A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Clay Eifert’s commitment to Catholic education impacted countless lives in 30 years at Holy Cross

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

Three years ago, Clay Eifert decided to retire as principal at Holy Cross High School in Covington because he was feeling the effects of his long battle with cancer.

“He didn’t really want to step down,” said his wife, Lori. “He was forced to retire because he felt like he couldn’t give 100 percent to the students any more because of his illness.”

A few months after Clay Eifert retired as principal at Holy Cross, the high school named the street behind the church and activity center in honor of him and his family.

Eifert, who spent 30 years as a teacher, coach and principal at Holy Cross, passed away at his home Friday night with his wife, two children, Ashley and Robert, and other family members by his side. He was 55 years old.

After being diagnosed with melanoma in 2010, Eifert continued serving as principal at Holy Cross for five years. A few months before his retirement, he received the Exemplar Award from the Notre Dame Club of Cincinnati for his life-long commitment to Catholic education at the co-ed high school.

“To him, Holy Cross was absolutely everything,” his wife said. “He never stopped creating or developing things that would be best, not only for the school, but for the children who went there.”

One of his projects was creating Clay’s Kids, a scholarship program for students who may not be able to afford a Catholic education.

“I’ve just gotten so many emails and Facebook messages from his students who say he is the reason they are who they are today,” Lori said.

Eifert was a 1980 graduate of Holy Cross and earned varsity letters in basketball and baseball. During his senior year, he was a 6-foot-6 center on the basketball team that won the first All “A” Classic small-school tournament and a first baseman on the baseball team that won the 9th Region championship.

He got a degree in secondary education from Thomas More College because he was interested in coaching and developed a passion for teaching after joining the faculty at Holy Cross in 1985.

Clay Eifert and wife, Lori, pose with the Exemplar Award he received for his life-long commitment to Catholic education. (Photo from Notre Dame Club of Cincinnati)

“He realized that teaching was also coaching,” his wife said. “It was a passion of his to make sure the children he taught were not only good students but fine individuals.”

Eifert was boys’ head basketball coach and head baseball coach at Holy Cross. He was inducted into the Northern Kentucky Athletic Directors Hall of Fame and the Northern Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame as a player and coach. He refused to be inducted into the Holy Cross High School Hall of Fame so that others could attain that honor. 

Eifert continued to teach math and computer classes after he became principal so he could stay connected to the students. He was also the school’s development director and business manager when he retired.

“Because of his cancer, students loved him so much they sent letters letting him know that he made a difference in their lives,” Lori said. “And aside from all that, he was the most amazing father. He loved his kids very much and being a father was the most important role he had.”

Connely Brothers Funeral Home is arranging services that are scheduled for Thursday at Holy Cross Church. Visitation will be from 9 to 11:45 a.m. with a Mass of Christian Burial at noon. There will be a police escort to Mother of God Cemetery and a memorial gathering in the high school gym after the burial.

When the funeral procession begins outside of church, Holy Cross students will be lining the streets and waving roses to pay tribute to their former principal.

Lori said her husband will be buried with the cremated ashes of the family’s two dogs, Pooh and Lucky, who were his constant companions during cancer treatments. Both of the dogs developed incurable health problems and had to be euthanized.

“They were the only things that got him through the long days after having chemo treatments and sitting at home,” Lori said. “They stayed with him all day long.”

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Clay’s Kids scholarship fund, Be Concerned in Covington or memorial masses on his behalf.

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  1. Lily and Stephen Hassert says:

    Thank you for this Terry. Will certainly help in the healing process. We love our Clay.

  2. Kathy says:

    I cannot find Clays Kids on the internet…Could you post a link?

  3. Mary E Dallas says:

    Thank you for writing this. He was a great man who touched many hearts and was an inspiration. He will be greatly missed.

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