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'Mom was always there for us': Central VPA teacher laid to rest

“The world is truly a better place because of Jean Kuczka,” her son Steve Kuczka Jr. said.

ST. LOUIS — A week after a student and a teacher were killed in a shooting at Central Visual And Performing Arts High School, that teacher, Jean Kuczka, was laid to rest.

The community packed the pews at the Cathedral Basilica Of St. Louis to honor the life of teacher, wife, mom and grandmother Jean Kuczka.

“She was the most selfless person we’ve ever known and I know many of you would agree," Jean Kuczka’s son Steve Kuczka Jr. said. "Mom was always there for us. She was always there for anyone who needed her. That was the common thread of Jean’s life.” 

Students at Central Visual And Performing Arts High School said Kuczka spent her last few moments in the classroom protecting them from a gunman who shot his way into the school.

“Mom believed every child is a unique human being and deserves a chance to learn," Steve Kuczka Jr. said. "After teaching for 18 years at Seven Holy Founders she spent the past 20 years at St. Louis Public School District. Though the spark that led her there wasn't gone, mom was looking forward to retiring soon, she was ready to spend more time with the people she loved.”

Jean was married to her husband, Steve, for nearly 40 years. They had five kids and several grandkids. They never stopped exploring together.

“Our big happy family has been lucky enough to share countless memories together, including trips to some of John's favorite destinations like Pagosa Springs, Colorado and Pompano Beach, Florida,” Steve Kuczka Jr. said.

Her student, Alexzandria Bell, who was also killed that same day was honored at Jean's funeral with a picture and a prayer.

Steve said she was a very accomplished teacher and athlete.

“Jean won the national championship in field hockey at Southwest Missouri State and on the 30th anniversary of their title, she and her teammates were inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. Most recently, though, she received a national award at Central Visual And Performing Arts High School, recognizing the school for being one of America's Healthiest,” Steve Kuczka Jr. said.

Steve said while she lived a full life she was taken from them too soon.

“The world is truly a better place because of Jean,” he said.

Jean Kuczka was a teacher in the St. Louis area for 38 years.

Funeral arrangements for Alexzandria Bell were confirmed by her mother Friday.

Bell's visitation is planned for Saturday, Nov. 5 at 10 a.m. at Faith Church-Earth City. Bell will be buried at Friedens Cemetery and Mausoleum in Bellefontaine Neighbors.

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