NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. -

Students, staff and alumni of West Nassau High School will gather at the school Friday to remember its former principal Emmitt Coakley, who passed away last week.

Emmitt Coakley, who worked in Nassau County schools for 55 years, passed away last week.

Many who have ties to Coakley from his many years spent at West Nassau High School, decided to have his viewing in the school’s gym.

It’s a place he spent most of his time, and where he touched the lives of so many generations of students and staff. It’s at West Nassau High School where Coakley’s life of dedication and service to education will be honored and remembered.

“He was a very understanding man, especially with kids with problems. He was very up-front and he accepted their challenges with positive reinforcement,” said Maurice Jones, Coakley’s nephew.

Maurice Jones has fond memories of his uncle , especially the few years he spent working with him as a special education teacher before Coakley retired as the principal of West Nassau in 1990 -- a role he spent 14 years in. But his mark on education didn’t stop there, up until earlier this year, he was in a classroom nearly every day as a substitute teacher.

“He didn’t ever stop at the school when he retired. He continued to sub and he subbed every day until this past year,” said Jones.

Coakley was first hired as a teacher in 1954. Other than the two years he served in the armed forces, he worked full time for the following 55 years. One of his most memorable and major accomplishments was in the late 60s.

“In 1968, the schools integrated and he was one of the catalysts,” said Jones.

Coakley was also a charter member of the Nassau County planning and zoning board where he served for 39 years. No matter how you knew him, those close to him say he made an impact in your life.

“He was personable he wouldn’t think he was above anybody,” said Jones.

Coakley’s viewing is from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at West Nassau High School. His funeral is tomorrow at 11 a.m. at First Baptist Church in Callahan.