By JUDY SHERIDAN
Aledo ISD teacher Traci Cottrell, who has helped Aledo ISD students sidelined by injuries or illnesses keep up with their schoolwork for more than a decade, was used to collecting assignments, heading to students’ homes and pulling up a chair at the kitchen table.
Spending time, one-on-one, she really got to know her pupils, but she never imagined that one of them would become her hero.
“Seeing people get better has been one of my job’s greatest gifts,” Cottrell said. “This was ... different, but an incredible joy.”
Cottrell — now both sad and relieved, heartbroken but comforted — is the teacher who instructed 18-year-old Eric Willoughby, an Aledo ISD student who died Jan. 13 after a three-year struggle with bone cancer.
She spent countless hours with him, as a teacher and as a friend, and was there with his family — parents, Kelly and Tara, sister Kristen and brother Phillip — when school officials brought his Aledo High School diploma to his bedside, six hours before he died.
Nicknamed “Superman,” Eric was an amazing person, Cottrell said — lovable and smart, laid-back and funny, sarcastic and unfailingly polite — and he had attracted a close-knit band of friends.
They called themselves “The Dubs”: Tyler Lewis, Tyler Byrd, Blake Cretsinger, Chandon Nichols, Brayden Hays, Cole Turner, Phillip Willoughby, Brad Norman and Matt Kszyminski.
“They would have done anything for him,” Cottrell said. “They were there from beginning to end, even though it was hard.
“They shaved their heads when his hair fell out. They used his initials as tattoos.
“And they were there in the room when he passed.”
Cottrell met Eric, who would have graduated in 2013 had it not been for his illness, when he was diagnosed in February of 2011.
At the time she was also tutoring Leah Vann, recently diagnosed with leukemia.
Leah and Eric’s diseases both went into remission, Cottrell said, but while Leah recovered and graduated last spring — remembering Eric to her classmates as she did so — Eric’s cancer returned with a vengeance, making him too ill to attend.
“His mom was so great about keeping me in the loop,” Cottrell reflected, saying she has become very close to Eric’s family. “When he got better we cried and celebrated. And she called when it came back.”
Eric never complained about his diagnosis, treatment and struggles, Cottrell said.
“He just pressed on,” she said, “making the most of life.”
Cottrell said Eric’s family is grateful for all those who stood by Eric through the years, including Preston Tyson, Maddison Roberts, Kendall Birchmier, Ethan Nichols, Matt Tedder, Shawn Albright, Noah Wilson and others.
Eric told her he loved her before he died, Cottrell said.
“I’ve had my closure,” she said, “but I miss his voice, his smile and our conversations about life. I miss bringing him treats from Sonic and hearing him sing as he did his work.”
Aledo ISD student dies surrounded by family, teacher and friends
By JUDY SHERIDAN
- Aledo ExtrA
Water park burglar sought
Weatherford and Hudson Oaks police are requesting the public’s assistance in catching a burglar who broke into Splash Kingdom Water Park in Hudson Oaks earlier this month.
Commissioner at odds with school district's demand for land
Aledo ISD superintendent Derek Citty is moving forward with plans backed by the school board in May — plans to secure two school sites in the Morningstar subdivision, slated for the corner of Old Weatherford Road and FM Road 3225 in the City of Fort Worth’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.
An unforgettable state championship
Corey Kiser and Riley Sartain, members of Aledo High School’s state champion softball team, honored by trustees last week, are to blame for the 10-3 tattoo on the finger of their coach, Jeff Lemons.
Firefighter arrested for child sexual assault
A volunteer Hudson Oaks firefighter is in the Parker County Jail on charges he repeatedly sexually assaulted two young relatives over a several year period.
Richard Frederick Adams Sr., 62, arrested July 21, faces two charges of continuous sexual abuse of a child under 14, a first-degree felony.
Fire protection improving in Aledo
Stephen Watson, interim chief of Emergency Services District No. 1, briefed the Aledo City Council on improvements to the city’s fire protection — including the purchase of a site for a new fire station — in Thursday night’s Aledo City Council session.
Aledo ISD trustees affirm hiring policy
The Aledo ISD School Board affirmed a policy delegating the hiring of most school personnel to the administration by a 4-1 margin last week, with trustees Jay Stringer, David Tillman, Hoyt Harris and Steve Bartley voting in favor and trustee Bobby Rigues arguing that the board should retain the responsibility.
Aledo coffee shop helps support the troops
HUDSON OAKS — Wild West Splash Kingdom was the host of military members and military supporters the night of Saturday, July 19, during ‘Salute the Troops,’ sponsored by Holy Grounds Coffee and Gifts in Aledo and Ducerus College Planning.
Calendar of events
Holy Grounds Coffee & Gifts, at 108 Jearl Street, is hosting a series of outdoor movies in their parking lot at 8:30 p.m. on Saturdays through Aug. 23.
Admission is free and feature drinks are half price during the films. “The Amazing Spiderman” is Aug. 2, followed by “Tangled” on Aug. 9, “The Lego Movie” on Aug. 16 and “The Avengers” on Aug. 23.
For more information, call 817-440-7770.
A Purple Heart County
County Judge Mark Riley and Parker County commissioners proclaimed Parker County to be a “Purple Heart County” Monday, honoring local veterans and their families in a special ceremony held in the second floor courtroom of the historic courthouse.
Suspicious house fire under investigation
The Weatherford fire marshal says a fire that damaged a house and killed two puppies Wednesday night is being investigated as a suspicious fire and a suspect is in jail on unrelated charges.
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