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
Parker County Attorney John Forrest will ask county commissioners for additional funds as county budget discussions begin this year; he hopes to hire another attorney to help with an increase in Child Protective Services cases.
Firefighter arrested on child sex assault charges
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 Monday, faces two charges of continuous sexual abuse of a child under 14, a first-degree felony.
Developer withdraws site plan
ANNETTA —A controversial 34-home subdivision proposed for a 41-acre tract on Duncan Road will not go forward as planned, according to action taken by both the proposed developer and the Annetta Town Council after a public hearing Thursday night.
Aledo City Council to meet July 24
The Aledo City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 24, in the Aledo Community Center, 104 Robinson Court, Aledo.
Fires damage business, home
Two separate fires around 2 p.m. July 15 damaged a Willow Park business and destroyed the home of a Weatherford family.
Letter to the Editor
Thursday night, July 17, I was present for a surprisingly interesting experience when State Representative candidate Matthew Britt addressed a small group of supporters, followed by a question and answer session.
ESD 1, Annetta South close on fire station site
Parker County Emergency Services District No. 1 and Annetta South officials said Tuesday that the ESD is homing in on a site for a new fire station to serve residents in the Annettas and surrounding areas. Annetta South is expected to consider a zoning change to accommodate a new station next month.
Registration has begun for Aledo ISD
Aledo ISD enrollment for the 2014-15 school year began yesterday, July 21, and students new to the district need to register before school begins, Monday, Aug. 25.
County scrambling to fill elections post
Former Parker County Assistant Elections Administrator Laura Watkins, who sought, but was not appointed to the post of Parker County Elections Administrator after Robert Parten retired, last week began work as assistant elections administrator for Palo Pinto County, Palo Pinto County Elections Administrator Judith Evans has confirmed.
Willow Park tackles 11-street project
The Willow Park City Council last week picked a list of 11 streets they’d like repaired as part of the city’s next road repair project, a significant portion of the 17-road, $850,000 list of needed repairs.
- More Aledo ExtrA Headlines
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