BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Funeral services were held Thursday for beloved, longtime Fruitvale Junior High School principal John Hefner.
Family and friends gathered graveside at Greenlawn Cemetery to remember the life of Hefner. Hefner died January 3, 2021 from lymphoma.
Former Fruitvale School District superintendent Mary Westendorf spoke about Hefner's life at the service.
"He was not only an extraordinary educator, he was an extraordinary person. He had the energy and drive of several people. He was the eternal optimist. He saw the potential in all that he came in contact with and he strongly believed in his own ability to make a difference to others." said Westendorf.
During his 40 year career at Fruitvale Junior High School, the former principal touched thousands of lives, in and out of the classroom, locally and globally through the campus and through countless programs he led through History Day and the Bakersfield Sister City Project. A former History Day student of Hefner's spoke about his role as a coach.
"I know I can speak on behalf of every History Day student here that he was tough, he was strategic on every circumstance, but he was a lot of fun." said Madeline Abernathy. "
Hefner received his teaching credential from Cal State University, Bakersfield in 1976 and his Master’s in Education in 1983, according to CSUB. In 2011 he was inducted into the CSUB Alumni Hall of Fame.
Earlier in the week, former students and community members urged the school district to consider renaming Fruitvale Junior High School after Hefner.
"From his travels with Sister City, his accomplishments as an educator, the fishing and hunting trips that he loved so much, to the strong and long lasting relationships he developed," Westendorf said. "John Hefner was an extraordinary man."