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Derrick Nelson (1975-2019), high school principal, dies after donating bone marrow

AP Photo/Westfield Public Schools)

Derrick Nelson (1975-2019), high school principal, dies after donating bone marrow

Derrick Nelson, a high school principal at Westfield High School in New Jersey, died on Sunday, April 7, after having undergone a procedure to donate bone marrow to a 14-year-old boy in France. Nelson, who was known for his generosity and community service, told the Westfield student newspaper before the procedure: “If it’s just a little bit of pain for a little bit of time that can give someone years of joy, it’s all worth it.”   

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Died: April 7, 2019. (Who else died on April 7?) 

Details of death: Died at the age of 44 in Hackensack, N.J., after falling into a coma following the bone marrow transplant operation.  

A lifetime of service: Nelson served as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve for more than 20 years and had recently re-enlisted, his father told NJ.com. He began his career in education in 2002, first as a teacher, then as assistant principal at two schools before becoming principal at Westfield High School.  

An outpouring of sympathy: Many in the community want to pay tribute to Nelson — by renaming the school in his memory. “This past Sunday, Derrick Nelson, the principal of Westfield High School, lost his life donating marrow to a 14 year old boy in France,” says a petition on Change.org. “This level of generosity can’t go unnoticed...” Quickly surpassing its goal of 15,000 signatures, the petition is now striving for 25,000.  

What they said about him: The response from the school community — indeed, from across New Jersey — has been powerful.   

Gov. Phil Murphy praised Nelson on Twitter: “Dr. Derrick Nelson … embodied all that makes New Jersey great. His final act was one of selflessness. Our deepest condolences to his family. We mourn with the entire Westfield community.”  

Assemblyman Jon Bramnick said in a statement: “He died helping others just as he had lived his whole life. He will always be remembered as a hero.”  

The New Jersey Department of Education tweeted: "His contributions to the education community, his country and to his community will always be remembered."  

"It is not surprising that Dr. Nelson’s death has evoked this level of heartfelt response,” Westfield Board of Education President Peggy Oster said in a statement. “He was a committed educator whose life was a testament to service."  

The change.org petition can be signed here.  

Full obituary: NJ.com  

Heroic lives:  

Ismael Jimenez, selfless teen hero  

Xander Kahle Vento, astonishing child savior