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
SPRINGTOWN – After finding that a breaker manufactured by a company with a history of issues contributed to a house fire Friday, Parker County Fire Marshal Shawn Scott is urging Parker County residents with Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok circuit breakers to call an electrician and get them checked for safety.
Candidates have filed for city, school board elections
Filings for May 10 city and school board elections are now complete. A summary follows:
On the Aledo ISD school board incumbents David Davis, in Place 6, and Hoyt Harris, in Place 7, have both filed for re-election, each drawing one or more opponents. Farida Goderya has filed for Place 6, opposite Davis, and Riley Morrison and Debra Rogers have filed for Place 7, opposite Harris.
East Parker County Calendar of Events
The East Parker County Chamber of Commerce will welcome retired USAF SMSGT Vernon M. Anderson, Jr., senior technical instructor, Bell Helicopter, Integrated Operations Engineering Support Technical Training Department, as the key note speaker for the March 12 luncheon.
The Sunny Side
WILLOW PARK – Peppered with anecdotes from his stellar baseball career, former Texas Rangers catcher Jim Sundberg gave witness to his Christian faith and told how it changed his life before a crowd of about 200 at the recent annual Trinity Christian Academy dinner and fundraiser.
Aledo ISD approves suicide prevention program
The Aledo School Board approved the LifeLines Suicide Prevention Program in February, lining up with a recommendation from the Student Health Advisory Council, which has spent a year reviewing choices.
Aledo ISD could save up to $2 million
Expecting to save close to $2 million, Aledo ISD trustees recently voted to let district staff pull the trigger on a bank-qualified refunding of some of the district’s outstanding bonds once market conditions are optimum.
Don't feed the deer!
HUDSON OAKS — The city council recently passed an ordinance banning the feeding of deer.
Parker County Sheriff's Report Feb. 27-March 2
Burglary of a vehicle
Deputies were dispatched to the 300 block of James Street in Aledo shortly after 6 p.m. regarding the burglary of a vehicle.
ASK A MASTER GARDENER: Is it too early to start a vegetable garden?
Considering our winter temperatures this year, that’s a good question. When it comes to a successful vegetable garden, timing is everything. The goal in Texas is to have most of your vegetable crops mature before the temperatures soar in mid-summer.
EXTENSION NEWS: Getting more zzzs could help you lose some lbs.
We spend about one-third of our lifetime sleeping. Sleep is important for learning and memory. Sleep also helps our immune system to resist illness and disease, increases response times in emergencies, improves our mood and feelings of wellness and gives us the energy we need to be more active and alert.
- More Aledo ExtrA Headlines
- Breaker, breaker!