Updated at 3:21 p.m. April 10, 2019
WESTFIELD, NJ — Funeral services have been set for the late Westfield High School Principal Dr. Derrick Nelson, who died earlier this week from rare complications that followed his bone marrow donation.
Viewings will be 5 – 9 p.m. Monday, April 15, and 10 – 11 a.m. Tuesday, April 16, at St. John Baptist Church, 2387 Morse Ave. in Scotch Plains, according to the Plinton Curry Funeral Home. The funeral will be 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the church on Tuesday.
Dr. Nelson, 44, had died on Sunday night at Hackensack University Medical Center in Bergen County, his father had said. Dr. Nelson’s death has prompted an outpouring of condolences and support from community members, who have set a vigil in front of Westfield High School for 8:15 p.m. Wednesday.
The story has drawn national attention, and a petition on Change.org requesting the local high school be named “Derrick Nelson High School” had garnered 9,358 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.
"He was a committed educator whose life was a testament to service. The Change.org petition suggesting that Westfield High School be renamed to Derrick Nelson High School further illustrates the enormous respect the community holds for Dr. Nelson," said Board of Education President Peggy Oster in a statement. "The Westfield Board of Education and school administration look forward to discussing the petition at a later date."
Oster said the district's immediate focus is on supporting students and staff, following Dr. Nelson's passing.
Dr. Nelson had served in the Army Reserves for over 20 years and as a school administrator in Orange before coming to Westfield schools in 2010. He began his teaching career in his hometown of Plainfield.
Mayor Shelley Brindle and Town Council members at their Tuesday night meeting observed a moment of silence in Dr. Nelson’s memory.
“We are here tonight with heavy hearts as we mourn the sudden passing of Westfield High School Principal Dr. Derrick Nelson, which has devastated our community,” Brindle said. “He is someone who exemplified who we all aspire to be, epitomizing ‘service above self.’”
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh