Family, friends bid final farewell to New Jersey principal who died while donating bone marrow

WESTFIELD, New Jersey (WABC) -- Friends, family and colleagues bid a final farewell Tuesday to a beloved New Jersey high school principal who died after undergoing a procedure to donate bone marrow to a 14-year-old stranger.

Funeral services were held for Westfield High School principal Dr. Derrick Nelson in Scotch Plains.

Nelson passed away on April 7 after donating bone marrow to a boy in France.

"Derrick was a tremendous father to our beloved daughter Morgan and the best companion and life partner I could have ever asked for," fiance Sheronda Braker said in a statement. "He loved his family almost beyond belief. He was a man who carried himself with dignity, courage and compassion. His last kind and generous act on this earth in giving so someone else might live is a true testament to who he was and how he should always be remembered. We will always love him."

He served as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve for more than 20 years and earned his doctorate in education administration from Seton Hall University.

He became principal of Westfield High School in 2017.

"Dr. Nelson touched us all with his kindness, compassion, integrity, and endlessly positive attitude," a school spokesperson said in a statement. "We hold him and his family in our hearts as we grieve this loss together and I know you join me in granting his family the privacy they have requested."

On Monday, flags in the state flew at half-staff in his honor.

Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle said the town is offering any assistance to the school district that is necessary during this difficult time.

"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 said. "He was a man of immense character and kindness, and his legacy will live on in the generations of students whose lives he touched."

Nelson was described as passionate, big hearted and an avid supporter of the students.

"He always tried to inspire students in the classroom and outside to be good people," senior class president Jackson O'Brien said. "And I think he served as a great role model."

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