crowd from the rival schools put aside any differences and wore blue in honor of Mr. Thomas.
"I don't think there is any other county that gathers around a tragedy like Clinton County," said Brown. He said Rossville's charity money raised at the tournament will go to Back Pack Buddy to fight food insecurity. He said Rossville is in a food desert, which means that people in an area that have difficulty finding affordable and good-quality fresh food.
Mr. Thomas' visitation and funeral are both happening on Wednesday November 6th at the Fisher Funeral Chapel in Logansport. The visitation is from 3-7 p.m. the service starts at 7 p.m. Click here to share your condolences with the family. Dr. Hanna said they have a well-known substitute teacher filling in for Mr. Thomas' class. They hope to get a recently retired biology teacher approved to come back and fill in for the class until they find a permenant replacement.