Former Westfield High School Principal Dr. Derrick Nelson is being laid to rest on Tuesday.
Dr. Nelson started his career in education in Plainfield before serving as an administrator in the Orange School District, then coming to Westfield in 2010. He served in the Army Reserve for over 20 years, his obituary said.
Dr. Nelson died from complications following his donation of bone marrow to a boy in France. Gov. Phil Murphy ordered flags lowered statewide Monday in Dr. Nelson’s memory. TAPinto Westfield reached out to readers for memories of the late Westfield school administrator.
This is what they had to say:
High School Classmate Recalls His Dedication
Derrick was an amazing person. I went to high school with him for our freshman year. Even as a 14-year-old boy, he felt that he was called to serve others and joined ROTC.
We reconnected on Facebook after I learned he was the principal of the high school. We were both so excited at the thought of him being my kids principal one day. He was looking forward to my kids being at the high school someday.
He was so giving and selfless at all times. Even until the end, he was helping others. That is who Derrick was.
– Faith Delaney
He Left a Comforting Impression on Her Boys
I didn’t “know” Dr. Nelson. But I knew of him, through friends and neighbors and photos and snippets in the local news. Last year, while at the high school to meet a student tutoring for PAL, my 9-year-old boys and I encountered Dr. Nelson at the door.
He bent down to greet my boys and ask them how they were doing and if they liked school. He told them to do their best, be kind and good to their mother, and he would see them in a few years.
He left us with a big smile and the comforting impression that my boys would be happy and safe in that big school. Rest In Peace, Dr. Nelson. You have, indeed, left your impression on the Westfield community.
– Cheryl Bishop
Remembered by a state Assemblyman from Westfield
He died helping others just as he had lived his whole life. He will always be remembered as a hero. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.
– Jon Bramnick
Text continues below the video from the vigil.
A Westfield Graduate Recalls His Caring
Dr. Nelson was truly one of the best people I've ever met. He was always so kind to his students and truly cared about each one of us the same. He would always say “hi” to me in the halls of the school and always was so cheerful. I’m so lucky to have gotten to meet him and have him as an administrator for several years through Roosevelt and Westfield High. I admired him deeply in middle school, and admire him even more now.
– Katie Truch
WHS Class of 2017
From Colleague, Parent: Recollection of His Special Words
I’ve known Dr. Nelson both as a parent and as a colleague in The Westfield School District. I have many fond memories of Dr. Nelson, but the one that touched me the most was at my son’s graduation ceremony from Westfield High School in June of 2016.
He said something so special when he addressed the graduates. He said that this particular class would always be one that he would hold dear to his heart because he was hired as the new Vice principal at Roosevelt when they began as new sixth graders, and then, three years later, he was hired as an Assistant Principal at WHS as this class was beginning their freshman year.
He spoke of how they had been in this journey together and learned together through these shared experiences. He wished them well with such fondness, and I just remembered how wonderful and special he made each student feel that day. He said even though they, as students, were now going onto the next chapter in their lives, he would always remember and be there for them.
He just had a way of being this highly respected, but approachable person who made everyone feel welcomed.
– Sandy Boutsikaris
Remembered for His Humanity
As a mother of a high school student, I was not only touched by Dr. Nelson’s compassion and caring words as a principal but as a human being in today’s politically correct society.
When our daughter Layla became seriously ill in the beginning of her junior year, I emailed all of her teachers and Dr. Nelson to keep them in the loop. Many of her teachers wrote back wishing Layla well etc. However, Dr. Nelson was the only one who wrote and told us that he would be praying for our daughter to have a speedy recovery.
Dr. Nelson was brave in many ways but most importantly, he was brave in letting us know he was a Christian and believed in prayer! He also asked that if we needed anything, to reach out to him. Now a person doesn’t get any better than this.
May God bless his family and hope they find comfort in how he touched so many lives. We certainly will never forget this great man and leader of Westfield High School.
With our deepest sympathies,
Robin and Carl Halterman