Derrick Nelson, a longtime educator who was appointed principal of Westfield High School two years ago, died Sunday night, Superintendent of Schools Margaret Dolan said in a message to parents. He was 44 years old.
"Dr. Nelson touched us all with his kindness, compassion, integrity and endlessly positive attitude. We hold him and his family in our hearts as we grieve this loss together and I know you join me in granting his family the privacy they have requested," she wrote.
There was no immediate word about funeral arrangements. The cause was not immediately available.
Nelson served as assistant principal starting in 2012 and had previously been in administration at Roosevelt Intermediate School in 2010. For 20 years he served in the U.S. Army Reserve, including a stint in the Middle East.
Tributes and outpourings of grief were posted to social media as news of his death spread throughout Westfield Monday.
Reggie Carson remembered Nelson as a true hero.
“My heart is broken once again. REST IN POWER my dearest brother... you gave the ULTIMATE sacrifice,” Carson wrote on Facebook.
“You died giving someone else life... someone you didn’t even know, sacrificing and doing something you didn’t have to do!”
“Ultimate sacrifice indeed,” Leslie A. Thompson said. “SALUTE.”
"We are now hearing of the tragic and untimely death of Dr. Derrick Nelson, principal of Westfield High School," said Rabbi Doug Sagal of Temple Emanu-El.
"As you may know, Dr. Nelson was a great friend to the Temple Emanu-El community and most recently stood with us during our vigil after Pittsburgh.
"In addition to being an outstanding educator, Dr. Nelson proudly served our nation in uniform and continued to serve on active reserve. Please know your clergy are available if we can be of assistance to students or their families during this difficult time."
Check back for arrangements.
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