Students, colleagues, family and friends are mourning Emmitt Coakley, who worked as an educator in Nassau County for 55 years.
The former principal of West Nassau High School died Wednesday at age 81.
Coakley was hired as a teacher in 1954, and other than two years off to served in the armed forces, he worked full-time until 1990 -- the last 14 years as principal at West Nassau. Eight months later, he returned as a substitute teacher and continued working until earlier this year.
Nassau School Superintendent John Ruis released this statement:
"Mr. Coakley loved his schools and the community, and invested himself heavily and whole-heartedly in both. Mr. Coakley had the gift of being able to transcend cultural and societal barriers to reach all types of people. He influenced many students and others over the years, and his legacy will live on in them. Nassau County has lost one of it's champions."
F ormer students are changing their Facebook profile pictures to an image of West Nassau's mascot with the words: "Mr. Coakley RIP."
Because he touched so many generations at of students, his viewing will be held in the gym at West Nassau High School from 5-7 p.m. next Friday. The funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at First Baptist Church of Callahan.
Because Coakley also was a charter member of the Nassau County Planning and Zoning Board and served for 39 years, the Nassau County Commission honored him in November with a resolution last November commending and thanking him for his service, in part reading:
"Coakley provided immeasurable guidance to his fellow board members through his understanding of the issues and the ability to balance this with sense of community and the scope of government in citizens' lives."