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Former principal dies after accident
Former principal dies after accident
By SUE HOFFMAN
Family members and the school community are mourning the loss of E. James Kotora, 75, a longtime Solon resident who served as Solon High School principal from 1972 to 1994. He died Feb. 15 after being injured in a recent fall.
According to his son Marc, of Solon, Mr. Kotora treasured his years at Solon High School. "It was like my dad had 1,100 children each year," he said Monday. "When I became a student at Solon High School, I realized how much they meant to him and how much he meant to them.
"It was the best four years of my life," said the younger Mr. Kotora, who graduated in 1992. "It was like Camelot. My father seemed to be so in touch with the pulse of everything that took place inside the building."
"The Solon schools lost a true friend with the passing of Jim Kotora," Solon School Superintendent Joe Regano said. "As principal, Jim bridged the gap between the '70s and the '90s, which culminated in Solon High School being named a National Blue Ribbon School. He was truly a students' principal, who always worked with students to achieve the best outcome. They loved him, and the community embraced his leadership while he was with us. We send our deepest condolences to his family."
Interment took place Feb. 19 in a private ceremony. The family plans to hold a memorial service in the Solon High School auditorium on a date to be announced.
Mr. Kotora said his father slipped on ice in his driveway on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 6, when he went out to get the newspaper. He returned to the house and told his wife, Carol, he had fallen. His father participated in the discussion while watching the game with his wife, he said. However, at 2 the next morning, "Mom woke up, and he said he had a terrible headache," he said.
His father sustained two head injuries from the fall, Mr. Kotora said, and the situation was complicated by blood thinners he had been taking for another condition. The family called the Solon Fire Department for emergency services.
"They life-flighted him to Metro, and by 7 a.m., he was out of surgery and in the intensive care unit" at Metrohealth Medical Center in Cleveland, he said.
A 1954 graduate of Steubenville High School, Mr. Kotora earned a bachelor of science in music from Muskingum College in 1958 and a master's degree in education from the University of Akron in 1972. He taught music and was a vocal music director in the Garfield Heights and Vermilion school districts from 1958 until 1972, when he moved to Solon.
In addition to his career in education, Mr. Kotora was musical director "off and on, as needed, for over 35 years" at Solon Community Church, said Marc Kotora, who has helped manage Gallucci's Italian Foods, a family business in Cleveland, since graduating from John Carroll University.
Mr. Kotora's other son, E. James Kotora, Jr., a Solon 1986 alumnus, has followed in his father's footsteps in education and music. With a doctorate in music education from Case Western Reserve University, he teaches music in North Ridgeville and is music director of Dover United Church of Christ in Westlake. He is married to Cynthia Herr-Kotora, who is also a Solon High School graduate. They live in Bay Village.
Memories of their father abound, Marc Kotora said. As photo editor of the Solon High School newspaper, the Courier, "I used to take a lot of pictures for him," he said. One day his father was finishing an assembly and made an announcement over the public-address system, "Marc, it's Dad. Grab your camera."
"He would go from table to table in the lunchroom" to visit with students," he said. "All of a sudden, there was an eruption of laughter. He'd get up and go to another table."
Mr. Kotora also recalled how his father would dress up as "super principal" at Halloween.
Solon High School social studies teacher Jeff Aker, who started his 32-year career with the district in 1978, shares some of the same memories.
One year the principal was wearing a Batman-style costume and was on roller skates for Halloween, Mr. Aker said. "I remember him roller-skating from table to table talking to students. The kids really enjoyed him."
Mr. Aker had another fond memory, he said. "He was the principal who hired me."
It was a much smaller school then, and Mr. Kotora was very "student oriented," with involvement in student activities and school sports, he said.
"He was very 'Mr. Solon.'" He seemed to know everyone in the community, he said.
Aside from his education career and involvement with his church choir, the retired principal loved his boat, which was docked in Huron, Marc Kotora said. "When he was teaching in Vermilion, he fell in love with the nautical scene. He cleaned and polished his boat, and he always had the latest gadget."
In lieu of flowers, the family suggested contributions to the Solon Community Church Music Fund, 33955 Sherbrook Park Drive, Solon 44139.
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