As Principal of Westlake High School from 1969-86, George Reash touched the lives of thousands of students as well as educators.
His wife, Jan Reash, also impacted the lives of countless West Shore families. As founding Director of Far West Center, she brought real resources to the field of mental health to the community.
Today, family and friends are pausing to say ‘Thank you’ to the Reashes as George battles terminal stomach cancer. He is in home hospice care.
One of the first people influenced by Mr. Reash was veteran Assistant Principal and friend George Christ.
“I had my first administrator job under him and he was a great mentor,” says Christ. “He has remained a great friend through all the years.” Christ went on to serve as both a Principal and Assistant Superintendent in the district.
Mr. Reash, said Christ, had a coaching-type leadership style that motivated students as well as associates to build lasting strengths.
“One of the important programs he started in Westlake was Senior Privileges,” said Christ. “Since so many of our students went to college, it taught the seniors time management and to be responsible during their free periods, especially when they are going off to school.”
Mr. Reash trusted his colleagues. “When I first got hired, he said, ‘I’m not going to look over your shoulder. You are going to be responsible for your job,” said Christ. “He did that with everybody. He was there to help you but he had faith in his people.”
Coaching came naturally to the athletic leader. His family recently discovered some old newspaper clippings of his early athletic career at Salem High School and Wittenberg University, where he played quarterback.
That was good news for Westlake High sports programs. “During his tenure, Westlake really came up in terms of athletics with several championships and a girls basketball team that went to state,” recalled Christ. “Westlake won quite a few championships while he was there.”
Reash was also a nimble administrator. Christ recalls the natural gas crisis in the 70’s when heating fuel costs skyrocketed. “He called all school leaders to his home to reschedule the entire school day, reconfigure the windy high school entrance and convert Hilliard School back to coal,” said Christ. “It was quite an exercise in administration, but in one night we rescheduled the whole day for the district.”
Former Westlake Supt. of Schools Roger Holmes shares similar reminiscences of Mr. Reash. “His loyalty comes to mind first,” said Dr. Holmes. “His word was his bond and he was always loyal in carrying out his role. He was a supporter of me as Superintendent and he backed me up on issues. He always carried on his share of the obligations.”
“We had quite a few good laughs together, too,” said Dr. Holmes. “We could find humor in our jobs even when it wasn’t funny at times, when the going was tough. Somehow we managed to find some humor to get us through.”
John Rowland, founding President of St. John West Shore Hospital, speaks to George and Jan’s contributions to community. “Jan and George Reash devoted their lives to unselfish service to the community,” said Mr. Rowland. “After George retired from Westlake Schools, he stayed involved. He lent his considerable prestige and expertise to the Westlake Health Campus (now SJMC). Jan is founder and was the Director of Far West Center. They collaborated with me to bring this much-needed voluntary community mental health agency from Fairview Park to their own new office building at the Westlake Health Campus.”
The Reashes retired while in their 50’s and travelled extensively. George Reash went back to work as a volunteer and did what he always loved best – helping others through education.
“After he retired, he did a lot of teaching of adult classes at B-W and other places. He just enjoyed teaching,” said Christ. He also worked as a consultant and as a hospice volunteer.
George and Jan Reash have been active church members through the years at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Westlake and Bay United Methodist Church.
George and Jan have three children, six grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.
“The kids always kind of saw both my dad and mom as a dynamic duo in the community,” says daughter Georgia Reash. “Recently, we talked about how much our dad embodied the ideas of being a servant-leader way before it became a formal term.”
For George Christ, Mr. Reash’s leadership also included room for some healthy humor.
“One time, he sent me and former Athletic Director Bob Hersmann to the vet to pick up his dog because he was busy one evening. So we took it to his house and dropped it off,’ recalls Christ. “The next day, George said, ‘Thank you, you did a good job, but you brought home the wrong dog!’”’
“And no one,’ recalls Christ, “will ever know how many mailboxes he had to replace in front of his house on Porter Road after they were knocked down either by accident or on purpose just because he was the Principal!”
The Reash family spent last weekend with their dad celebrating his 84th birthday. He was born Oct. 20, 1932. George and Jan Reash have been married 65 years.