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A drive-by parade celebrates the impact of a beloved Spring Hill teacher

On Monday, faculty, students and former students from Nature Coast Technical High held a parade celebrating the life of David Feinberg, a science teacher at the Spring Hill school. Feinberg, who taught at the school for 16 years, was diagnosed with liver cancer in October and recently entered hospice care.  "Best teacher I ever had," Justin Mergal (left) calls out to Feinberg as Tiana Mergal holds up an encouraging sign.
On Monday, faculty, students and former students from Nature Coast Technical High held a parade celebrating the life of David Feinberg, a science teacher at the Spring Hill school. Feinberg, who taught at the school for 16 years, was diagnosed with liver cancer in October and recently entered hospice care. "Best teacher I ever had," Justin Mergal (left) calls out to Feinberg as Tiana Mergal holds up an encouraging sign. [ MICHELE MILLER | Times ]
Published Apr. 24, 2020
Updated Apr. 24, 2020

SPRING HILL — They had about 24 hours to put together the Drive4Dave ride, and there was a good chance of rain. But the people who love David Feinberg were determined to pull it off.

Feinberg had made an impact over his 16 years teaching at Nature Coast Technical High in Brooksville. This was a way to celebrate that and to offer some thanks.

At 2:15 p.m. Monday, the steady stream of cars started rolling past the Hospice House in Spring Hill. David Feinberg, his wife and two kids sat on the porch, waving, blowing kisses and forming hand hearts for those who turned out for the ride-by.

Nature Coast High School teacher David Feinberg, surrounded by his wife, Fivia, son, Logan, and daughter, Haydn, makes hand hearts for faculty, students and former students who came to the Drive4Dave parade held Monday in front of the Hospice House in Spring Hill. David Feinberg was diagnosed with cancer in October.
Nature Coast High School teacher David Feinberg, surrounded by his wife, Fivia, son, Logan, and daughter, Haydn, makes hand hearts for faculty, students and former students who came to the Drive4Dave parade held Monday in front of the Hospice House in Spring Hill. David Feinberg was diagnosed with cancer in October. [ MICHELE MILLER | Times ]

The line stretched through the back roads all the way to the parking lot of Fujiyama Japanese Steakhouse. It was 3:08 p.m. when the last car, driven by a Hernando County Sheriff’s deputy, rolled by with lights flashing.

”This is a crazy long line,” said physical education teacher David Pisarcik, as he directed traffic. “You can see what he means to the students, the teachers and the teachers that used to work here.”

David Pisarcik, a physical education teacher at Nature Coast Technical High, directs traffic for a drive-by parade for his colleague, David Feinberg, who recently entered care at the Hospice House in Spring Hill. "This is a crazy, long line. This is a great turnout," Pisarcik said. "You can see what he means to the students, the teachers and the teachers that used to work here."
David Pisarcik, a physical education teacher at Nature Coast Technical High, directs traffic for a drive-by parade for his colleague, David Feinberg, who recently entered care at the Hospice House in Spring Hill. "This is a crazy, long line. This is a great turnout," Pisarcik said. "You can see what he means to the students, the teachers and the teachers that used to work here." [ MICHELE MILLER | Times ]

Feinberg was diagnosed with liver cancer in October. The drive-by originally was planned to pass by his house, said principal Toni-Ann Noyes. But when Feinberg entered hospice care, his daughter, Haydn, and administrators reached out to the community on social media, offering a way for others to show their support and love in a time of social distancing.

“At this current moment, despite an amazing and brave fight against this awful disease, we are not sure how much longer we as a family and community have left with him,” Hadyn Feinberg wrote in a Facebook post. “My dad has taught at Nature Coast for the past 16 years, and he is a man who has loved his profession, his fellow colleagues, and you, the students. To honor his life and his dedication to the Shark family, we have decided to do a drive-by celebration of life.”

“People were excited to hear we were going to do this,” said Noyes, who directed traffic and made sure the parade had a respectful, quiet tone. "David wanted to do this because he wanted to show what an impact teachers have on this community with their colleagues and their students. It’s a testament to how we feel about each other.”

On Monday, Toni-Ann Noyes, principal at Nature Coast Technical High, fought back tears while directing traffic and greeting the parade of  students and faculty members who came out to honor David Feinberg, a beloved teacher at the school. Feinberg has been diagnosed with cancer and recently entered hospice care.
On Monday, Toni-Ann Noyes, principal at Nature Coast Technical High, fought back tears while directing traffic and greeting the parade of students and faculty members who came out to honor David Feinberg, a beloved teacher at the school. Feinberg has been diagnosed with cancer and recently entered hospice care. [ MICHELE MILLER | Times ]

Feinberg is known for carrying the Shark spirit wherever he goes, she said, whether it’s organizing the school science fair and brain bowl, or acting on the stage in school plays, such as West Side Story and You Can’t Take it With You.

He and his wife, Fivia, who serves as attendance secretary, are an integral part of the school community and have been at Nature Coast since the school opened in 2005, Noyes said.

“They are just so giving and generous with their time. They are there for spirit days, prom, everything,” she said. ”Everybody just misses seeing him at lunch duty.”

“He’s the best teacher I ever had,” said Justin Mergal, a 2013 graduate, who expressed those sentiments to Feinberg while hanging out a car window.

“Their house was my second house," said family friend Allison Selg, recalling time spent listening to and dissecting Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven with Feinberg.

David Feinberg, a physical science teacher at Nature Coast Technical High since the school opened, was diagnosed with cancer in October 2019. Faculty, students and former students came out to honor their beloved teacher on Monday with a special drive-by parade held in front of the Hospice House in Spring Hill.
David Feinberg, a physical science teacher at Nature Coast Technical High since the school opened, was diagnosed with cancer in October 2019. Faculty, students and former students came out to honor their beloved teacher on Monday with a special drive-by parade held in front of the Hospice House in Spring Hill. [ MICHELE MILLER | Times ]

Ken Zwerdling, who has known Feinberg for 52 years, drove from Greenville, South Carolina, to be there for the friend who was by his side from grade school through college in upstate New York. They even stood together at the altar, where the two served as best man at each other’s weddings.

“He’s the guy, if you have a problem, you know you can call at three o’clock in the morning, and he’ll be there for you,” he said. Other friends wanted to be there, as well, Zwerdling said, but with the coronavirus, “no one is traveling.”

“This man has touched so many lives, it’s amazing,” Fivia Feinberg said, waving off tears as cars continued to stream by.

“I’ve been blessed to be his wife," she said. "His kids have been blessed to have his love as their father. He has shared that love with all these kids — all these people.”

Note: Justin Mergal, is a 2013 graduate of Nature Coast Technical High School. An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect year.