More than 15 Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia teachers and staff members have died of COVID-19 since July, Action News Jax has learned.
They were teachers and coaches. They were bus drivers and school-resource officers. They were administrators and maintenance workers. They were pastors and custodians.
Two were a father and son.
If you know an educator from Northeast Florida or Southeast Georgia who is not listed who you want remembered, please email us at email@example.com.
Six of those teachers and staff members have died since Aug. 17, in just over 30 days.
Cases of COVID-19, fueled by the highly contagious delta variant, have spread quickly through schools. According to data from the American Association of Pediatrics, cases in children are generally mild.
Taken all together, the list below paints a stunning portrait of the tragic toll the COVID-19 delta variant has taken on educators in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia. Some educators died just before the school year started. Here are their names and stories:
Korey Harrington, 47, was an ESE middle school teacher at Pine Island Academy in St. Johns County. She had previously taught at Nease High School, working with special needs students. Her sister described Harrington to Action News Jax as the kindest person she’s ever known. A message from the Pine Island Academy principal was sent to families, stating that Harrington’s commitment to her students was never in doubt. It reads in part:
“She never hesitated to offer her support to anyone in need. She worked throughout the summer to ensure our students were ready for the transition to a new school and there were days we had to tell her to go home.”
Jamie Morris, 40, was a 7th-grade teacher at Pierce County Middle School and a father of three. He also coached middle school soccer and football. According to his wife, Morris died the evening of Sept. 4 at St. Vincent’s Medical Center Riverside in Jacksonville.
Jessie Cortez, 43, died Aug. 31, according to the Florida Education Association (FEA). He was employed by St. Johns County School Transportation as a bus driver. He leaves behind a wife, son and two daughters, according to his obituary.
Tammy Looney, 44, died Aug. 27, according to the FEA. She had worked as a teacher with the St. Johns County School District for the past 15 years as a pre-K teacher at Timberland Creek Elementary School in St. Augustine, according to her obituary.
Jody Hull Jr., 49, a native of St. Augustine, Florida, died from COVID-19 on Aug. 21 after a weekslong battle with the virus. He was employed with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, serving most recently as the Youth Resource Deputy at St. Augustine High School.
Shirley Duggan, 77, died of COVID-19 Aug. 15, according to the Brantley County School District. She had been a school bus driver in Brantley County for nearly 20 years. She loved going to church and spending time with her five sons, 11 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.
Nicole Hollis was a third-grade teacher at River City Science Academy Mandarin when she died from COVID-19 Aug. 14, according to her family. She leaves behind two young children. Following her passing, Hollis’ husband shared the following post on Facebook:
“We are heartbroken. Nicole never met a person she didn’t like; she had the most beautiful contagious smile. She was the most genuine and sweetest person that walked the Earth. She was the best thing to happen to our family! Heaven gained an all-star. Thank you for all the prayers! Please hug your loved ones tight today.”
Catherine Shuman, 38, died Aug. 11 after a battle with COVID-19 according to her family. She was a science and social studies teacher at Wacona Elementary in Waycross. She also coached the Wacona Science Olympiad team.
“She will be remembered as an enthusiastic team player who made learning science fun for her students,” family members said in her obituary.
Bobby Rivers, assistant principal at Arlington Middle School, died on Aug. 10. Rivers was a “proud and devoted educator” for Duval County Public Schools for over 15 years on multiple campuses as a teacher, Dean of Students, Reading Interventionist and finally as Assistant Principal, according to his obituary.
Arlington Middle Principal Shawn Platts sent a message to students and families.
“While I have only been here and known Mr. Rivers a short time, his passion for students and for education was immediately evident. He was well known for his success in helping children learn in every setting, and we were all very much looking forward to his leadership over our PRIDE program this year. Our entire school community is deeply saddened by this unexpected loss, and we send our condolences to his family.”
Kevin Hubbard was a longtime Duval Schools locksmith. He died Aug. 9, according to his obituary. He was 51 years old. According to his Facebook, Hubbard was a Marine Corps vet and served as a praise and worship leader at his church. Shortly before he died, Hubbard shared that he had recently tested positive for the virus on social media.
A family of Duval County Schools employees’ world was rocked in late July after a mother was hospitalized and her husband and son both died from COVID-19, according to the FEA, citing reporting from the Times-Union.
Both Mark McCall, 60, and his son Britt, 35, worked as foremen on Duval County Public Schools’ maintenance team. Britt died July 26, Mark died just four days later. Mark’s wife, Sherry, was also hospitalized but recovered. The McCall family was not vaccinated, citing fear of the vaccine.
Widely known football player and Jacksonville coach Wagner Linzel “Lin” Shell Jr., 39, died July 30. Shell played college football at Jacksonville University and spent several years in the Canadian Football League. Once an assistant coach at Andrew Jackson High School, Shell taught physical education and coached football, girls weightlifting and girls flag football at Jean Ribault High School.
Rev. William “Billy” Poyner, 46, died July 26 after a “valiant battle with COVID-19,” his obituary said. Poyner was the student pastor and Bible teacher at Northside Baptist Church/Christian Academy in Starke.
Lena Marcella Jackson, 61, died from COVID-19 July 25. Jackson previously worked for Florida School for the Deaf and Blind for 15 years before joining St. Johns County School District where she had worked for the past decade. She leaves behind a husband, four children and three grandchildren.
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