PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Former students and faculty colleagues entered Oakmont Presbyterian Church Thursday to say goodbye to a man who touched them deeply.

Bill DeTillo taught English for 24 years in the Tudor style estate that is Shady Side Academy Middle School.

Assistant head John Curry was a math teacher when he met the man who would become his colleague. He recalls a teacher who “had the unique ability, I think, to address each child individually, so that the child felt a connection between Bill and the child.”

Former student Nick Coslov, class of ’92, expressed his gratitude in a big way. He donated $500,000 to establish the William DeTillo Scholarship Fund.

Weakened by cancer, the teacher reconnected with thousands of former students through Facebook. He said his final goodbye in a post on July 28.

Former student Lee Silverman recalls a man who played bass guitar in a band, and had fondness for “superheroes.” The teacher who called himself “The Aardvark” had a nickname for each student.

“In my case, it was ‘Coyote,'” Silverman said. “He did this, he told me, ultimately because I was lonely during a theatrical production when I was by myself, along the side of the stage, as the lonely coyote who was looking for company and others to stay with him.”

DeTillo’s friends and family stayed with him till the end.

“He’ll live on for the lessons he has taught, through textbooks or life in general,” says daughter Leah Kremer in her eulogy. “We’ll carry him with us always.”

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