Students sing to beloved music teacher so she can pass away with a song in her heart

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FLOSSMOOR, Ill. — As the music teacher at Western Avenue Elementary School for 35 years, Judy Kirby taught thousands of kids to use their voices. 

So when her former Flossmoor students learned their dying teacher could no longer speak herself, they sang to her one last time. 

“She’s my musical mother, that’s how I feel about her,” former student Rev. Daryce Hoff Nolan said. “I was 10 and it was her first teaching job; she’ll never let go of me, just like a mom.”

As an elementary music teacher for 35 years, it would be impossible to know all the lives she touched while putting on 35 musicals, not to mention countless Christmas concerts and variety shows.  

Students said Kiby was the kind of music teacher who could turn a kid’s life around, so when they learned she was dying, they came to fill her heart with song the same way she did for them. 

They sang to her from outside her care facility window, and through laptops and cell phones.

“There has been such an outpouring of love, the reach is all over the world,” her friend Terry Debruin said. “Some of the students who sent in videos singing to her were from California, New York…all over.”

In her final days, all those students sang the song she taught them to sing as they graduated to the next phase of their life.

“I can’t think of anybody who deserves it more than her,” student Daryce Hoff Nolan said. 

Mrs. Judy Kirby passed away on August 7, and while she died in isolation, her family said she was not alone as there was always a song beating in that heart.

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