John Hesterly, a parishioner of St. Patrick in Havre De Grace, has received many honors and awards in his lifetime, but on May 11 he was truly humbled and privileged to accept a Distinguished Alumnus Award from his alma mater, Henderson State University in Arkansas.
“I was thrilled beyond words,” said Mr. Hesterly. “I’m still floating a foot off the ground. There are many distinguished people who have won this award.”
The award, created in 1972, is a way to recognize those who have attained outstanding and valuable achievements throughout their life and Mr. Hesterly has a laundry list full of them.
“My improvements as a student led to so many wonderful things that enhanced my later life,” Mr. Hesterly said at a luncheon in his honor. “Without Henderson, I would not have met the most important person in my life,” he said about his wife.
Nine days after Mr. Hesterly graduated he married fellow classmate and best friend Barbara Ann Mazzia. From there they went on a multitude of adventures, from moving around the United States, to Mr. Hesterly teaching for three years at West Point, New York, and commanding the only U.S. Army unit in the Netherlands. The couple has traveled around Europe and attended the papal audiences of three popes. They have met and befriended generals, bishops and even President Dwight Eisenhower.
After many years of living the life of an army family, the Hesterlys built their first house in Aberdeen after Mr. Hesterly retired from the armed services.
In 1973, the desire to start teaching again was too strong for Mr. Hesterly to ignore, and he began teaching upper-level math courses at Aberdeen High School before becoming the department head in 1983.
Each morning Mr. Hesterly would leave his home and walk a few feet to the high school where he taught thousands of students of over the years. Some of his former students include Cal Ripken Jr., Bill Ripken, NBA forward Tommy Davis, NFL tackle Irving Pankey and Ralph O. Baker, who was recently nominated by President George W. Bush for a promotion to Army brigadier general.
“I have just had some fabulous students,” said Mr. Hesterly with pride. “I loved every minute of it.”
Mr. and Mrs. Hesterly have been very active in their parish of St. Patrick since 1982. Mrs. Hesterly is an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, taking Communion to those who are homebound, and she is very involved in decorating the parish for Christmas and Easter. Mr. Hesterly is also an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, lector, serves on the finance committee, has washed and cleaned the statue of St. Patrick, mowed the lawns and maintains computer records for the “Keeping the Faith” Capital Campaign.
“It’s a good feeling to be a part of St. Patrick’s and to be as involved as we are in so many activities,” said Mr. Hesterly. “It’s a very close- knit parish, there isn’t much hand shaking, but there is a lot of hugging.”