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Jim Haefele, 65: 'The Irish Blessing'

More than 500,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.

My high school music teacher, Jim Haefele — or Haef — died of COVID-19 last year. When his former students from Half Hollow Hills High School East heard he was in the hospital, we decided to record ourselves singing "The Irish Blessing." Haef taught the song to nearly all his students over the years, and we thought it was the best gift we could give him.

One student — now a professional musician — sent out a music chart and asked students to record their part and email it back to her. It was assembled together, creating a choir of students singing one of his favorite songs in unison. We sent it to him, and the song was played to him before he passed away.

Haef changed my life. He made me feel seen. His lessons taught me to connect to music in ways that gave me confidence and happiness. Heaf believed in me, and as a result, I believed in myself. (He also left the music office window open, so I could climb through it and avoid being technically late to school.)

The world lost Haef too soon. But, his legacy will live on through his students and the music he taught us to appreciate. --Rebecca Lichtenfeld, student

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