Dr. Michael D. Belcher, director of Hancock County Schools, passed away Sunday after a brief illness just two months after being appointed director.

Belcher had been in education for the past 32 years. He served as a classroom teacher, principal of Mulberry Gap, Kyles Ford and Hancock elementary schools, Hancock County Middle/High School and supervisor of special populations.

Belcher had been serving as the newly appointed director of schools since July 1.

A release from Hancock County Schools stated that Belcher was “proud to serve as the director of schools and wanted only the best for (the county’s) students, teachers and community. He will be greatly missed by the school family.”

Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction Charlotte Mullins worked with Belcher for 20 years.

“Dr. Belcher was my co-worker, my principal, my director and my friend,” Charlotte Mullins said. “He was an advocate for all children but especially children of special needs. Dr. Belcher was a gentle soul with a love for life. Although this is a tragedy for our school system, he would expect us to carry on and excel and we will endeavor to do so in his memory. My sincere condolences to his family.”

Payroll Clerk Erin Seals had Belcher as a fifth-grade student and worked with him in the central office.

“He had wanted this job for a long time,” she said. “I loved him as a teacher. He was always making things interesting. I liked working with him.”

Hancock County Board of Education Chairman Jack Mullins lauded Belcher’s experience in paying tribute.

“He had just started the job. With all the experience he had, Dr. Belcher was the person I think was capable of doing the job of managing the lives of 900 children in Hancock County,” Jack Mullins said. “It’s a very serious loss to the county.”

Board of Education Vice Chairman David Jones said that Belcher had worked all of his life for an opportunity to be director.

“He was doing things in spite of once-a-week medical procedures,” Jones said. “I really do hate this for him. “We had a three and a half year contract and I would have liked to have seen him fulfill that.

Belcher was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on March 1, 1962. He moved to Tennessee at an early age and spent most of his life residing in the mountains of Hancock County. Better known to some as “Doc,” Belcher earned his doctorate, and all degrees preceding, from East Tennessee State University.

Belcher’s obituary stated that he had a passion for family, education and the outdoors. He was a loving husband, dedicated father and cherished granddad. He loved being an educator and the highlight of his life was helping young minds develop.

His wisdom and insight in the education field will be dearly missed.

He was a true sportsman at heart and had a deep love for hunting and fishing. It can easily be said that whatever he was doing, he was doing it wholeheartedly.

Visitation and receiving of friends will be held from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday at McNeil Funeral Home in Sneedville. Services will be conducted at 2 p.m., Thursday at the funeral home chapel with Rev. Joe Davis officiating. Graveside service will be held at Kinsler Cemetery on Panther Creek Road in Sneedville.