Rod Durham, the high school teacher who lost nearly 200 pounds as a contestant for Extreme Weight Loss, was found dead over the weekend. He was 52.
According to the Tallahassee Democrat, Durham’s body was found in a motel room in Fort Lauderdale, where he was visiting during his school’s spring break.
Although the cause of death is yet to be determined, some friends speculated that he may have died as a result of diabetic shock.
— Us Weekly (@usweekly) March 15, 2016
Rocky Hana, Leon County Schools administrator, told the newspaper on Monday that he was regarded with respect and loved by students and faculty alike.
“He always made everyone smile — even if you were having the worst day. If you saw Rod, your day got better. His laugh was simply infectious…. Everyone loved Rod Durham. There are tens of thousands of kids today who are broken-hearted.”
Durham, who taught drama at Leon High School in Tallahassee, Florida, gained national popularity in 2014 by appearing on Season 4 of ABC’s Extreme Weight Loss.
— ExtraTV (@extratv) March 15, 2016
According to the Huffington Post, Durham lost over 180 pounds on the show and stood out for his attitude and kindness.
Heidi Powell, a trainer on the show, took to Instagram to share her grief over the loss of the former reality show contestant, along with a photo of herself and Durham.
“Heaven just got a lot brighter today when Rod entered the pearly gates. While I am selfishly so sad and completely devastated that I won’t get to see him on earth anymore, I am rejoicing for the spirit he is carrying with him and spreading to everyone up there.”
— OK! Magazine (@OK_Magazine) March 15, 2016
In 2014, Durham said he worked hard to lose the pounds during one year of strict dieting and exercise.
“I was the third oldest and second heaviest. I wasn’t always the first one who finished, but I always finished it.”
During his weight loss journey on the show, which took him from 448 pounds at his first weigh-in to 260 pounds, Durham spoke honestly about his addiction to food and admitted that feelings of fear and rejection drove him to eat.
“Without a doubt, I know that I substitute food for fellowship and friendship and camaraderie, and that’s where I seek that stuff.”
He also spoke highly about his love of teaching.
“When I’m in the classroom with my kids, when I’m teaching, I feel like many times it’s my best self. I’m not thinking about being alone. I’m not thinking about being overweight. I’m not thinking about how much my life sucks. When I’m with them, I feel like I’m the best me that I can be. Then I get in the car, and I come home, and I’m the other guy where I’m not so happy.”
— THECOUNT.COM (@THECOUNTnews) March 15, 2016
In addition to his teaching career, Durham was very involved with the Tallahassee theater community as an actor and director. According to the Democrat, he co-directed Agnes of God, which is currently in production at Theatre Tallahassee. He acted in many plays throughout the years, including roles in The Piano Lesson and The Merchant of Venice.
— DeeDee Rasmussen (@DeeDee4LCSB) March 15, 2016
In a sad twist of irony, Durham celebrated a birthday last month, according to his Instagram account. His last post reads, “I’m 52 today (February 6th)…Behold B**ches (sorry! I’m happy to still be alive!)”
[Image via Instagram/Rod Durham]