Funeral services will be conducted Monday morning for Harry Corea, a popular, longtime music director and mentor at Corona del Mar High School who died at school this week of a massive heart attack.
Services will be held at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church where Corea, 57, had attended morning Mass every weekday before going across the street to the school, where he was the music department chairman and the school's first and only band director since it opened its doors in 1962.
"Mr. Corea made a difference in the lives of untold numbers of students at Corona del Mar. We're all the better for him being here," said Carol Boice, a parent of two high school students who were members of Corea's orchestra, which colleagues said was his pride at the school. "He's just a really special person."
Principal Tom Jacobson said Corea's exemplary work in and out of the classroom will be remembered by "decades of students and teachers and parent boosters. . . . It's a major loss."
Jacobson and several teachers found Corea in his office Wednesday morning after students reported that his door was not open, as it usually was. He was taken to Hoag Hospital, where he was pronounced dead of a heart attack.
News of Corea's death shocked and quieted the campus Wednesday when it was announced to students and faculty over the public address system. A moment of silence was observed, and the school's crisis team held a number of small discussion sessions to help students and staff deal with the loss.
"It was a hard day, a kind of grim day for everyone," Jacobson said.
Colleagues and community members said Corea brought his own passion for music into the lives of his students who wandered into his office to join the orchestra and spectators who enjoyed band performances at school sports events and concerts.
They said he often spent his lunch and after-school hours giving music lessons to youngsters who could not afford private classes, and that he expressed his dedication to the school by occasionally serving as an announcer at football games. Corea usually allowed his band to express itself in a variety of ways, including through rock compositions, complete with electric guitars, performed at some events, his co-workers said.
"He was a pretty unique individual and nobody who knew him would say any differently," said Bill Leech, a social studies teacher and longtime friend of Corea and his family. "He probably packed 80 years into his 57."
Corea was so admired by the community for his work that he was often forced to turn away groups who wanted to help him raise funds for the music program because he already received more than enough financial support from parents and alumni.
About 50 students participated in the school's concert band and orchestra this year. At the music program's peak about 20 years ago, 100 students were under Corea's tutelage, performing in the school's now-defunct marching band and the orchestra, which won third place in a national competition in 1974.
Corea had been well-honored for his life's work at Corona del Mar High. Plaques and awards line his office wall, and earlier this year he received the county Department of Education's award for Outstanding Contribution to Education of Students.
He had appeared to be in excellent health, and was planning to retire either at the end of this academic year or next year and join his wife at the family's agricultural ranch in Ramona, in San Diego County, teachers said.
Before the funeral at 10 a.m. Monday, there will be a viewing today at 5 p.m. at the church and a rosary Mass on Sunday at 7 p.m. The church is at 2046 Mar Vista Drive in Newport Beach.
Parents at the school have established a memorial scholarship fund in Corea's name, and students plan to dedicate a previously planned concert Wednesday night to his memory.
Corea is survived by his wife and seven children, most of whom graduated from Corona del Mar High.