New Jersey high school principal dies donating bone marrow

PHOTO: Principal Dr. Derrick Nelson of Westfield Public Schools is seen in this undated photo.PlayWestfield Public Schools
WATCH New Jersey high school grieves the loss of its principal

A high school principal has died donating bone marrow to someone in need.

Derrick Nelson, 44, the principal of Westfield High School in Westfield, New Jersey, died April 8 after falling to into a coma during a procedure to donate bone marrow to a 14-year-old boy in France, Nelson’s father told ABC News. He did not give further details.

“He was the greatest,” Willie Nelson, 82, told ABC News. He added that the family doesn’t know the exact cause of death, but was told Derrick may have suffered a heart attack.

Westfield Public Schools Superintendent Margaret Dolan said in a statement that she has talked 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 mourning 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 joined Westfield Public Schools in 2010 as the assistant principal of Roosevelt Intermediate School. He then served as assistant principal and principal at Westfield High School -- a school with over 1,800 students, according to the school district.

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

Nelson leaves behind a 6-year-old daughter.