Former students of a local high school drama teacher who passed away last week say she made a profound impact on their lives.
Eleanor Marie Bowman Klimo, known to many as “Ms. Ellie,” died Wednesday at age 67 after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer.
Klimo was the first African-American teacher at North Forsyth High School, where she taught for nine years, school system officials said.
North Principal Beth Hebert broke the news of Klimo’s passing to teachers Thursday morning.
“Ms. Ellie was a very dedicated drama instructor who touched the hearts of many students and adults,” Hebert said. “She will be sadly missed by the NFHS staff and student body. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family.”
Last September, some of Klimo’s students organized a benefit concert in her honor to help pay her medical bills and for her to finish her doctorate.
Klimo was still teaching full time at the high school in Coal Mountain. Students and parents took turns cleaning her house and taking her to and from doctor’s appointments.
According to her obituary, Klimo taught in Gainesville before coming to North. Originally from New Jersey, she had a bachelor's degree from Howard University.
Jordan Martin, now a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, was one of Klimo’s students. Both Martin and his mother, Shree, said he wouldn’t have finished high school had it not been for Klimo.
“She was actually like a second mother to me,” he said. “She just pushed me to do my best no matter what I was doing and not to do anything stupid.”
Martin, who is stationed at Camp LeJeune in North Carolina, returned to Forsyth County this weekend to attend Klimo’s funeral.
“She was the most amazing person,” he said.
Shree Martin explained that students had to keep their grades up to participate in drama.
“He went (to school) to be in drama,” she said. “She made him feel so special that that was what he went for.”
North graduate Holly Crawshaw said Klimo was a gifted instructor.
“She was able to see the potential in students that wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable in the spotlight or having lots of attention on them,” Crawshaw said. “She was good at drawing the potential out of those students and really asking for the best and getting the best out of people.”
She said Klimo’s students trusted and cared for her.
“She’s obviously going to be missed, but she’s leaving a legacy.”
Klimo’s survivors include her husband, Thomas Klimo of Oakwood; son, Stephen Klimo, and grandson Trey Steven Klimo, both of Norwalk, Conn.; mother, Christine Bowman of Lynchburg, Va.; and brother Everett Bowman Jr. of Charlottesville, Va.
Services are scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday at St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church in Oakwood.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Saint Gabriel’s.