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Students, faculty honor beloved NJ principal who died after bone marrow donation

Posted at 10:33 PM, Apr 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-10 22:33:13-04

WESTFIELD, N.J. — They stood on the Westfield High School lawn, outside the doors to the auditorium Wednesday night. A solemn show of solidarity in their immeasurable loss over their beloved principal, Dr. Derrick Nelson.

"He was just always friendly to everyone. At the games he used to be cheering on with us and everything," student Kyle Henderson told PIX11 at the vigil Wednesday. "He was really outgoing and he wanted everyone at the school to feel comfortable and feel accepted," he continued.

Only the flickering of candles could be seen in the darkness Wednesday, as students shared memories of Dr. Nelson.

Just 44 years old, Nelson’s sudden death on Sunday was a shock to many in the New Jersey town.

"He wanted the most out of all children... He wanted all children to feel welcome," a

At the vigil the word "selfless' was often used to describe him. Nelson had just donated bone marrow to someone he never knew, a 14-year-old boy in France. It is currently unknown if the procedure caused his death.

"I think he would be so happy to see all of us here," Henderson said. "I think he would be happy to see us live by what he lived by, which was to be kind and be generous to others."

Dr. Nelson also served 20 years as a U.S. military reservist and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2013.

There's even an online petition to change the high school's name in honor of Nelson, which already has over 13,000 of the 15,000 signatures it needs to be addressed.