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When people think of Gilmore Middle School, Larry Hamilton was Gilmore. For 36 of the 40 years Gilmore Middle School has existed, Hamilton walked the halls as a hall monitor. He shuffled children from one class to the next, often singing to them to lighten the mood of being a middle schooler. Keri Bieri, the choir teacher at the school, said she also often caught him standing outside his door listening to the students singing. And that’s what she’ll miss the most about him the most after he died July 24 from cancer at the age of 62. “Larry dedicated his entire life to Gilmore,” Bieri said. “He challenged the students sometimes to do better. He could talk to them in way that if they had a bad day, he would sing to them and make jokes… and they would become happier.” Bierie would see Hamilton walking into the school smiling. Everyday he would be in the same spot standing by the entrance by High Street singing as the children would come into the school. But he always put on different personas — Jerry Lewis or Big Momma. “He had these funny voices,” she said. “He would make them laugh, but he could always talk to them on the level when he needed to.” A month before school ended, the staff at the school noticed that Hamilton had lost a lot of weight and the staff told him that they thought he needed to go see a doctor.  Two weeks before school ended, Hamilton collapsed at school. He went to the doctor and they put him in the hospital. “He never left,” Bieri said. Hamilton didn’t want a funeral. But the school staff and students held a memorial service. There, students and alumni sang one of his favorite songs… “Seasons of Love” from the musical Rent.

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In addition to our education features, we’ll be kicking off a series of stories highlighting how parents, students, and educators are adapting to the impact of COVID-19 on education. If this is important to you, please consider donating to our education reporting fund. https://business.facebook.com/donate/1846323118855149/3262802717172659/

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.