‘When I would fall, he would pick me up’: Former students honor late Andrews band director, Big Country native

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – There’s no doubt the life of Darin Johns, the late Andrews band director, has impacted many students, parents and communities across the Big Country.

“Darin was absolutely the one who began paving the way for me,” Wylie West Junior High Band Director Chris Brannan said.

Brannan grew up with Johns, who was his distant cousin, but was also a student of his in 6th and 7th grade.

Brannan looked back on his time with Johns, and said his humor and intentionality is what made him stand above the rest.

Johns left Franklin Middle School for Jim Ned High School after Brannan’s 7th grade year, and Brannan said he was devastated, but that Johns wanted to give him something to look forward to.

“Darin called my folks up and said, ‘Hey, I’m going out to the school today to start summer band, and we march 8th graders out there,'” Brannan said. “‘I didn’t know if Chris would be interested in tagging along’…Then afterwards we went and grabbed his boat, went out to the lake and swam all day before coming back home.”

It’s a memory Brannan said he’ll never forget.

Another former student, Hannah Hackett, remembers her first band trip with Johns as a freshman, when they went to Winter Park, Colorado to ski.

“He just laughed at me,” Hackett said laughing. “When I would fall, he would pick me up off the slopes and help me get the snow out of my boots.”

Johns helped Hackett conquer her fears through laughter, but also showed her empathy and support as she struggled with the death of a loved one.

“Considering everything going on with him, it just made me want to drive harder,” Hackett said.

In the midst of his support of Hackett, Darin Johns was battling cancer in Houston, but still made time to reassure his students that everything would be alright.

Which is why Darin Johns was so loved by so many, Brannan said. His character made him stand out amidst all of the other teachers that either Brannan or Hackett had.

“He would nurture you as an individual and apply that to the entire group,” Brannan said. “His ability to connect, his ability to show so much selflessness and humbleness around the students, parents and community was amazing.”

Community members held a candlelight vigil outside of Andrews High School in his honor, while the Sweetwater band played Andrews’ fight song during the team’s playoff game.

Andrews ISD is also accepting donations for those effected by the bus accident. If you would like to donate, click here.

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