WESTFIELD, NJ – Across the state, flags will fly at half-staff on Monday in honor of the Westfield High School Principal, who died from complications that followed his donation of bone marrow to a boy in France.
Gov. Phil Murphy has ordered the flags lowered in honor of Dr. Derrick Nelson, 44. The community has been mourning Dr. Nelson’s loss since his passing on April 7.
“Dr. Derrick Nelson represented the best of our state and our country,” Murphy said in a statement Friday. “He spent over 20 years in the United States Army, including time in the Middle East. He did all of this while serving the children of Plainfield, Orange, and Westfield, as a teacher, an assistant principal, and eventually as a principal.”
The executive order speaks to the late school administrator. “Dr. Nelson was a man of immense character and kindness, a pillar of his community, and beloved by all who knew him,” Murphy writes.
Dr. Nelson’s character had been evident as community members mourned his loss throughout the week. In Westfield on Wednesday night, hundreds of people, mostly students, had memorialized Dr. Nelson during a candlelight service in front of the high school.
“The loss of him has been extremely devastating for all of us,” said his fiancé, Sheronda Braker, speaking to the audience. “But Derrick would want us to continue his legacy and keep his memory alive. He is truly our hero.”
Dr. Nelson had first started teaching in his hometown of Plainfield, before becoming an administrator at schools in Orange, located in Essex County, and then starting as an administrator in Westfield in 2010.
Murphy offered condolences to the family.
“Tragically, Dr. Nelson died donating bone marrow to someone in need,” Murphy said. “We are better for having known him, even for the short amount of time he was with us. Tammy and I send our condolences to the Nelson family and his loved ones during this difficult time.”
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at email@example.com; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh