Sampson County lost a true southern gentleman with the passing this week of Gene Hart. We also lost one of our strongest educational champions, a man who lived to teach and to better the lives of “boys and girls” by opening their minds to knowledge and their hearts to possibilities beyond their own circumstances.
He was the consummate professional, but more than that he was genuine. You always knew where Gene Hart stood, and you always knew where his priorities were focused. Those priorities always included his beloved wife Dorothy, an educator herself, his children and grandchildren, his church and, of course, every single child he ever taught or watched walk the halls of a school where he served as principal.
Genteel in every sense of the word, Hart went about every aspect of his life in a quiet, unassuming manner, always happier to let others shine while he worked diligently in the background, orchestrating.
That orchestration was always for the betterment of others, because Hart believed that whatever he did for someone else would benefit everyone, and whether he was serving his country, operating a business, teaching a child, leading a school or making decisions on the Board of Education, he always seemed to do it with that thought in mind.
His hard work over the course of a life well lived mirror his beliefs: He was a member of the United States Marine Corps during the Korean conflict; he served as a principal, first in Craven County and then in Sampson, amassing a long tenure in education; he was a central office administrator for Sampson County Schools; he finished out his educational career with a 16-year stint on the county’s Board of Education; he was a Garland businessman; he was a deacon, Sunday school teacher, Sunday school superintendent and choir director at his church, Garland Baptist; and he was heavily involved in his community.
Always faithful to his Lord, Hart believed in the Golden Rule, and lived his life giving back to others, always putting his desire to serve above himself.
And people loved Gene Hart because of who he was and how he gave back. They remember his gentle, welcoming smile, his encouraging nod and his quiet yet firm voice. They remember how supportive and encouraging he was. And they remember the guiding hand he was always so willing to lend.
As an educator and as a kind, giving human being, Gene Hart has and will continue to affect this community and beyond because no one can really know where the impact he made will end.
He leaves a lasting legacy of honor, service and mentorship, torches he carried throughout his life. They are torches we hope others will pick up, honoring him by virtue of their willingness to continue what he started.
Gene Hart went wholeheartedly into everything he did, understanding that it was the only way to achieve anything worth having. He achieved a great deal and because of that his family, his community and this county are lasting beneficiaries.
He will be sorely missed, but what he stood for and the legacy he leaves behind will carry his memory forward for decades to come.