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Teacher cultivated students' love of science

| Thursday, Nov. 6, 2003

"You have to be on fire before you can burn out."

That's what Henry R. Molitor told a colleague at the end of his 31-year teaching career. He didn't want to retire, but the years took their toll on the teacher who had dedicated himself so thoroughly to his students and profession.

Mr. Molitor, of Ross, a retired biology teacher with the North Hills School District, died Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2003. He was 63.

Mr. Molitor reveled in being able to reach his students and cultivate their scientific abilities. He lived his professional life with one philosophy: "If I tell you, you'll hear, but if I show you, you'll learn."

"He loved working with the brilliant minds -- minds that he could spark and inspire," said his wife, Christine. "He was a brilliant man and he could pick students that he knew were going to soar."

Mr. Molitor grew up in Leetsdale and graduated from Quaker Valley High School. He received a bachelor's degree from Slippery Rock University in 1962, and took a job as a biology teacher with the North Hills School District while attending the University of Pittsburgh to earn his master's degree in education.

Mr. Molitor was never content with lecturing to his students. He wanted them to love science as much as he did. To that end, he turned his classroom into a small menagerie, housing animals from squirrels to frogs to crows.

Mr. Molitor worked hard to reach every student, but he loved cultivating those he knew had the talent to succeed in science and medicine. Many times, he would pay out of pocket for animals for these students to dissect and would spend extra hours working with them.

After retiring from North Hills, he took a job at La Roche College, not to teach science but to instruct education majors on the finer points of teaching.

In his spare time, Mr. Molitor could be found on the golf course, perfecting a swing that his wife called "beauty in motion." In 1991, as a personal test of his abilities, Mr. Molitor passed the player's ability test, a prerequisite to become a professional golfer.

"I didn't even golf, but I would go out just to watch him," his wife said. "It was nothing short of a sight to behold watching him swing that golf club."

In addition to his wife, Mr. Molitor is survived by two sisters, Johanna Hisey, of Lititz, Lancaster County, and Virginia Beer, of Moon; four brothers, Arthur, of Acme, Westmoreland County, Albert, of Hawaii, Jerome, of Maryland, and Thomas, of Hopewell; and three stepsons, Michael, Robert and David.

There will be no visitation and services will be private. Arrangements are being handled by the Schellhaas Funeral Home, West View.

Memorial contributions may be made to Forbes Hospice, 6655 Frankstown Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15206.

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