Virtual memorial to be held for Flagler Palm Coast principal who died of COVID-19

A virtual memorial is being held on Friday for a Central Florida high school principal who passed away due to complications from COVID-19, according to Flagler Schools Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt.

Flagler Palm Coast High School announced that Principal Tom Russell tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday, November 16, and had been in quarantine since November 9.

"So far this is a mild case of COVID-19 if there is such a thing. Allow me to be blunt this is nothing like the flu! Covid wrecks the body in so many ways and never the same way twice," Russell wrote in a Facebook post. "These are the symptoms that I have experienced: fever, chills, painful cramps, loss of breath, extreme fatigue, sore throat, excessive coughing, headaches, a loss of focus, problems communicating when speaking. I never had a flu act in this way."

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"Tom was a valued member of our district, a person everyone leaned on for advice and counsel," it read. "He was quick with a smile and word of encouragement. He had the ability to bring calm to the most hectic moments." 

"We were all elated when Tom agreed to come to Flagler County to become FPC’s principal. To have an educator of his stature and experience was invaluable. He truly cared about everyone on that campus," Flagler County School Board Chairman Trevor Tucker added. "This is a loss, not only for Flagler-Palm Coast High School and Flagler Schools but for all of us in education in the state."

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood called Russell "a true champion for students in Volusia County, and most recently at Flagler Schools."

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"It was my privilege to work with him, to get to know him and to witness first-hand the love and respect he earned from all those around him," Chitwood wrote in a Facebook post.

A crisis response team of counselors will be on the Flagler-Palm Coast High School campus to support those dealing with the loss, the district said.

You can watch the memorial starting at 6 p.m. on YouTube HERE.