The gymnasium at St. Cecilia Junior High in Edmonton was filled Thursday morning for a memorial service for Sgt. George Miok, a teacher at the school and a Canadian reservist killed in Afghanistan.
A procession carrying candles entered the gym to the sound of bagpipes as members of the Miok family and military colleagues looked on.
Miok, who was killed by a bomb Dec. 30, had taught Grade 7 physical education, math and religion at the school since October 2008.
Assistant principal David Moss said he knew the moment he saw Miok that he belonged at the school.
"George had two callings in life, two loves," Moss said. "The military and teaching, and he often intertwined the two in his daily lessons."
"Staff and students were quite accustomed to seeing George's Grade 7 boys marching single-file in military style down the hallway, as they made their way to the wrestling room."
Miok had three older brothers. The oldest, Laszlo Miok, spoke to the assembly.
"George is the youngest, and he is considered the angel of our family," Laszlo told hundreds of students and staff. "You all enriched his life.
"It is nice to know that so many people cared for George and that he touched the lives of so many."
Miok's death and the ceremony to honour him bring the consequences of life decisions into sharp focus, said Mike Wilk, a teacher at St. Cecilia for 11 years.
"Remembrance Days for a lot of years to come here at the school are going to mean a lot more to a lot of the kids," Wilk said. "I know it certainly will for the staff."
Ebony Rao, one of George Miok's students, said he would often share his experiences in the military with students and weave them into lessons.
"He said it was about the peacemakers, and he said it was important to save other people and make peace with everyone," she said.
"I made him a picture before he left of Curious George because I always called him Curious George."