New Jersey high school principal dies donating bone marrow to 14-year-old child

A high school principal has passed away after attempting to donate bone marrow to someone in need.

Derrick Nelson, 44, the revered principal of Westfield High School in Westfield, New Jersey, passed away on April 8 after falling into a coma during a procedure to donate bone marrow to a 14-year-old child in France, Nelson’s father said to ABC News. He did not provide any additional details.

“He was the greatest,” Willie Nelson, 82, told news stations. He shared that the family does not know the exact cause of death, but they were told it might have been due to a heart attack.

Westfield Public Schools Superintendent Margaret Dolan shared a statement saying that she has spoken with students, parents, teachers, counselors and nurses, who all shared stories of how Nelson had helped them.

“Many of us are struggling with this loss. But we are committed to continuing Dr. Nelson’s legacy,” Dolan wrote. “We will set high standards for ourselves as Dr. Nelson set for himself. And, as Dr. Nelson has done, we will think less of ourselves and more of others around us. He has taught us many lessons.”

Westfield, New Jersey, Mayor Shelley Brindle also released a statement speaking about Nelson’s death.

“This is a tremendous loss for our community, and I know that our children, and we as parents, will struggle with coming to terms with this over the coming days and weeks,” Brindle wrote. “He was a man of immense character and kindness, and his legacy will live on in the generations of students whose lives he touched.”

Derrick Nelson first started at Westfield Public Schools in 2010 as the assistant principal of Roosevelt Intermediate School. He then was placed as the assistant principal and principal at Westfield High School — a school with over 1,800 students roaming the halls.

Nelson, who was born and grew up in New Jersey, earned a doctorate in Education Administration from Seton Hall University. He also was as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve for more than twenty yeras, including a stint in the Middle East, according to Westfield Public Schools.

Nelson leaves behind a 6-year-old daughter. Prayers for his family.

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